Thursday, August 31, 2017

Michael Kopech named Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher

White Sox pitching prospect Michael Kopech has been named the Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher for 2017.

Kopech, 21, recently was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte, but this recognition is for the right-hander's season-long dominance at Double-A Birmingham.

In 22 starts for the Barons, Kopech went 8-7 with a 2.87 ERA. Among qualified pitchers, he led the Southern League in strikeouts (155), batting average against (.184), hits allowed (77) and strikeouts per nine innings pitched (11.69).

Kopech becomes the first Sox farmhand to win this honor since Mark Buehrle in 2000. In that season, Buehrle went 8-4 with a 2.28 ERA before receiving a July promotion to the Sox. Buehrle never returned to the minor leagues after that. The following year, in 2001, he won 16 games for the Sox, and the rest is history. The Sox retired his No. 56 in June.

I doubt Kopech will be on any fast track to the major leagues. He's thrown 129.1 innings this season combined between Birmingham and Charlotte, and that is by far a career high.

So far for Charlotte, he's 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts. He's scheduled to pitch for the Knights on Friday night, and I'm guessing that will be it for his year, since the minor-league regular season ends within a week.

There have been rumblings that Kopech will compete for a rotation spot in spring training next year, but the smart money has him starting in Charlotte in 2018. Even if everything continues to go well, I can't see Kopech coming to Chicago until after the Super Two service time issues are no longer an issue.

Keep in mind, we didn't see Yoan Moncada or Reynaldo Lopez get a call to the majors until the second half this year. Kopech is one prospect we could see in the second half of next year, but most likely not before then.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Jose Abreu: the .300/30/100 watch is on

Jose Abreu
For the fifth consecutive season, the White Sox (52-78) will finish with a losing record, and games in September won't mean a thing in the standings -- at least not to the Sox.

So, it's that time of year where we look for reasons to watch and reasons to care. How about first baseman Jose Abreu's sustained excellence?

Abreu went 4 for 4 with a double, a walk and two RBIs on Tuesday in a 6-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins. The perfect night raised his batting average to .303, and he has 26 home runs and 80 RBIs on the season.

He is on pace to finish with 32 home runs and 100 RBIs right on the nose.

Yes, indeed, the .300/30/100 watch is on.

Abreu already is the first Sox player to hit at least 25 home runs in each of his first four seasons in the major leagues. He also is seeking his fourth consecutive 100-RBI season. Last year, he had exactly 100, reaching the milestone on the final day of the season. His career high is 107. Abreu's career-best batting average is .317, set in his rookie season of 2014. He hit .290 in 2015 and .293 in 2016.

It's remarkable that Abreu puts these sorts of numbers up playing for bad teams. He probably does not get the credit he deserves -- locally or nationally -- because of some of the dreck that is playing around him.

But, he's a player who gives us a reason to watch, and we'll see if he can attain some of these individual milestones again this season.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Avisail Garcia is hitting a lot of singles since coming off the DL

Avisail Garcia
White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia is second in the American League in hitting with a .322 batting average.

Who would have thought we'd be making that statement on Aug. 29? Garcia continues to perform well above his career norms -- he's a lifetime .272 hitter, and it's not a small sample size. By the end of the week, he will have 2,000 career plate appearances in the big leagues.

Garcia is not going to challenge for the batting title. Houston's Jose Altuve is well ahead of the field with a .356 batting average, but Garcia has been hot since he came off the disabled list Aug. 8.

In his past 16 games, Garcia is 25 for 58. That will pencil out to a .431 batting average. He has at least one hit in 13 of those 16 games. He has eight multi-hit performances, including three three-hit games.

But here's the thing about it: Most of Garcia's hits are singles now. Since coming off the DL, Garcia has only four extra-base hits. All of those are doubles, and the last one came two weeks ago on Aug. 13.

Garcia was sidelined for about two weeks with a sprained thumb, and it's amazing how injuries to hands, thumbs and wrists rob hitters of their power.

Credit Garcia for continuing to get base hits during this period where he likely is not 100 percent healthy, but it's unfortunate that this hot streak has produced only seven RBIs for him.

A modest suggestion for manager Rick Renteria: Flip the batting order and put Garcia third, ahead of Jose Abreu.

For the most part, Abreu has been hitting third, with Garcia fourth. Abreu has seven home runs since Aug. 12, but only 10 RBIs to show for it. The guys hitting first and second haven't been getting on base for Abreu.

Who has been getting on? Well, Garcia has. Put him before Abreu in the lineup, and maybe some of these Garcia singles turn into runs for the Sox, if Abreu can continue to drive the ball off the wall or over it with consistency.

