Gerrit Cole quiets White Sox, who will need to top elite pitching

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Cole quiets Sox, who will need to top elite arms for title originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

If Saturday's game in The Bronx was a playoff preview, the Chicago White Sox would like to order some rewrites.

Or some recasting, at the very least.

Going up against one of the game's finest pitchers, the White Sox bats couldn't muster much of anything, Gerrit Cole doing his thing by keeping the offense quiet as the South Siders ended up 7-0 losers to the New York Yankees.

RELATED: It's time to start talking about Rodón's Cy Young candidacy

But with the postseason on their to-do list, avoiding Cole for the remainder of 2021 might not be possible. And so these White Sox are going to have to figure some things out.

Unlike a night prior, also a defeat but an exciting game with great pitching on both sides that showed the White Sox can go toe to toe with the American League's other contenders, Saturday was a lopsided affair. They mounted minimal threats against Cole, who allowed four singles and three walks but got four double plays to kill any rallies before they got started.

While that kind of offensive showing isn't exactly surprising against a pitcher of that caliber, the words of Tim Anderson came to mind.

"Those are the moments you want to be in. Those are the guys you want to face," he said after a White Sox date with reigning Cy Young winner Shane Bieber earlier this season. "We plan on playing all the way into October, so those are the kinds of pitchers that we're going to have to face. Why not compete against them early on in the year and give it our best shot?"

Anderson's got a good point. In May, the White Sox offense not touching the elite Cole isn't some sort of world-ending disappointment. In October, the same kind of performance against the same kind of pitcher certainly could be.

"(Anderson is) exactly right," White Sox second baseman Nick Madrigal said Saturday. "Especially in the postseason, that's where we want to get, you're going to be seeing (those kinds of) guys almost every single day, every single game.

"I felt like we put some good at-bats together (Saturday), we just didn't really have that one big hit for us. I felt like we were seeing him pretty well. We were taking walks, we had a couple chances to score, but we just didn't capitalize on it. But I feel like we'll be ready once the time comes. I feel like we had a good game plan going in, we just didn't capitalize."

That it's still early means the White Sox aren't fretting over Saturday's outcome, and sweeping generalizations about the offense are obvious overreactions.

But the possibility exists that Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert won't be healthy enough to come to the rescue as the playoffs near, and the White Sox will need to be able to figure out pitchers like Cole if they want to meet their sky-high, championship-level goals.

Carlos Rodón showed Friday that good pitching can provide an effective counter to good pitching. But it can't get the job done all by itself, and the White Sox are 0-2 with just one run scored through two games this weekend in The Bronx, the same place where they might find themselves playing far more meaningful baseball months from now.

For the White Sox, the focus is on winning every day. But it's also important — it's downright necessary — that they're playing their best when the games are most meaningful. And so Saturday can be viewed as an opportunity of sorts.

For what it's worth, the White Sox have faced Bieber twice this season. In the first game, they couldn't touch him for nine innings. In the second, they got him for three runs in six innings. Of course, they still lost both games, showing how slim the margin for error is, how everything has to be going right, to take down one of baseball's best.

If they get another shot at Cole, either when they play the Yankees again in August or in a potential playoff matchup, going from zero to three runs could make all the difference in not just besting one of the game's best but in meeting lofty World Series expectations.

"We can't get ahead of ourselves," Madrigal said. "It's great to be able to face these guys early in the year, but we do understand there's a lot of games in between now and October. And we want to peak when the right moment comes, at the right time.

"I feel like it is nice to be able to match up with these guys, to see their arms and their bullpen, and their hitters for the pitchers. It is nice. But we understand that the most important games are later on in the year. We want to be healthy and ready to go when the time comes."

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