Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Maybe the White Sox should give Nate Jones a break

Nate Jones
White Sox relief pitcher Nate Jones is tied for the American League lead with 62 appearances.

The team is asking a lot from him, especially since this is his first full season back after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014. Whether the Sox want to admit it or not, they are out of the pennant race, and they would be well-advised not to overuse Jones over the final 32 games of the season, which are relatively meaningless.

Jones has been the Sox's best reliever this season, and it's not close. It's important to get him through this season healthy, because he could be a valuable member of the Sox's 2017 bullpen, or he could be traded for something of value as part of a rebuilding plan this offseason.

Unfortunately, Sox brass doesn't seem to be giving any consideration to that strategy. They still are selling out to try to win games, and they are being reckless in the process. Jones was on the mound for the third straight game Monday night in Detroit, and he failed to protect a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a two-run homer off him that lifted the Tigers to a 4-3 win.

You can see where the problem is here. The Sox have eight relief pitchers on their roster, and only three of them belong in the major leagues: Jones, David Robertson and Dan Jennings. The Sox play a lot of close games, and Robin Ventura -- who is on an expiring contract and is managing for his job -- keeps calling for the only relievers he trusts. Even on days where Jones doesn't get in the game, it seems like he's warming up at some point.

The seeds for Monday's loss were sown in Saturday night's game. The Sox took a 9-2 lead into the ninth inning. Jacob Turner, one of the five Sox relievers that does not belong in the major leagues, could not close it out. Seattle scored a run and had the bases loaded with only one out. Jones relieved and got a double play to extricate the team from that mess, but the point is he never should have appeared in that game. Somebody else should have been able to get two outs with a six-run lead. It's just not that hard.

Jones was rightfully used in the eighth inning with a 2-1 lead Sunday, and he got the job done as part of a 4-1 Sox win. It's one thing to use a guy back-to-back days, but three in a row during garbage time is unnecessary, especially for a pitcher with an extensive injury history. I would have been OK with Jones being out there Monday if he had not been used Saturday, but he was foolishly and needlessly used in a lopsided win against the Mariners.

Who knows? If Jones gets the night off Saturday, maybe he's a little fresher and able to protect the lead Monday.

It's too bad, because the Sox got a rare quality start from James Shields on Monday. He went six innings and allowed only two runs. It would have been nice to finish that one off, but the Sox have way too many holes in their pitching staff to have visions of a September run.

The smart play here is to back the workload down for the pitchers who have value -- Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Robertson and Jones. If that causes the team to lose more games down the stretch, so be it. We can't trust Ventura to do that, sadly, because he's trying to win enough games to convince team brass to let him return in 2017.

For most Sox fans, including me, there's nothing that will convince us that Ventura should be allowed to manage next year's club. He's had his chances. He's overmatched. It's time to move on.

Monday, August 29, 2016

White Sox take three out of four from Seattle Mariners

Jose Quintana
The Seattle Mariners this weekend became the latest American League contender to lose a season series to the White Sox.

The Sox took three out of four over the weekend at U.S. Cellular Field and finished 4-3 against Seattle this year. Chicago (63-66) also has prevailed in the season series against AL-West leading Texas (4-2), AL-East leading Toronto (5-1) and AL wild card-leader Boston (4-3).

Too bad the Sox can't win against their own division, where they are 20-29. Too bad 27 of the 33 remaining games are against AL Central opponents. It could be a rough road ahead, but today, let's reflect back on the weekend success against the Mariners:

Friday, Aug. 26
Mariners 3, White Sox 1: The day began with news that the Sox traded disappointing catcher Dioner Navarro to Toronto in exchange for pitcher Colton Turner.

Navarro somehow managed to be a downgrade from previous Sox catcher Tyler Flowers. We knew coming into the year that Navarro was a subpar pitch framer, and there would be defensive shortcomings. But Navarro couldn't even clear the low offensive bar set by Flowers in previous years. Good riddance to Navarro and his .210 batting average.

With Omar Narvaez behind the plate Friday, Chris Sale (15-7) pitched a complete game. He retired the last 16 batters he faced --10 by strikeout - and finished with a season-high 14 strikeouts.

Of course, he lost, because the Sox are not a good offensive team. At least this time they could say they got shut down by an elite pitcher. Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (9-4) fired 7.1 innings of one-run ball to earn the victory.

Hernandez did leave, however, with the bases loaded and only one out in the eighth. But Seattle reliever Edwin Diaz got a force at home and a popout to third to extricate the Mariners from that mess. Diaz went on to strike out the side in the ninth to earn his 11th save.

Saturday, Aug. 27
White Sox 9, Mariners 3: Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino both went 3 for 4 with a homer as the Sox pounded 15 hits to make a winner out of Jose Quintana (11-9).

The Sox scored two in the first and one more in the fourth against Seattle starter Ariel Miranda (1-1), who was removed after four innings in just his sixth career game and fourth career start.

The Mariners brought in middle reliever Vidal Nuno, and he fooled nobody. He gave up six runs on 10 hits, including three home runs, over three innings. The Sox scored four runs off him in the fifth, highlighted by back-to-back home runs by Garcia and Alex Avila. Saladino added his two-run homer in the seventh inning.

Quintana had to be overjoyed to pitch with a big lead. He went 7.2 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits. He struck out eight, walked one and lowered his ERA to a team-best 2.77.

Jacob Turner made the ninth inning somewhat annoying when he loaded the bases with nobody out. The Sox took a 9-2 lead into that inning, so the outcome was not really in doubt, and the Mariners scored only one run out of that situation anyway. Nate Jones came on to induce a game-ending double play off the bat of pinch-hitter Seth Smith.

