CHICAGO — The Red Sox did not lack for opportunities against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night. They had seven hits and drew seven walks, putting pressure on throughout the game.
“Seven walks, right? That’s where we’re at right now,” manager Alex Cora said.
Baseball-to-English translation: The Red Sox as a group have refined their approach at the plate and are swinging at strikes. It’s one of the primary reasons they’ve played so well the last three weeks.
Through Tuesday, 85 teams had drawn at least seven walks in a game this season and won 79 percent of the time. Equanimity in the batter’s box tends to pay off.
But those seven walks ultimately produced little in a 3-1 loss before a crowd of 21,075 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Red Sox were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and left 12 runners on base. A lineup that produced 61 runs over a six-game win streak was finally slowed down, although not by lack of opportunity.
“I’d take that. I’d rather control the strike zone than expand it and we’re in a good spot,” Cora said.
The White Sox had the big hit the Red Sox were missing, a three-run home run by rookie Jake Burger off Rich Hill in the fifth inning.
Hill no-hit the White Sox through four innings and 45 pitches.
Chicago broke through in the fifth inning. José Abreu led off with a double down the line in right. A.J. Pollock followed with a routine grounder to third base. Rafael Devers picked the ball cleanly but his throw pulled Franchy Cordero off the bag.
Hill got ahead of Burger 0 and 2. His third pitch was a 67-mph breaking ball that caught too much of the plate. Burger drove it 444 feet into the bleachers in left field for his third home run.
“I just went to the well too many times with that drop-down slider. That’s on me,” Hill said. “It’s a tough one. It keeps you up at night.”
Burger wasn’t waiting on something soft.
“It was definitely reactionary,” he said. “Rich was throwing well all night. The pitch before that was very similar, and I swung over it. Fortunately he came back with it, and I got one over the plate that was a little higher than the one previous.”
Hill (1-2) finished out the inning and was done for the night after two times through the rotation and 65 pitches. He has a 3.86 ERA through eight starts.
Hill and Tanner Houck allowed only five hits.
“We’ve been playing great baseball, too. The guys have been able to get us the lead and my inability to keep us there is something that’s frustrating,” Hill said. “In those situations and in big moments in the game, you’ve got to make pitches.”
White Sox starter Lucas Giolito had last faced the Red Sox on April 19, 2021 at Fenway Park. He allowed eight runs on eight hits and two walks and didn’t get out of the second inning.
The righthander retired the first two batters on Wednesday before Martinez singled, Xander Bogaerts walked, and Alex Verdugo singled to left field to make it 1-0.
Trevor Story, who came into the game with 28 RBIs this month, grounded to shortstop. Giolito threw 27 pitches in the first inning but escaped major damage.
“OK, we only scored one, but the line was moving,” Cora said. “We did a good job and we’re going to get more opportunities with the big boys.”
They did. The Red Sox put two runners on base in the second, third and fourth innings but could not score. Giolito (3-1) retired the final seven batters he faced for what proved to be a strong start.
The Red Sox were 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position against him. That proved costly.
With Giolito out of the game, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh. Devers singled off Aaron Bummer. Martinez followed with a single against Kendall Graveman and Bogaerts walked.
Verdugo had the RBI opportunity again but this time grounded to second.
The White Sox used four pitchers to get through the final three innings with Liam Hendriks getting the last four outs for his 14th save.
Hendriks entered the game in the eighth inning when Joe Kelly came off the mound with a left hamstring injury.
He walked Kiké Hernández with one out in the ninth inning but struck out Devers. Martinez drew a walk to extend the game but Bogaerts popped out to shallow right field.
Weather permitting, the final game of the series is Thursday night with Michael Wacha facing Dallas Keuchel. Wednesday’s game started 30 minutes late because of rain and more is in the forecast.