Monday, August 28, 2017

White Sox take two out of three from Detroit Tigers

Yolmer Sanchez
This weekend represented a rarity for the White Sox this season: They went into a three-game series in which the pitching matchups seemed to present them with an outstanding chance of winning at least two out of three.

The Sox did, in fact, take two out of three games from the Detroit Tigers, although the order in which they won this series was a little different than I anticipated. Let's look back on the weekend that was:

Aug. 25
White Sox 3, Tigers 2: This was the one game in the series where I felt the Tigers had the edge with their ace, Justin Verlander, going against Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez.

Perhaps I should have known better, because Gonzalez has had a strong second half. He's racked up seven quality starts in his past eight outings and lowered his season ERA from 5.15 to 4.30 in the process. And he more than matched Verlander in this game:

Gonzalez: 8 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 9 Ks, 0 BBs
Verlander: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 8Ks, 2 BBs

This one ended up being decided by bullpens, and while neither club has a good one, it was Detroit's relief corps that broke first.

With the score tied at 2, Tim Anderson led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a double off Joe Jimenez (0-2). Yolmer Sanchez followed a game-ending RBI single.

That made a winner of Sox reliever Juan Minaya (2-1), who worked 1-2-3 top of the ninth.

Aug. 26
Tigers 6, White Sox 3: I thought this would be the most favorable matchup for the Sox this weekend, so, of course, they lost.

Carlos Rodon (2-5) had allowed two runs or less and worked six innings or more in five straight starts coming into Saturday, but his hot streak ended against the Tigers.

The left-hander lasted only five innings and gave up five runs. Sanchez staked him to an early 2-0 lead with a home run, but Rodon handed it right back by giving up back-to-back home runs to Justin Upton and Miguel Cabrera in the top of the third inning. Cabrera's homer gave Detroit a 3-2 lead, and the Tigers led the rest of the way.

Detroit starter Buck Farmer (3-1) has a 6.17 ERA this season, but two of his three wins have come against the Sox. Farmer was nothing special in this game, allowing three earned runs over 5.2 innings, but he was better than Rodon. That was disappointing.

Aug. 27
White Sox 7, Tigers 1: Not so disappointing was the performance of rookie right-hander Lucas Giolito (1-1), who fired seven shutout innings to pick up his first major-league victory in the rubber match of the series.

Unlike his first start, Giolito had his four-pitch mix working. He was consistently ahead in counts and allowed only two hits through his first six innings. He struck out four and threw 72 of his 104 pitches for strikes.

His seventh and final inning was a tough one, but he managed to get out of a two-out jam that saw the Tigers load the bases. Jose Iglesias hit a ball down the left-field line that was initially ruled a grand slam. Replays showed the ball was clearly foul, and the call was reversed. After the loud strike one, Giolito induced Iglesias to ground out to shortstop, and that completed his seven-inning day.

The Sox have had a lot of success against Detroit lefty Matt Boyd (He's 0-4 vs. Chicago in his career), and they scored five runs off him in the bottom of the third inning Sunday. Matt Davidson's two-out, two-strike three-run homer turned a 2-0 lead into a 5-0 lead, and the Sox remained in control the rest of the way.

Sanchez went 3 for 4 and finished the series 6 for 12 with a home run, a double, two runs scored and four RBIs. 

The win finished up a 5-3 homestand for the South Siders. The Sox are 9-5 in their past 14 home games, so at least they are playing better before their fans at Guaranteed Rate Field. Their 2-8 road record this month stinks, but being able to compete and win at home is a step forward over what we were seeing for most of June and July.

Friday, August 25, 2017

White Sox place Yoan Moncada on 10-day disabled list

The White Sox won both Wednesday and Thursday night and ended up taking three of the five games against the Minnesota Twins this week, but Thursday's 5-1 victory came at a price.

Yoan Moncada has been placed on the 10-day disabled list after an MRI on Friday morning revealed a bone contusion in his right shin.

The rookie second baseman sat out two games last weekend against the Texas Rangers with shin splints, and he aggravated the nagging injury Thursday night while rounding third base on his way to scoring a run during a three-run rally in the fourth inning.

Moncada limped back to the dugout and played one more inning before exiting the game.

Third baseman Matt Davidson has been activated from the disabled list to take Moncada's spot on the roster. Davidson, who has 22 home runs this season, was hit by a pitch Aug. 1 and had been on the disabled list since Aug. 6 with a bruised right wrist.