Sunday, April 28
White Sox 4, Mariners 1: The Sox managed only five hits in this game, but they bunched them and made them count.

They went nine-up, nine-down against Seattle starter Taijuan Walker the first three innings, but two HBPs and a double loaded the bases in the fourth inning. Justin Morneau's two-run single put the Sox on top, 2-0.

The Sox did not get another hit until the eighth inning, but they added to a 2-1 lead with two more runs on three hits. Tim Anderson singled and scored on triple by Melky Cabrera. Jose Abreu followed with a sacrifice fly to account for the final margin of victory.

Carlos Rodon (5-8) continued his red-hot August with six innings of one-run ball. He allowed only a solo home run to Robinson Cano, and improved to 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA over five starts this month.

Anderson and Saladino turned a slick double play to extricate the Sox from a first-and-third, one-out jam in the seventh inning. Nate Jones worked a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts, and closer David Robertson secured his 33rd save by pitching over two soft singles in the top of the ninth inning.

The Sox are off to Detroit to start a three-game series Monday. Will they be able to sustain this momentum from a good series win and a 6-3 homestand?

Well, James Shields is starting the opener against the Tigers, so don't bank on it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Todd Frazier comes through for White Sox against Seattle bullpen

Todd Frazier
Third baseman Todd Frazier leads the White Sox with 80 RBIs, although you'd never expect that if you looked at his statistics with runners in scoring position.

Frazier has been terrible in those situations this year, 19 for 110, which will pencil out to a .173/.302/.345 slash line.

Those numbers were even worse until Thursday night, when Frazier came through twice in the late innings to lift the Sox to a 7-6, come-from-behind win over the Seattle Mariners.

With the Sox trailing 6-4 in the seventh, Frazier tied the score with a two-out, two-run single off Seattle reliever Steve Cishek. The right-hander got too much of the plate with a 2-0 slider, and Frazier ripped it through the hole between shortstop and third base to plate both Adam Eaton and Tim Anderson.

The score remained tied until the bottom of the ninth. Eaton led off with a bloop single against Seattle reliever Nick Vincent (3-4). Anderson advanced the runner with a sacrifice bunt. The Mariners elected to walk Jose Abreu with first base open -- a wise decision, frankly, since Abreu has been tearing it up in August.

That strategy was foiled, however, when Frazier smacked a Vincent sinker down the left-field line that allowed Eaton to score easily from second base and end the ballgame.

The clutch hits had to be a relief for Frazier, who was 0 for 3 with three strikeouts against Seattle starter James Paxton. He looked terrible on each of those 3Ks, one of which came with runners at first and third and nobody out in the first inning.

But fortunes changed once the Mariner bullpen entered the game, and the rally got Sox starter Anthony Ranaudo off the hook. The right-hander was decent enough for five innings -- the score was tied at 3 headed to the sixth. However, Ranaudo gave up three runs in the sixth and only got one out before having to be removed. It didn't help than Dan Jennings allowed two of his inherited runners to score.

The Sox bullpen kept it close by keeping the Mariners off the board the last three innings, and closer David Robertson (4-2) ended up with the win after he pitched around a one-out walk to post a scoreless ninth inning.

The Sox are 4-2 on the homestand entering Friday's play, with three more to go against Seattle.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

James Shields gets a moral victory in loss to Philadelphia

James Shields
The Philadelphia Phillies entered Wednesday's game against the White Sox as the only team in baseball with a team on-base percentage (.299) below .300.

Sox right-hander James Shields entered Wednesday's game with a 7.62 ERA over his first 14 starts with Chicago.

Bad pitching vs. bad hitting. The movable object against the resistible force. Who would win this Battle of Titans?

As it turns out, bad hitting prevailed. The Phillies didn't exactly light up Shields the way the rest of the league has this season, but they did enough to beat the Sox, 5-3, and split the brief two-game series.

Shields (5-16) went six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. He struck out six and walked none, so his peripherals were better, although he once again gave up two home runs. They were both solo shots, one to Cesar Hernandez in the third, the other on a fat, hanging breaking ball to Tommy Joseph on an 0-2 count with two outs in the sixth. Shields also gave up three doubles, for a total of five extra-base hits, so there was no shortage of hard contact.

Still, this was a moral victory for Shields, who had given up six or more earned runs in each of his past four starts. For the first time since Shields beat the Cubs on July 26, he was not a complete disgrace. He was merely kinda bad.

When he walked off the mound for the final time after the top of the sixth inning, the Sox were still in the game, trailing 4-0.

They made in interesting when Dioner Navarro cut the Philadelphia lead in half with a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth. The Phillies added a run in the eighth to go up 5-2, and held off a Sox rally in the ninth.

Philadelphia closer Jeanmar Gomez gave up an RBI single to Avisail Garcia with two outs in the ninth to make it 5-3. Navarro came to the plate with two men on and a chance to potentially tie the game with an extra-base hit, but this time he grounded out weakly to second to end the proceedings.

Hey, at least the game was watchable, right? Most of the time it is not when Shields takes the mound.

Jose Abreu, Carlos Rodon resurgent in August for White Sox

Jose Abreu
There's no sugarcoating it: Jose Abreu has not had a good season for the White Sox.

His struggles are one of the main reasons the Sox are languishing in fourth place with a 60-64 record -- and rank 14th out of 15 American League teams in runs scored.

Nobody saw it coming. After all, Abreu made history in 2015, becoming only the second player in major league history to total at least 30 home runs and at least 100 RBIs in each of his first two seasons. (Albert Pujols is the other).

