The Chicago White Sox had a strong recent history on their side against the Baltimore Orioles, but they never had to face Adley Rutschman.
The Orioles’ rookie catcher had Red Sox starter Johnny Cueto’s number Thursday night, and he marked it with a two-run homer in the fourth and an RBI double two innings later to send the Sox Rojas to a 4-0 loss at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Rutschman’s three RBIs were career highs: he had all four in his first 26 games.
“He had a great night,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “See if we can make some adjustments, keep it quiet.”
Cueto pitched 5 ⅓ innings, allowing seven hits, including a two-run homer by Rutschman, and striking out seven.
The Sox had won eight straight against the Orioles since May 1, 2019. But they went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base.
“I would say we should win the game when you get nine hits and a lot of hard outs, you should score something, right?” The Russian said. “So we hit a lot of balls hard and couldn’t break through.
Added catcher Seby Zavala, who had two doubles: “We had three, four balls that were hit pretty well and we thought we had a good chance to get out of the yard or at least get out of the wall. They were just dying out there.”
A bright spot for the Red Sox was Lenyn Sosa’s major league debut, which made a lasting impression on the infielder: “Step out on the field and see the crowd, the stadium, the fans. I have never played in a stadium like this.
“It was pretty amazing.”
The Orioles thought they had taken an early lead on Trey Mancini’s possible RBI double in the third inning, but Cedric Mullins was thrown out and slid home. The Orioles defied, believing the left-field stint from AJ Pollock to Tim Anderson to Zavala came too late, but the call was confirmed.
In the fourth, Ryan Mountcastle doubled to center field and advanced to third on an error by Leury Garcia. Rutschman made the Sox pay for that mistake with a two-run homer.
Gavin Sheets, playing his first game in the majors since June 9, gave the White Sox hope for an answer with a double in the bottom of the inning, but right fielder Austin Hays took him out at the plate after from Leury Garcia’s line single.
Sheets followed up Jake Burger’s sixth-inning double with a walk and chased down Orioles starter Dean Kremer, but reliever Felix Bautista struck out Zavala.
Sheets worked a 3-0 count in the eighth, but the drama ended with a fly ball to the warning track in center field.
“Good at bats. Very good,” La Russa said.
Injuries forced the Sox to change the lineup for the first game of the series.
Anderson, who turned 29 on Thursday, started backup shortstop Danny Mendick in the offseason with a torn ACL in his right knee. Anderson went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts.
La Russa opted to replace right fielder Adam Engel, who went on the 10-day injured list with a strained right hamstring, with Sheets and kept Andrew Vaughn at first base.
Luis Robert was dealing with a leg problem that arose during Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, so La Russa opted to sit him out and inserted Leury Garcia at center.
“It’s baseball. It’s part of the game,” Cueto said of all the injuries. “I think you have to be like a horse, just keep going.”
The Red Sox’s original plan for Sosa was for him to make his debut sometime during the four-game weekend at home against the Orioles, but not on Thursday. But Josh Harrison was shaken after being hit by a pitch in the bottom of the fifth, and Sosa replaced him at second in the sixth. Sosa struck out in his first career at-bat, then walked in the ninth in a nine-pitch at-bat.
“I thought his first at-bat was okay,” La Russa said. “I think his second at-bat was one of the best moments of the night. We were competing at the time. He walked one, fouled a couple of tough pitches. I thought that was very impressive.
“He has all the attributes of being a good hitter.”
Harrison suffered a bruised right triceps and X-rays came back negative. He is the day to day.
“He’s got a big knot on the back of his right arm for throwing,” La Russa said. “It was a peculiar way of being hit.”