He had played only one game on a rehab assignment to Triple-A Charlotte. I'm sure the Sox would have liked him to get a few more ABs down there before activating him, but the Moncada injury makes his presence in Chicago necessary.

It's good to have Davidson back in the lineup. I'm sure he'll play third base every day, and Yolmer Sanchez will move back to second base in Moncada's place.

Still, it stinks to have Moncada out. As the Sox (50-76) play out the string, Moncada's at-bats give us something to watch and talk about, but he'll be sidelined for at least the next 10 days and possibly longer.

Certainly, the Sox should exercise caution with Moncada. A lot is invested in him, and if they need to shut him down for the year, so be it. He's dealt with several injuries this season, and it's important that he be 100 percent healthy by the time the 2018 season rolls around.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Lucas Giolito's first outing not 'excellent,' but respectable

Manager Rick Renteria overstated it when he called Lucas Giolito's first start with the White Sox "excellent." Nevertheless, there were several positives to take from the outing, even though Giolito and the Sox lost, 4-1, to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.

Here is Giolito's final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 Ks, 0 BBs, 3 HRs

Notice that I bolded the no walks. The quickest way to endear yourself to me as a pitcher is to throw strikes and get after people. I was satisfied that Giolito did that. He threw 64 of his 99 pitches for strikes, which is a ratio that is above league average. The Minnesota hitters might have beaten him, sure, but he didn't give anything away.

The other thing that stood out about Giolito is that he managed to survive six innings without anything resembling his best stuff. When he's right, the curveball is an out pitch for him. Based on my observations, and the postgame comments I've read, Giolito's curveball was nearly useless in this game. He had to rely almost exclusively on a fastball-changeup combination.

Of his 99 pitches, he threw 69 fastballs, 16 changeups, 12 curves and two sliders. He could not grab any strikes with his breaking ball, so he was relying mostly on fastball command.

And, for the most part, Giolito's fastball command was good. Unfortunately, he did make a few mistakes, and he gave up three home runs, all to left-handed hitters -- Jorge Polanco, Kennys Vargas and Eddie Rosario. Those homers accounted for all four runs allowed.

That's the thing about pitching in the big leagues: You gotta have something to get hitters off your fastball. It doesn't matter how good the fastball is, if they know it's coming, you better have precise location or you're going to get hit. On those three occasions, Giolito didn't have precise location, and he got hit.

In each case, he appeared to be trying to come inside and missed out over the plate. That's a teachable moment for pitching coach Don Cooper. He can show Giolito that and say, "If you're going to miss, miss in."

Hopefully, Giolito will be able to throw his curve for strikes next time he takes the mound. If he can, he might get away with a mistake or two with the fastball, because a few curves for strikes force the opponent to honor the breaking pitch. Last night, I think the Minnesota hitters just subtracted the breaking ball from their thinking and sat on Giolito's heater, which is good (91-93 mph) but not overpowering.

Despite the loss, Giolito showed plenty to earn himself another start, and it was nice to see, especially coming on the heels of Carson Fulmer's discouraging outing Monday night.

As Sox fans, we all want to see these touted prospects jump up and earn their place on the roster. Ideally, Giolito will show well enough to be in the big-league rotation in 2018. Even if the outing Tuesday was not "excellent," let's call it a good first step.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Quantifying the White Sox roster turnover during a rebuilding season

Jose Abreu -- one of the few Sox veterans left
The White Sox have used 45 players during this 2017 season of rebuilding. If that seems like a high total, that's because it is.

Roster churn is an inevitable part of rebuilding, but because it happens gradually, fans don't always realize how stark the changes have been.

For instance, did you know that only 12 of the players on the Sox's current 25-man roster were with the team on Opening Day? More than half of these guys we're watching now were in the minor leagues, on the disabled list or elsewhere when the season began April 3.

Here are the 12 "survivors," if you will:

Jose Abreu
Tim Anderson
Yolmer Sanchez
Omar Narvaez
Avisail Garcia
Leury Garcia
Tyler Saladino
Jake Petricka
Derek Holland
Miguel Gonzalez
James Shields
Dylan Covey

That's it. Here's a rundown on what has happened to the 13 "other" guys:

Jose Quintana
David Robertson
Todd Frazier
Melky Cabrera
Dan Jennings
Anthony Swarzak

On the disabled list:
Nate Jones
Zach Putnam
Matt Davidson
Geovany Soto

Demoted to the minor leagues:
Jacob May
Michael Ynoa
Cody Asche

This list of others doesn't even include Tommy Kahnle, who started the year in the minors before getting called up and pitching well enough to be traded to the New York Yankees.