However, the drop-off has been noticeable this year. Take a look at Abreu's numbers:

2014: .317/.383/.581, 36 HRs, 107 RBIs, .964 OPS
2015: .290/.347/.502, 30 HRs, 101 RBIs, .850 OPS
2016: .285/.341/.455, 17 HRs, 70 RBIs, .796 OPS

With 38 games to play, it's unlikely Abreu will hit that 30-and-100 plateau again. So, what do we make of this? Is Abreu in decline at age 29? Or is it just a bad year? Even good players have bad years. (See Frank Thomas in 2002 and Paul Konerko in 2003.)

I've heard some Sox fans say the team should unload Abreu this offseason because "he's done." I think that's an overly negative view. Quietly, while most people have stopped paying attention, Abreu has had a monster month of August.

Here are his numbers this month: .373/.427/.680, 6 HRs, 14 RBIs, 1.107 OPS in 19 games.

Pretty good, huh?

Abreu went 2 for 3 with three RBIs in Tuesday's 9-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. He homered in his third straight game. For me, the most important thing about that home run was the pitch and pitch location. It was a middle-in fastball from Philadelphia starter Jake Thompson, and Abreu turned on it and ripped it into the left field seats.

For most of the season, Abreu has been helpless against middle-in fastballs. He's been jamming himself, popping up or swinging and missing against that pitch. The Abreu of the last two years hits that pitch hard to left field. That was the Abreu I saw last night, and it's been that way most of August. It's encouraging to see, and it's indicative that his skills are still there.

The Sox need Abreu to finish strong. They need him to show that he still can be the centerpiece of the lineup. If he follows up a good August with a good September, maybe we can dismiss the first four months of this season as a rare slump for a very good hitter.

Speaking of needing a strong finish, pitcher Carlos Rodon also is trying to erase a poor first half. Like Abreu, he also has had a resurgent August. The left-hander fired 6.2 innings of shutout ball in Tuesday's win over Philadelphia.

For the month, Rodon is 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA with 20 strikeouts and only six walks in 24.2 innings, covering his last four starts. Philadelphia is not a good offensive team, so I can't put too much stock in Rodon shutting them down. However, he's also posted strong starts against two clubs that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today (Baltimore, Cleveland), plus another one against a team that is in the postseason hunt (Miami).

For the season, Rodon is 4-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 21 starts. The overall numbers impress nobody, but again, a strong finish from him would make the Sox feel better about their starting rotation looking forward to 2017.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

White Sox injury updates: Avisail Garcia, Alex Avila, Brett Lawrie

Avisail Garcia
The White Sox on Tuesday activated outfielder Avisail Garcia from the 15-day disabled list and optioned outfielder Jason Coats to Triple-A Charlotte.

Garcia, 25, last played in a game Aug. 7 and has been sidelined with a sprained right knee. He recently completed a three-game rehabilitation assignment in Charlotte. Two of those starts were in right field. He went 5 for 13 with a home run and four RBIs.

With the Sox, Garcia is hitting .240/.309/.378 with nine home runs and 36 RBIs in 86 games this season. 

Coats is hitting .189/.318/.324 with one home run and three RBIs in 18 games over three separate stints with the Sox. He had a little more success during this recent two-week call-up. He is 5 for 15 at the big league level in August, and he hit his first major league home run on Aug. 13 against Miami. We'll probably see Coats again when rosters expand in September.

In other injury-related Sox news, catcher Alex Avila went 3 for 4 as the designated hitter Monday in his first game on a rehab assignment with the Knights. Avila has had two separate stints on the disabled list because of hamstring problems this year. Both times, he hurt himself running the bases. He was on base three times Monday night, and presumably, he survived.

The news is not so good for second baseman Brett Lawrie, who is back in Chicago to be re-evaluated after having a setback on his rehab assignment.

Lawrie went 5 for 12 over his first three games at Double-A Birmingham, but he was unable to complete a fourth game on Aug. 17. After two days off, he gave it a try again Aug. 20, but once again left the game after two at bats.

The second baseman originally had a hamstring strain, but then he landed on the DL when the injury was said to involve his knee. Now, a sore quad seems to be the problem in that same leg.

Lawrie had never played more than 125 games in a season until last year, and we can see why. He just keeps getting hurt. It's fair to assume he won't be of much help to the Sox the rest of the season.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Chris Sale, Jose Quintana lift White Sox to series win vs. A's

Chris Sale
Perhaps a three-game set between two fourth-place teams in late August doesn't stir the emotions, but the White Sox finally won a series against an American League opponent over the weekend, taking two out of three from the Oakland Athletics.

The series went about as expected, with Sox pitchers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana winning their respective starts, while James Shields turned in yet another clunker.

Let's review the weekend that was at U.S. Cellular Field:

Friday, Aug. 19
Athletics 9, White Sox 0: The Sox rank last in the American League with 493 runs scored. Oakland is not much better offensively -- the A's are tied with the Royals for 13th in the league with 495 runs. Nevertheless, Oakland hitters had no problems with Shields (5-15).

The Sox right-hander got knocked out in the fifth inning, after allowing seven runs (six earned) on eight hits. He struck out three, walked three and allowed three more home runs.

Shields has now allowed 20 home runs in 69.2 IP since joining the Sox. In fact, he leads the team in home runs allowed, despite spending the first two months of the season in San Diego. Shields is 3-8 with a 7.62 ERA in 14 starts with Chicago.

