CHICAGO | Issuing walks, and lots of them, is the worst sin a pitcher can commit.
White Sox lefty Hector Santiago walked the first two Cleveland hitters he faced in Friday’s 3-1 loss, a franchise-record 10th straight against the Indians. And while Santiago insisted he was not wild starting off, “probably one of my better first innings,” he ran up the pitch count to 30 in that frame.
By the time Santiago issued a walk and allowed a single to start the fifth, trailing 1-0, he had amassed 94 pitches. Manager Robin Ventura had to pull him, with the Indians soon scoring two runs off reliever Jake Petricka for the eventual difference in the game.
Too many walks (70 in 142 2/3 innings) and high pitch counts have marred what has otherwise been a season of progress for Santiago as he tries to stake a claim to the Sox rotation.
“Lately, I feel like I’ve put pressure on myself to kind of not walk people, and that’s kind of getting to me a little bit,” he said.
“It’s like I get to two, three balls and I’m kind of like, 'All right, throw a strike instead of just pitching.' I kind of got away from that early in the year. I didn’t care if it was 3-2 or 3-0. I just kind of went after them. Now I get to three balls and I’m kind of like, 'All right, I got to throw a strike here.' I got to get away from that and just go out there and pitch. It doesn’t matter what count it is.”
Santiago has a lot of what it takes to be a permanent rotation starter. Coming into Friday, opposing hitters batted just .238 against him. Santiago averaged 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He has a good 3.58 ERA to go along with his 4-9 record.
But the walks, leading to high pitch counts early in the game, have frequently prevented him from extended outings. He has walked at least three batters in 11 of his 22 starts so far.
Santiago has gone as far as eight innings only once this season. He has four other starts of at least seven innings. Like all other Sox rotation starters, he has been sabotaged by a broken lineup and poor defense.
Lately, though, Santiago’s innings have dropped. He hasn’t made it beyond five innings in his last three starts.
“He’s probably a little tired -- I would imagine that’s part of it (control issues),” manager Robin Ventura said. “As far as being able to locate, (he’s) getting into too much trouble. It’s been increased with the workload.”
The Sox are making 100 losses mathematically possible. Now a season-low 31 games under .500 at 58-89, they have lost 13 of their last 15 games.