And I'll bet quite a few people have forgotten that Asche still exists at this point.

And, of those 12 guys who have been with the Sox all year, seven of them -- both Garcias, Petricka, Shields, Gonzalez, Saladino and Covey -- have spent time on the disabled list.

Yes indeed, this is one of those years where you have to be a die-hard fan to know which 25 guys are on the Sox roster at any given moment.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Most doubleheaders are split, including the one Monday night

Carlos Rodon
It was just last week that we suggested the White Sox try Juan Minaya as closer. He's got the highest strikeout rate of any pitcher in the Sox bullpen, and hey, what else is there to lose?

Apparently, manager Rick Renteria thought the same thing. Minaya has closed out three Sox victories since Friday -- two over the weekend against the Texas Rangers, and one against the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.

The Sox took the opener of Monday's doubleheader with the Twins, 7-6, before Minnesota cruised to a 10-2 victory in Game 2.

It was nice to see Minaya come through with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to preserve a win for starter Carlos Rodon (2-4), who has racked up five strong starts in a row.

This time, Rodon went 6.1 innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He struck out nine and walked three. At one point in time, he retired 10 out of 11 hitters. Most importantly, he minimized the damage in a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth inning. He allowed only a sacrifice fly, and he walked off the mound with one out in the seventh with his team leading 7-2.

Alas, the bullpen follies continued for the Sox. The Twins nicked Danny Farquhar for a run in that seventh inning, and then Derek Holland surrendered a three-run homer to the great Jorge Polanco in the top of the eighth.

I don't know what the Sox are going to do with Holland, who got shelled in his most recent start in Texas. In this relief appearance, he faced four batters and retired only one. If there were more options available, I'd call for the Sox to designate Holland for assignment. Alas, there aren't many pitchers left in the high minors whom the Sox could call up.

Fortunately, Minaya shut it down in the ninth. He didn't allow the ball to leave the infield in recording his third save.

The Sox's No. 3 through No. 6 hitters combined to go 6 for 13 with six runs scored and all seven RBIs. Jose Abreu hit his team-best 25th home run of the season. Avisail Garcia had three hits, and Yolmer Sanchez tied a career high with four RBIs, those coming on a three-run homer and a sacrifice fly.

Game 2 saw Carson Fulmer make his 2017 Sox debut, and as feared, it was a clunker. He had a 5.61 ERA in 24 starts at Triple-A Charlotte this year, so I was expecting much. But this start was painful to watch even with low expectations.

Fulmer worked a 1-2-3 first inning on seven pitches, but his fortunes turned quickly in the second inning. He threw 41 pitches and recorded only one out. Worse, he gave up a pair of three-run homers, one to the aforementioned Polanco and one to Brian Dozier. He exited with the Sox trailing 6-0.

His final line: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 0 Ks

Fulmer's command was terrible. Not only was he wild with walks, he was wild in the zone. He missed locations by feet, not inches, with his fastball. His breaking ball was elevated and hanging. The Twins tagged him, and such a poor outing is only going to increase questions about whether Fulmer should make the move to the bullpen.

I always say a young pitcher is a starter until he shows me he is not, and I'm getting pretty close to saying Fulmer is not a starting pitcher.

The Sox had no prayer in this second game. They managed only three hits, although two of them were solo home runs. Nick Delmonico connected for his sixth of the season, and Adam Engel hit his fourth.

After the game, Fulmer was mercifully sent back to Charlotte. Brad Goldberg also was optioned back to Charlotte, clearing a roster spot for Lucas Giolito, who will make his Sox debut in Wednesday's game against the Twins.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Jake Petricka provides gut punch in White Sox loss to the Dodgers

Jake Petricka
Two outs away. Eight good innings and one horrible one.

However you want to look at it, the White Sox lost a tough one, 5-4, to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.

The Dodgers are 85-34, and there's no shame in losing to them. Everybody loses to the Dodgers. But the Sox had a 4-2 lead with two outs to go in the bottom of the ninth inning, and they did a lot of things right in this particular game. I would have liked to have seen them rewarded with a victory.

Carlos Rodon continued his stretch of terrific pitching. He tossed 7.1 innings of two-run ball and was in line for the victory. The Sox hit four home runs as a team, including two by Nick Delmonico, who has continued to surprise by swinging a great bat since he got called up from Triple-A Charlotte. Leury Garcia and Jose Abreu also homered in this game, and the Sox appeared to be on the verge of handing Yu Darvish his first loss since he was traded to the Dodgers.