He has moved into the Jaime Navarro and Todd Ritchie Kingdom of Bad. If you're holding tickets for a game Shields is scheduled to start, I pity you.

The Sox did nothing offensively in this game. Oakland's Kendall Graveman (9-8) needed only 98 pitches to fire a two-hit shutout. He faced 28 batters, one more than the minimum.

It's hard to say whether Graveman was really that good, or if the Sox hitters just gave up after Shields put them in another insurmountable hole.

Saturday, Aug. 20
White Sox 6, Athletics 2: Sale hadn't won a game since July 2. He's had a couple bad outings since then, but he's mostly been the victim of bad relief pitching and lack of run support.

But the ace lefty had few problems in this game, as he fired eight innings of shutout ball to earn his 15th win against six losses. He allowed only three hits -- all singles -- while striking out eight and walking three. Sale allowed two singles in the first inning, but escaped trouble with a double play. He was never threatened again, as Oakland managed just one hit over the next seven innings.

The Sox offense was helpful for a change, touching up Oakland left-hander Ross Detwiler (1-2) for six runs on 10 hits over the first four innings. Jose Abreu's 15th home run of the season got the scoring started in the first inning, and the Sox tacked on with two in the second, two in the third and one in the fourth.

Naturally, the Sox couldn't make it easy in the ninth inning. Nate Jones was summoned to protect a six-run lead, but he struggled. He faced five batters with the following results: home run, popout, single, E-6, single. Suddenly, it was 6-2 with two on and only one out.

With the tying run in the on-deck circle, closer David Robertson was summoned. He collected his 31st save by recording a strikeout and a long flyout to center field.

Sunday, Aug. 21
White Sox 4, Athletics 2: The Sox followed a similar formula to the one they used Saturday night. They handed an early lead to one of their best pitchers, and stayed in front the rest of the afternoon.

The South Siders plated three runs in the bottom of the first inning off Oakland starter Zach Neal (2-3). Justin Morneau had an RBI double, and Todd Frazier added a two-run single as part of his three-hit day.

Abreu added his 16th home run of the season in the fourth inning.

That was enough for Quintana (10-9), who collected his career-high 10th victory. He went seven innings, allowing only a two-run homer to Khris Davis. He allowed eight hits, struck out six and walked one.

The lone walk was to Jake Smolinski leading off the eighth, and that was Quintana's last batter of the afternoon. This time, Jones entered and got the job done. He struck out Oakland's two most dangerous hitters -- Marcus Semien and Davis -- and preserved a 4-2 lead through eight innings.

Robertson gave up a leadoff single in the ninth, but retired the next three hitters in succession -- including one strikeout -- to earn his 32nd save in 38 chances.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Two wins in Cleveland? Too much to ask of White Sox ...

Danny Salazar
Everything was set up nicely for the White Sox to steal a series win against the first-place Cleveland Indians on Thursday night.

The South Siders had Carlos Rodon going, and he's been pitching well lately. Meanwhile, the Indians were starting Danny Salazar, who had just come off the disabled list with an elbow problem and hadn't had the benefit of a rehab assignment.

Predictably, Salazar looked terrible. He lasted only one inning, during which he walked the bases loaded and gave up a three-run double to Sox designated hitter Justin Morneau.

Alas, the Sox couldn't make that 3-0 lead stick, and the Indians rallied to win 5-4 and take two out of three in the series.

It's disappointing because, with Salazar out early, the Sox had an opportunity to pile on against Cleveland's lesser relievers. But they let the opportunity slip, mustering only run on two hits in the next five innings against the combination of Kyle Crockett and Mike Clevinger. Both those two Indians pitchers have ERAs over 5, but you never would have known it Thursday night.

Still, the Sox got to the bottom of the seventh inning with a 4-2 lead. Rodon once again did his job. He went six innings, allowing two runs on eight hits. He struck out five and walked nobody. It was his third straight quality outing -- all against contenders (Baltimore, Miami, Cleveland) -- and he probably deserved a win.

He didn't get one, because the bullpen couldn't hold on. Chris Beck gave up a run in the seventh to make it 4-3, and Nate Jones bailed him out with a strikeout to end the inning. Unfortunately, Jones was touched for a run in the eighth, ending Rodon's hopes for victory, and it was 4-4 going to the ninth.

The Sox had a chance to score against Cleveland bullpen ace Andrew Miller (7-1) when Jason Coats doubled with two outs in the ninth, but Dioner Navarro flied out to deep center and the score remained tied.

Jacob Turner (1-2) pitched the bottom of the ninth and quickly lost the game, with help from Navarro. Abraham Almonte doubled leading off, advanced to third on Navarro's passed ball and scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Tyler Naquin.

Ballgame.

It's the same old, same old for the Sox against division opponents. They are 3-9 against the Indians this year, including 1-5 on the road. They are now a combined 11-27 against Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City.

This sounds like a broken record, I'm sure, but the narrative of the past several seasons has been the Sox's inability to hold their own against the AL Central teams they play all the time.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

White Sox finally get a win vs. Cleveland

Adam Eaton
The Cleveland Indians were 62-0 when leading after eight innings entering Wednesday night's game against the White Sox.

However, the longer a streak goes, the more likely it is to end. The law of averages in baseball eventually catches up to you.

The Sox ended that 62-game streak -- and their own seven-game losing streak in head-to-head matchups with the Indians -- by scoring five runs in the top of the ninth inning off Cleveland closer Cody Allen.

Adam Eaton's first career grand slam capped the rally, which erased a 7-5 deficit and lifted the Sox to a 10-7 victory.

