Seby Zavala caught Johnny Cueto’s starts at Triple-A Charlotte when the 36-year-old veteran was building up his arm strength after signing a minor-league contract. Zavala caught him Thursday night, getting the best seat in the house to watch one of the best pitching classics in the game.
“He’s fun to catch,” Zavala said.
Zavala needed one game catching Cueto at Charlotte to figure him out. But hitters have had a hard time doing that in Cueto’s seven starts since he joined the White Sox on May 16.
“He throws everything everywhere in any count,” Zavala said. “Spins it, sinks it, cuts it. Messes up the hitters.
“[Tonight] he was pretty good. They just did a good job of capitalizing on the missed locations. Anytime he left the ball up, they did some damage on it.”
In the Orioles’ 4-0 victory against the Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, Cueto did not last six innings for the first time this season, but he also got no run support in a serviceable start, leaving while trailing 2-0. Adley Rutschman’s homer in the fourth inning scored the first two runs.
Cueto threw 104 pitches, so that was enough. He gave up seven hits and a walk and struck out seven, matching his season high notched in his first start in Kansas City.
The Sox haven’t supported Cueto with much offense this season — he fell to 1-4 despite a 3.19 ERA — and it was more of the same for a lineup without Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal and Eloy Jimenez against Orioles right-hander Dean Kremer, who lowered his ERA to 1.71 with 5⅔ scoreless innings.
The Sox made plenty of hard contact with nothing to show for it, hitting two drives to the wall (AJ Pollock in the third, Jose Abreu in the sixth), and they watched O’s outfielders make great (Austin Hays) and good (Cedric Mullins) catches on well-struck balls by Jake Burger and Gavin Sheets in the eighth.
“Not saying you should win the game, but you get nine hits and have a lot of hard outs, you have to mark something,” manager Tony La Russa said.
“We had three, four balls that we thought had a chance to leave the yard or at least go off the wall,” Zavala said. “They were just dying out there.”
In addition to being without Danny Mendick (out for the season with a torn ACL) and Adam Engel (hamstring strain), La Russa rested Robert because of leg soreness. Abreu is playing with a sore hip, and Andrew Vaughn also has leg soreness.
“[Robert has] an issue he’s had before, so we are going to let it quiet down,” La Russa said. “I expect he’ll play [Friday].
“When you run with the speed that he does, and as often as he does defensively and on the bases, you are going to get sore.
“We always tell them: Run to what your legs feel like. The most obvious thing is there’s guys that can steal, and if their legs are barking, we tell them not to push it.”
Sheets, back from Charlotte, doubled in the fourth and pushed it when third-base coach Joe McEwing waved him home on Leury Garcia’s single, but Hays in right field threw him out to end the inning, the major-league-leading 13th time the Sox have been thrown out at home.
The Sox threw out Mullins at home in the second when Pollock in left field tracked down Trey Mancini’s double and teamed with shortstop Tim Anderson and Zavala on a well-executed relay. Anderson and Zavala picked throws from the dirt.
The Sox lost another player to injury when second baseman Josh Harrison got hit by a pitch on his right triceps. X-rays were negative, and he’s day-to-day. Lenyn Sosa made his debut at second and struck out and coaxed a nine-pitch walk.
“You have to be like a horse,” Cueto said. “Just keep moving forward.”