Alas, the Sox have traded every competent pitcher in their bullpen, and they couldn't close the deal. We can't blame Juan Minaya. He finished the eighth inning for Rodon. We can't blame Greg Infante, who recorded an out on the only hitter he faced in the ninth.

But Aaron Bummer gave up a single to Cody Bellinger, and then Jake Petricka came in to throw batting practice to Logan Forsythe, Austin Barnes and Yasiel Puig. Those three hitters hung out ropes -- an RBI double into the left-field corner by Forsythe, a bullet single to center by Barnes, then a two-run, game-winning double to the left-center gap by Puig.

In a blink of an eye, Rodon's potential win was gone.

It's been a rough ride for Petricka since he came off the disabled list. He stunk Tuesday night, too, as he was right in the center of the Dodgers' five-run, game-winning rally in the eighth inning.

The past two nights, Petricka has faced eight hitters and retired only two. He's allowed six hits and given up four earned runs.


Petricka is the most accomplished reliever in a bullpen that includes Minaya, Bummer, Infante, Mike Pelfrey, Chris Beck, Dylan Covey and Brad Goldberg. However, injuries have taken their toll on Petricka, and he might actually be the worst pitcher in the Sox bullpen at this moment, past track record nothwithstanding.

Here's how his season statistics rank among the eight relievers on the Sox roster:

ERA: 9.00 (eighth and last)
FIP: 5.77 (third)
WHIP: 2.053 (eighth and last)
H/9: 15.6 (eighth and last)
ERA+: 49 (eighth and last)
Career saves: 16 (first)

I guess that last category is the key one for manager Rick Renteria. Petricka does have high-leverage experience, but his best successes came three years ago, when he had 14 of those 16 saves.

I don't know who the right guy is for closing situations for the Sox. I don't see any good options. I'd give Minaya a shot, because he has the highest K rate (11.8 per nine innings). But I do know that Petricka looks completely incapable of getting the job done for the Sox.

Renteria should ignore the experience factor, trust the recent data and give a chance to somebody else.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Will someone make a waiver deal for Miguel Gonzalez?

Miguel Gonzalez
On the surface, it seems preposterous that a contending team might want to swing a waiver deal for White Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez.

Gonzalez's overall numbers are not impressive -- a 6-10 record in 19 starts, to go along with a 4.67 ERA, a 5.01 FIP, a 1.48 WHIP and a rate of 5.13 Ks per 9 innings.

That said, the 33-year-old right-hander has made six starts since coming off the disabled list July 18 -- all against first-place teams -- and he has performed well in five of them.

The latest good Gonzalez outing came Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although the Sox lost, 6-1, it was not the fault of Gonzalez, who pitched six innings of one-run ball against a Dodgers team that is an incredible 50 games over .500 (84-34).

Here's a look at the past six outings for Gonzalez:

July 18 vs. Dodgers: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 Ks, 5 BBs (loss)
July 24 vs. Cubs: 7.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 Ks, 3 BBs (win)
July 29 vs Indians: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 Ks, 3 BBs (no-decision)
Aug. 3 vs. Red Sox: 1.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 Ks, 0 BBs (loss)
Aug. 9. vs. Astros: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 Ks, 1 BB (win)
Aug. 15 vs. Dodgers: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4Ks, 3 BBs (no-decision)

That outing against Boston was terrible. We can't pretend that it didn't happen, but it's an outlier when you look at Gonzalez's recent performances. But even with that Red Sox disaster, Gonzalez is 2-2 with a 3.60 ERA during this stretch against six teams that would all be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

That's respectable, and despite his career mediocrity, Gonzalez could represent a back-of-the-rotation upgrade for a couple of teams that are in the playoff hunt.

I'm looking at you, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

White Sox trade Tyler Clippard to the Houston Astros; Dylan Covey comes off DL

Tyler Clippard
Tyler Clippard, we hardly knew ye.

The White Sox on Sunday night traded the veteran reliever to the Houston Astros in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Clippard spent less than a month with the Sox. He was acquired from the New York Yankees, along with three minor-leaguers, on July 19 as part of a seven-player deal that also involved David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Tommy Kahnle.

The 32-year-old right-hander made only 11 appearances with the Sox, but it might have been enough to turn his season around. He was doing poorly with the Yankees -- a 4.95 ERA in 40 appearances -- but he was much better with the Sox, going 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA and two saves over 10 innings in those 11 outings.