Allen struck out Justin Morneau to begin the ninth inning, but he would not retire another batter.

Todd Frazier and J.B. Shuck both reached on infield singles, and Tim Anderson drew a walk to load the bases. Kudos to Anderson, who overcame a bogus strike call on 3-1 to reach base. The full-count pitch was close, but also out of the zone, and that one was correctly ruled ball four. It would have been easy for a young hitter such as Anderson to get anxious after having a bad call go against him on the previous pitch, but he maintained his discipline and earned the walk.

Anderson has walked five times in his last 10 games, after drawing just two walks in his previous 47 games. The Sox can hope this means the 23-year-old is starting to get a better grasp of the strike zone.

Dioner Navarro's bloop single made it 7-6, and that set the stage for Eaton. The Sox's right fielder fell behind 0-2 in the count -- both pitches were curve balls --  and he looked foolish on a half-swing for strike two. But Allen went to the well one too many times, throwing Eaton a third straight curve. This time, Eaton waited back nicely and lined it into the right field seats for the go-ahead hit.

David Robertson allowed two base runners in the bottom of the ninth, a leadoff walk and a one-out single. But he struck out Rajai Davis and got a groundout from Brandon Guyer to preserve the lead and earn his 30th save in 36 opportunities.

Jacob Turner (1-1) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to pick up the win. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

White Sox option Carson Fulmer to Triple-A, recall Anthony Ranaudo

Anthony Ranaudo
As expected, the White Sox will call up Anthony Ranaudo to start Wednesday's game against the first-place Cleveland Indians.

Ranaudo takes the rotation spot of Miguel Gonzalez, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain last week.

The right-handed Ranaudo made one previous start with the Sox this year and showed well, allowing three earned runs on two hits over 6.2 innings against the Cubs on July 27. At Triple-A Charlotte, he is 6-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts.

He will pitch on regular rest Wednesday.

In a little bit of a surprise, Carson Fulmer was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte to make room for Ranaudo on the 25-man roster.

Fulmer, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 draft, was used strangely and sparingly since his July 15 promotion. He appeared in just eight games and posted an 8.49 ERA in 11.2 innings of sporadic work.

That's the equivalent of about two starts in a month, so it's hard to say how much this one month in the big leagues helped Fulmer's development.

He never pitched on back-to-back days, and he only pitched on one day's rest twice. Basically, he was collecting rust in the bullpen. During the same period where Fulmer made eight appearances, Matt Albers pitched 11 times, which is strange because there's no upside to giving more opportunities to a veteran retread such as Albers.

Reports indicate Fulmer will be "stretched out" at Triple-A Charlotte for a potential start or two in September after roster expand. I'm fine with that. I don't care whether Fulmer is at Triple-A or the big league level. I don't care whether he's starting or relieving. I just want him getting opportunities to pitch and refine his craft.

Getting on the mound more frequently can only help him. Rotting on the bullpen bench with a bad team doesn't do anything for his development.

Cleveland's Corey Kluber moving up the list of Cy Young candidates

Among American League starting pitchers, I'm not sure I can find a real obvious favorite for Cy Young. The award might go to the pitcher who gets hot over the last six weeks of the season.

One guy to keep an eye on: Cleveland's Corey Kluber.

Corey Kluber
The Indians right-hander picked up his fourth consecutive win Tuesday, when he defeated the White Sox, 3-1.

Kluber is now 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA over his last seven starts. For the season, he's 13-8 with a 3.15 ERA and a league-best 3.01 FIP. He ranks fourth in the league in strikeouts with 163, and he plays for a first-place team.

Yeah, I like his Cy Young chances if he keeps winning.

Thing is, the Sox had their chances Tuesday night. They got seven hits in six innings off Kluber, including four for extra bases. But, as so often has been the case, the big hit was lacking, and Justin Morneau's solo home run in the sixth represented the only run the Sox could muster against the Cleveland ace.

The "beneficiary" of the offensive misery was once again Jose Quintana (9-9). The Sox left-hander allowed just two runs over six innings, but got saddled with another hard-luck loss.

The second Cleveland run wasn't Quintana's fault. He had Rajai Davis picked off in the third inning, but Sox first baseman Jose Abreu threw high and wide of second base. Davis should have been the first out of the inning, but instead he was safe with a "stolen base." (#typicalWhiteSoxnonsense) Two outs later, Mike Napoli's RBI double gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead, and that was all Kluber and the Indians bullpen needed.

Midseason acquisition Andrew Miller worked two scoreless innings of relief, and Cody Allen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 23rd save for the Tribe, who enter Wednesday's play with a six-game lead in the AL Central.

The Sox? They've lost 12 out of 18 overall, and have dropped their last seven head-to-head meetings with the Indians. During those games, they've been outscored, 36-13.

Have we mentioned that the Sox have a lot of problems with divisional opponents during the Robin Ventura Era? I believe we have.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Rare series win: White Sox take two out of three from Marlins

Billy the Marlin
Is there any solace in beating a National League team?

The White Sox have won only two series since the All-Star break, and both of them have come against NL teams. The South Siders took two out of three closely contested games against the Miami Marlins over the weekend.

Here's a recap of how it went down:

Friday, Aug. 12
White Sox 4, Marlins 2: Left-hander Carlos Rodon has started throwing his changeup again since he returned from the disabled list.

Through his first 16 starts of the season, Rodon threw a grand total of 87 changeups, or 5.4 per game. In his last three starts -- including Friday's -- he's thrown 54 changeups, or 18 per game.

Rodon's last two starts have been excellent, and he picked up his first win since May 22 in this game. He went six innings, allowing just one run on three hits. He struck out four and walked three, and did a good job of protecting the lead after the Sox scored three runs for him in the first two innings.

The common denominator for Rodon (3-8) since his return? Rookie catcher Omar Narvaez. Unlike the veteran catchers on this team, Narvaez has Rodon using all of his pitches, and that seems to help.

Also good news from this game: David Robertson worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning with two strikeouts for his 28th save of the season. Robertson has been struggling, and it's imperative he get back on track if the Sox are going to have any success at all the final month and a half.

Saturday, Aug. 13
White Sox 8, Marlins 7: Have we mentioned that James Shields stinks? Somehow, the rest of the Sox managed to overcome another terrible outing by Shields, who squandered an early 4-0 lead and got knocked out in the fourth inning.

Shields' final line: 3 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 HR

His ERA with the Sox is up to 7.34 in 13 starts. We can't say this is bad luck either. His FIP is 7.11, so these horrible statistics are not a fluke. Shields is giving up a ton of hard contact, and the Sox appear to be stuck with another terrible veteran pitcher through the 2018 season.

What a travesty.

On the bright side, the Sox bullpen combined for six scoreless innings in this game, allowing the Sox to rally for the win. A two-run eighth inning was the difference. Justin Morneau's pinch-hit, RBI double tied the game at 7, and then Dioner Navarro scored on a wild pitch to provide the winning run.

Nate Jones had a 1-2-3 eighth inning, and Robertson made it stick in the ninth with his 29th save of the year. Adam Eaton threw out Giancarlo Stanton at second base to end the game. Stanton made an ill-advised decision to try to stretch a single into a double. Not only was he thrown out, but he suffered a groin injury that sent him to the disabled list for his trouble.

Sunday, Aug. 14
Marlins 5, White Sox 4: Chris Sale's bid to win the Cy Young suddenly isn't looking so good after he failed to finish off a potential series sweep.

This game was tied at 3 into the seventh inning before the Sox ace coughed up two runs to take the loss, keeping him winless since July 2.

Sale has had some bad luck since the All-Star break. Robertson has blown two games with two outs in the ninth inning that would have been wins for Sale, and Sale (14-6) has also suffered 2-1 and 3-1 losses that could have easily been wins on another day.

But this one was not the fault of Sale's teammates. He was just bad, giving up five earned runs on eight hits over 6.2 innings against the Marlins' Sunday lineup.

The Sox tried to come back and get him off the hook. Tim Anderson homered in the bottom of the ninth to cut the Miami lead to 5-4. After that, the Sox got three singles from Narvaez, Eaton and Tyler Saladino, but pinch runner Carlos Sanchez was thrown out at home plate trying to score on Saladino's base hit to end the game.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Why won't the White Sox play Justin Morneau vs. LHP?

Justin Morneau -- in younger years
The White Sox wasted more good pitching Thursday night, falling 2-1 to the Kansas City Royals.

After starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez left with an injury in the second inning, there was reason to believe this game could get out of hand. It did not, because relievers Michael Ynoa, Carson Fulmer and Tommy Kahnle combined to pitch seven innings of two-run ball.

Ynoa was particularly impressive. He worked three scoreless innings. He struck out three and did not allow a hit.

Too bad the Sox could muster only one run against Kansas City left-hander Danny Duffy, who pitched his first complete game in 97 career starts.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised given that the Sox fielded this weak lineup:

1. Adam Eaton, CF
2. Tyler Saladino, 3B
3. Melky Cabrera, LF
4. Jose Abreu, DH
5. Todd Frazier, 1B
6. Dioner Navarro, C
7. Tim Anderson, SS
8. Carlos Sanchez, 2B
9. Jason Coats, RF

Noticeable by his absence is Justin Morneau, who has turned out to be a nice addition for the Sox. The veteran is hitting .289/.337/.474 with five doubles, three home runs and nine RBIs in 21 games and 83 plate appearances since his return from the disabled list.

It's a small sample size, but that .811 OPS is better than anybody else on this team.

Given the fact that Morneau has been productive, why is manager Robin Ventura using him as a platoon player? Sure, Duffy is left-handed, and Morneau is left-handed, but what baseball universe are we living in where the light-hitting Sanchez gives the Sox a better chance to win against a pitcher such as Duffy?

Morneau has been allowed only 12 at-bats against left-handed pitching thus far, but he has four hits, including a double and a home run. For his career, he has a slash line of .253/.298/.411 against lefties. That's not world-beating, but it's respectable, and while that .710 OPS pales in comparison to his .891 career OPS against righties, Morneau is a threat every time he steps in the batter's box against either right-handers or left-handers. That's more than we can say for about half the guys listed in the lineup above.

I had one person tell me that Ventura made the right move by sitting Morneau on Thursday, because the Sox are out of the race and they need to "play the kids."

Please.

I could buy that explanation if I actually thought that was what Ventura was doing. But this is a manager who is playing J.B. Shuck over Coats. He's playing Navarro over Omar Narvaez. He's using Matt Albers in high-leverage relief situations instead of Ynoa or Fulmer.

He's not "playing the kids." He's still trying to win games with his veterans. If that's the philosophy he's taking, he needs Morneau to be the DH regardless of who is on the mound. The lineup the Sox trotted out Thursday against Duffy isn't going to cut it.

White Sox place Miguel Gonzalez on 15-day DL; Chris Beck recalled

Miguel Gonzalez -- in younger years
The White Sox on Friday placed right-handed pitcher Miguel Gonzalez on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained right groin. Right-hander Chris Beck was recalled to take Gonzalez's place on the 25-man roster.