Clippard was unscored upon in each of his final eight games with the Sox, and two of those came against Houston. Perhaps the Astros were impressed enough to pull the trigger on the move to acquire Clippard, who already has joined his new team and worked a scoreless inning Monday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It's unclear at this point what the Sox will get in return. Perhaps it is contingent on how Clippard performs for the Astros. If he continues to pitch well, maybe the Sox will acquire a midlevel prospect of some sort out of the Houston organization. If he reverts to the poor form he showed in New York, perhaps the Sox only get cash.

That's my speculation; I noticed the language describing the deal said a player to be named later OR cash considerations. The "or" is the crucial word, and it leaves open the possibility that the terms of the trade will be finalized at the end of the season.

In the meantime, Clippard's departure creates another hole in the Sox bullpen. It will be filled by right-hander Dylan Covey, who was activated from the 10-day disabled list.

Covey made eight starts at the start of the season for the Sox and went 0-4 with an 8.12 ERA before going on the DL with an oblique strain. He hasn't pitched since May 23, and he'll no doubt be working out of the bullpen this time, with all the spots in the Sox starting rotation set (for now).

The Rule 5 pick pretty much needs to remain on the active roster for the remainder of the year, or else he would have to be offered back to the Oakland Athletics. As long as Covey is healthy, he'll be on the roster and taking his lumps when he does get the opportunity to pitch.

I wouldn't be particularly concerned about the possibility of losing Covey to Oakland, but from the Sox's perspective, I'm sure they are trying to retain as much pitching depth as possible as they go through this painful rebuilding process.

Monday, August 14, 2017

White Sox lose two of three to Kansas City Royals

Reynaldo Lopez
Hey, that winning streak was fun while it lasted, wasn't it? It reached four when the White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, but reality set in over the weekend as Kansas City prevailed in the final two games of the three-game series.

The Sox (45-70) finished their six-game homestand with a 4-2 record, which was a pleasant surprise despite some weekend ugliness. Here's a look back at this latest series.

Friday, Aug. 11
White Sox 6, Royals 3 -- Reynaldo Lopez finally got his opportunity, and he started his Sox career in electrifying fashion. He struck out five of the first eight hitters he faced, and turned in six quality innings.

The rookie right-hander allowed two solo home runs to Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas, but he kept the Royals off the board otherwise. He struck out six and walked three in receiving a no-decision.

The game was tied at 2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, when the Sox broke it open with a four-spot. Tim Anderson's two-run homer capped the rally, which also featured a go-ahead RBI triple by Adam Engel. The center fielder became the first Sox player to collect two triples in a game since Alejandro De Aza in 2011.

Aaron Bummer worked two scoreless innings of relief to pick up his first major league win.

Saturday, Aug. 12
Royals 5, White Sox 4 -- Hey, a quality start by James Shields!

Sure, Shields put the Sox in a 3-0 hole after two innings, but he didn't give up anything else over a six-inning outing. And the Sox got him off the hook, eventually rallying to take a 4-3 lead on Leury Garcia's two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Alas, the lead did not stick.

Reliever Chris Beck did what he does best -- walk people. Bummer relieved after Beck walked Lorenzo Cain to start the the eighth inning, and the rookie left-hander took the loss this time -- serving up a two-run homer to former Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera.

It stunk to see the four-game winning streak come to an end, but this game was an entertaining, back-and-forth contest. You can live with losses such as this one during a rebuilding season.

Sunday, Aug. 13
Royals 14, White Sox 6 -- In contrast, Sunday's loss was not one you could live with. It was a parade of terrible pitching that started with Derek Holland and continued with Mike Pelfrey, Beck, Greg Infante and Brad Goldberg.

Holland (6-12) allowed seven earned runs and didn't make it out of the third inning. Those who followed him weren't much better. Sox pitchers combined to give up 16 hits and walk nine batters in a boring game that took 3 hours, 38 minutes to play.

A fan seated behind me at Sunday's game pointed out that Holland is only here to "eat innings," which is true enough. I would be fine with that if Holland would, you know, actually eat some innings. It's ridiculous for him to get bombed like that and overexpose an inexperienced Sox bullpen. That's been a season-long complaint of mine: veteran innings-eaters failing to eat innings.

There were some positives offensively. Anderson continued his improved hitting with his 13th home run of the season. And rookie Nick Delmonico extended his hitting streak to 10 games, going 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Delmonico stung the ball into the right-center field gap three times. He was robbed of a double by Cain in the fifth inning, and robbed of a home run by Alex Gordon in the ninth inning.

Still too early to say whether Delmonico is going to stick in the majors, but he's been having consistent at-bats since he was called up from Triple-A Charlotte.