Gonzalez left Thursday's game against the Kansas City Royals in the second inning. This is a fairly significant blow for the Sox. Gonzalez has been their third-best starting pitcher this season, despite a subpar 2-6 record and a modest 4.05 ERA.

The veteran pitcher had racked up seven consecutive quality starts going into Thursday's game, although he had earned only one win for his trouble during that stretch. Gonzalez is one of the guys who has been doing his job, despite the general malaise surrounding the team.

Beck's recall is a bit of a surprise. He was ineffective in his previous stint with the Sox, when he appeared in six games and posted a 8.10 ERA and 2.850 WHIP over 6.2 innings.

He has worked exclusively as a reliever since being sent back to Triple-A Charlotte. In seven games, he's worked 10 innings, striking out 10, walking five and allowing 12 hits. For the season, he's 5-4 with a 4.21 ERA covering 66.1 innings in 22 games (7 starts) with the Knights.

It seems unlikely Beck will be the guy to take Gonzalez's place in the starting rotation. More than likely, he's with the Sox to serve as an extra reliever during the upcoming weekend series against the Miami Marlins. The Sox played 14 innings Wednesday night. The bullpen had to cover seven innings Thursday night after Gonzalez's early exit. The relief corps is stretched, so Beck is around if reinforcements are needed.

It's possible Beck will be sent back down next time Gonzalez's place in the rotation comes up. Anthony Ranaudo, who pitched well in one previous start with the Sox, could be in line for a recall next week.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

There isn't much more Jose Quintana can do for the White Sox

Jose Quintana -- hosed again
"It's bad when you try everything and you lose."

That's what White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana had to say after Wednesday's 3-2, 14-inning loss to the Kansas City Royals.

Quintana did what he almost always does -- pitch outstanding baseball. He went 7.1 innings, allowing just one run on five hits with five strikeouts and one walk. His ERA is down to 2.85, which is brilliant in the hard-hitting American League.

Quintana's teammates also did what they almost always do -- find a way to squander his terrific performance.

In many ways, this was the prototypical Quintana no-decision. He took a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning, but the Sox could have had more runs than one. They gave away three outs on the bases, went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners. They failed to deliver the big hit with men on base in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings.

Inept offense.

Nevertheless, there was Quintana, industriously protecting a slim lead all game long. He got one out into the eighth inning before a double by Paulo Orlando ended his night after 97 pitches. I would argue that Quintana had earned the right to try to pitch around that, but it was a hot night, and manager Robin Ventura elected to go to the bullpen.

It took Nate Jones exactly one pitch to blow Quintana's chance at victory. Cheslor Cuthbert doubled to tie the score. Have I mentioned that the Royals have a lineup full of guys who love to swing at the first pitch? The Sox still haven't figure that out yet. #typicalWhiteSoxnonsense

The Sox had another chance to win the game in the 11th inning after Tim Anderson's two-out RBI single staked them to a 2-1 lead. Alas, closer David Robertson still isn't able to close. He gave the run right back in the bottom of the inning for his fourth blow save in eight chances since the All-Star break.

There have been five meetings between the Sox and Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium this year, and the Sox have had the lead in the seventh inning in all five of them. Yet, their record in those five games is 1-4. It's fitting that both Jones and Robertson were charged with blown saves in this one. You get the feeling the Sox bullpen couldn't protect a 10-run lead against the Royals in that stadium.

After the second Sox lead was blown, the game took on the feel of an inevitable loss. The Sox lost, all right, when Lorenzo Cain delivered a two-out RBI single off the increasingly useless Matt Albers in the bottom of the 14th inning.

One wonders why Albers (2-5) and his 5.91 ERA continue to appear in high-leverage situations. With the Sox out of the race, would it would be wrong to see how a younger pitcher would react in that spot? Carson Fulmer? Even Michael Ynoa?

Of course, it's not uncommon for me to be puzzled by some of the in-game decisions the Sox make. Nothing new under the sun there.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

David Robertson costs Chris Sale another win; White Sox recover to beat Royals

David Robertson
Kauffman Stadium has been a chamber of horrors for the White Sox, who have repeatedly endured unspeakable losses at the hands of the Kansas City Royals over the past four or five years.

With that mind, there's no way we can be dismayed over the outcome of Tuesday night's game.

Todd Frazier hit a three-run homer -- his 31st of the season -- in the 10th inning to snap a 4-4 tie and lift the Sox to a 7-5 victory over their nemesis from Kansas City.

We'll rejoice in the win, but at the same time, we'll point out that the Sox shouldn't have needed extra innings. Closer David Robertson is struggling. Three of his five blown saves this season have come since the All-Star break, and for the second time in about three weeks, he hurt Chris Sale's Cy Young candidacy by costing the Sox ace a win.

Sale labored early in this game, but he settled down to retire 14 of the final 15 hitters he faced. He went seven innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. He struck out seven and walked one.

The Sox were up, 4-3, heading to the bottom of the ninth inning, and Sale was positioned to pick up his 15th victory of the season.

Alas, Robertson couldn't get it done.

He was in position to work around a leadoff single. He had two outs, although the Royals had the tying run at second base (pinch runner Jarrod Dyson). But for some reason, despite playing Kansas City 19 times a year, the Sox still have not figured out that Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar is a first-ball, fastball hitter.

Robertson threw a fastball right down the pipe on the first pitch, and predictably, Escobar lined it into left field for an RBI single that plated Dyson and tied the game.