Friday, August 11, 2017

As we all expected, White Sox sweep Astros

Tim Anderson
The title of this blog entry is intended as sarcasm. So, please, no comments from Astros fans claiming that I'm being disrespectful.

The White Sox entered this week having lost 20 of their past 23 games. The Houston Astros were coming to town with the best record in the American League at 71-40, and their most accomplished pitcher, Dallas Keuchel, was scheduled to pitch Game 1 of the three-game series.

It wasn't looking good.

So, naturally, the Sox rocked Keuchel for eight runs, knocked him out early in an 8-5 victory Tuesday and set the stage for what ultimately would become a three-game series sweep for the South Siders, their first since they swept the Kansas City Royals from April 24 to 26.

Go figure.

We almost never see a Sox starting pitcher make it through eight innings, but stunningly, we saw it happen two nights in a row against a very good Houston lineup. Miguel Gonzalez (6-10) tossed eight innings of one-run ball in a 7-1 Sox victory Wednesday night. That game featured a two-run homer and an RBI double from Tim Anderson.

On Thursday night, left-hander Carlos Rodon continued his encouraging resurgence by throwing eight-innings of two-run ball. He did not get a decision in the Sox's 3-2, 11-inning victory, but he once again pitched deep into a game with an economy of pitches (98), and he walked nobody for the second consecutive outing.

In his past three games -- all against first-place teams (Indians, Red Sox, Astros), Rodon has tossed 22.1 innings and allowed only five runs on 21 hits. That will pencil out to a 2.01 ERA. He has struck out 24 and walked only two in that same span, reducing his season ERA from 6.29 to 4.24.

And, oh yeah, I've buried the lead a little bit here. I didn't mention that everyone's talking about Yoan Moncada after his performance Thursday night. His home run off Houston closer Ken Giles tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the ninth, and then his RBI single in the bottom of the 11th off Francis Martes scored Leury Garcia with the winning run.

Moncada, the Sox's top-ranked prospect, started slowly after being called up from Triple-A Charlotte. But we've seen him come on offensively in the past two series against Boston and Houston. He was 5 for 14 with three walks against the Red Sox, and 4 for 9 with three walks, a home run and a double against the Astros.

During that span, Moncada has raised his batting average from .105 to .213. His on-base percentage is a very respectable .377. The walks have been there all along. The hits are starting to come more frequently.

As for Anderson, he was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts Thursday, but before that, he was on a seven-game hitting streak that saw him go 11 for 31 (.355 average) with three doubles, a triple and two home runs. The solid contact and extra-base hits have suddenly returned to Anderson's game.

The wins over the Astros are nice, but let's be honest, they are inconsequential in the big picture with the Sox sitting at 44-68 overall. What really matters is some better play from some young guys who are supposed to be forming the future core of the team, and that's Rodon, Moncada and Anderson.

Now, we'll get a look at Reynaldo Lopez, who is being called up to make his first start in a Sox uniform Friday against Kansas City. Even if he does poorly, I'd rather see what he can do than watch any more starts from James Shields or Mike Pelfrey.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Rare good news: Two strong outings in a row for Carlos Rodon

Carlos Rodon
The White Sox (41-66) have lost four games in a row and 18 out of their past 21 after their 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.

Now for some rare good news: Carlos Rodon has pitched really well in his past two starts, including his best outing of the season Friday at Fenway Park.

Here are the recent pitching lines for Rodon:

July 30 vs. Cleveland: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 9 Ks, 2 BBs
Aug. 4 at Boston: 7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 11 Ks, 0 BBs
Total: 14.1 IP, 12 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 20 Ks, 2 BBs

That 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is what I like about Rodon this week. The fastball command is there. The velocity is consistently about 97 mph. The slider is working. He's getting swings and misses, and he's getting outs in a reasonable number of pitches. No walks against Boston; that's what you have to do to give yourself a chance to win. The 11 strikeouts Friday ties a career high.

And it isn't as if these outings have come against crummy teams, either. The Indians lead the AL Central. The Red Sox lead the AL East. Both are likely playoff teams. The Indians rank fourth in the AL in runs scored; the Red Sox rank fifth.

These were good performances against good teams. Too bad Rodon received two no-decisions for his effort. At least the Sox won the game against Cleveland, but it wasn't happening Friday night in Boston. Mitch Moreland hit a walk-off homer off Aaron Bummer (0-2) in the bottom of the 11th to secure the win for the Red Sox.

The beat goes on in terms of the tanking for draft position, but since Rodon is one of the few on the current roster who is supposedly part of the long-term plan, it's nice to see him picking it up out there.