Baseball stupid. Typical White Sox nonsense. (I should make that a hashtag.)

Robertson (3-2) got out of the inning without losing the game, but that's about the only positive we can take from that. There's no way to sugarcoat it; that was horrible pitch selection with the game on the line from a veteran who should know better.

The silver lining? Frazier and the Sox were able to hang a loss on Kelvin Herrera, a hated and despised Kansas City reliever who has had the Sox's number in the past.

Herrera (1-4) entered Tuesday night's game with a 1.63 ERA. He had allowed only one hit and one walk over five scoreless innings previously against the Sox this season. In fact, he had allowed only three runs total at Kauffman Stadium all year. He allowed three more runs with one swing of Frazier's bat in Tuesday's 10th inning.

That gave the Sox a 7-4 lead. The Royals scored an unearned run off Jacob Turner in the bottom of the 10th, but Dan Jennings struck out Eric Hosmer to end the game and earn his first career save.

Given the Sox's record in Kansas City, it's a wonder they didn't mob each other on the field in celebration after this victory.

Avisail Garcia's latest injury might signal the end of his time with White Sox

Avisail Garcia
The White Sox on Tuesday placed outfielder Avisail Garcia on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right knee. Outfielder Jason Coats was recalled to take Garcia's spot on the roster.

Garcia apparently hurt himself while stretching in the on-deck circle during Saturday's game against Baltimore, and the injury comes at a bad time for him. The 25-year-old had swung the bat well in his previous seven games, posting a .292/.346/.792 slash line with three home runs, three doubles and six RBIs.

Overall, Garcia has been a disappointment this season. His slash line of .240/.309/.378 is unimpressive, and he has only 21 extra-base hits (11 doubles, 9 home runs, 1 triple) in 320 plate appearances. He is not a good base runner, nor is he a good outfielder, so he has to hit in order to justify his place on the 25-man roster. For the most part, he has failed.

Garcia has never developed the kind of power you expect from a man who is 6 feet 4 inches tall and 240 pounds. After 1,279 plate appearances with the Sox over the past four seasons, he's running out of chances. It's fair to say he is in need of a strong performance over the final two months to avoid being a non-tender candidate this offseason.

If he's going to be on the disabled list for any length of time, he's not going to change any minds the rest of this year, and that will likely signal the end of his time on the South Side of Chicago.

As for Coats, he has continued to destroy Triple-A pitching. He's hitting .329/.390/.512 with 17 doubles, eight home runs and 29 RBIs in 65 games with the Charlotte Knights this season.

However, Coats showed little in limited opportuniites during his previous two call-ups. He is 2 for 22 with nine strikeouts in 29 plate appearances with the Sox.

I wouldn't mind if Coats gets more consistent ABs in the short run, just to see if he can show that he's anything more than a Quad-A hitter, but the guess here is Coats will be the right-handed half of an outfield platoon with J.B. Shuck going forward.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Passion. Pride. Tradition. Some reminders for White Sox fans

White Sox fans, it has been a tough summer. Our favorite team is out of the race for a fourth consecutive year. There isn't any hope for the present, and it's hard to summon much hope for the future.

If you've been out to the ballpark this year, you've probably noticed that U.S. Cellular Field has been overrun with fans of visiting teams. The number of people dressed in full Cubs regalia cheering for Sox opponents has taken a noticeable spike as well. Sometimes, I feel outnumbered cheering for my team in my own home ballpark.

Around town, I can't enter a restaurant or even a grocery store while wearing my Sox gear without some haughty jackass making some comment about how awesome the Cubs allegedly are, or some comment about how irrelevant the Sox supposedly are. I can tolerate the occasional quip from Cubs fans that I know. That's part of life in a city with divided loyalties. But unsolicited, snide remarks from people I don't even know have long since grown tiresome.

We face an October of being tsk-tsked for failing to join the Cubs bandwagon and refusing to "cheer for Chicago" in the playoffs. These aloof people have no understanding of why we stay loyal to the White Sox, or of why we decline to support the Cubs. And I'm certainly not going to waste my valuable time trying to explain it to them.

Yes, these are trying times, indeed. This is without question the most difficult time to be a Sox fan since the late 1980s.

So, in these trying times, I'd like to remind all Sox fans that we support one of the original franchises of the American League. There have been many great players, many great moments, and our team and our history are not "irrelevant," despite the efforts of people who would like to see us pushed toward the margins.

Just in case you've forgotten about the rich history of the White Sox, watch this video that used to play before the start of every home game. I don't know why the team ever stopped playing it, to be honest. It's awesome:


And if that doesn't make you feel better, there's always this:


You see, enduring the bad times makes the good times such as those posted above all the more sweeter. Right now, there's little to be happy about, but you have to remember, things in sports always go in cycles. There will come a time when the Sox are good again. They've fielded good teams in the past, they've won before, and they will win in the future. I guarantee it. If you abandon ship now, there will be a hole in your heart the next time the Sox produce a championship-caliber team. Don't be that person.

In a period like this, it's easy to become self-loathing. I fall into that trap myself sometimes, especially during the bad losses. Resist that urge. The Sox have been in Chicago for 116 years. Many of us are third- and fourth-generation Sox fans. The Sox are part of our family life. It's part of who we are. Don't ever let anyone make you ashamed of who you are.

Yes, the Sox are struggling right now, but stay true to yourself. Be the fan you've always been. Wear your gear around town. Keep watching the games. Cheer for your team. If fans of a different stripe can't deal with that, in true South Side fashion, you should tell them to kiss your ass.