'Why Todd Frazier can't hit anymore'

Todd Frazier (21)
One of the mildly interesting things about blogging on Google: You can look at the analytics and find out how people are hitting your website.

For example, somebody hit this blog this week by Googling the phrase "Why Todd Frazier can't hit anymore."

I chuckled to myself, knowing it was probably a frustrated New York Yankees fan who is just now finding out what White Sox fans already know -- Frazier is in severe decline and pretty darn close to being done at age 31.

Since the seven-player trade between the Sox and Yankees on July 19, Frazier has appeared in 14 games for New York and made 53 plate appearances. He has a grand total of one extra-base hit. (It was a homer.) That's not what you were hoping for, is it Yankee fans?

Frazier has compiled a slash line of .182/.321/.250 with the Yankees. I know, the usual caveats about small sample sizes apply, but I hate to tell you New York folks that this really isn't unusual for Frazier. His slash line for the season is .204/.327/.407, so while I think Frazier still will hit a few home runs between now and the end of the season, if you're waiting for more consistent production, none is forthcoming.

This isn't really a slump for Frazier. Rather, it's a continuation of struggles that have occurred ever since the veteran third baseman moved from the National League to the American League. He's slashing .218/.311/.444 since he was traded to the White Sox from the Cincinnati Reds before the start of the 2016 season.

Last year, I looked by Frazier's .225 batting average to some extent, because he clubbed 40 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Sox. Sure, he didn't have a lot of hits, but at least there were some big hits, and there was some decent run production.

This year, I didn't feel as though many of the 16 home runs Frazier hit for the Sox mattered much, and obviously, he will not be reaching the 40-homer plateau this season.

It's too bad Frazier stinks now. I've heard good things about the kind of guy he is, and my impressions of him from SoxFest the past couple years were positive. They say he's good in the clubhouse, and I have no reason to doubt that's true.

However, Frazier's on-field performance was disappointing during his tenure with the Sox, and I expect that to continue in New York.

I saw the Yankees held him out of the lineup Thursday in their 5-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Probably smart, because Frazier can't hit Corey Kluber worth a damn anyway (2 for 23 lifetime). But the sad reality is Frazier can't hit most guys anymore, and it's for the best that the Sox have moved on from him.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

It was 'Sickly Lineup Wednesday' at Guaranteed Rate Field

J.A. Happ
We have entered what I believe will be the darkest days of White Sox's rebuild -- from now until the end of the 2017 season. The roster is depleted through both trades and injuries, and the South Siders will be outmanned in every game they play for the rest of the year.

That's going to be true even against other also-rans such as the Toronto Blue Jays, who took two out of three from the Sox this week at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Jays beat the Sox, 5-1, on Wednesday, and it would have been embarrassing for Toronto had it not won.

Take a look at the sickly Sox lineup trotted out there against Toronto starter J.A. Happ:

1. Tim Anderson, SS
2. Tyler Saladino, 3B
3. Jose Abreu, 1B
4. Kevan Smith, C
5. Nick Delmonico, LF
6. Leury Garcia, RF
7. Yolmer Sanchez, 2B
8. Alen Hanson, DH
9. Adam Engel, CF

Kevan Smith as cleanup hitter? Oh boy. You can't blame Sox manager Rick Renteria. He had only 10 healthy position players for this game. The only guy not in his lineup was the other catcher on the roster, Omar Narvaez.

Second baseman Yoan Moncada is day to day with a right quad bruise suffered in a nasty collision Monday night with right fielder Willy Garcia. That incident sent Garcia to the seven-day concussion list. The Sox already were minus their All-Star right fielder, Avisail Garcia. And Matt Davidson, who had two game-winning hits in as many days Sunday and Monday, also is day to day with a bruised right wrist after being hit by a pitch Tuesday night.

The Sox players who were not traded already have their work cut out for them trying to stay competitive in games, and the job has been made that much harder by this recent rash of injuries.

Happ (4-8) had been struggling coming into Wednesday, but he mostly cruised against this short-handed Sox lineup. He went seven innings, allowing one run. He struck out 10 and walked one for his first win since July 4. In his previous three games, he had 10 strikeouts *combined* in 17 innings.

But the Sox racked up 14 strikeouts against Happ and four Toronto relievers, and there was one stretch where 10 Sox batters in a row did not put the ball in play -- it was nothing but strikeouts and walks.

There's really not a whole helluva lot to analyze or talk about with this team at the moment. They are depleted. They are going to lose and lose a lot. There's no point in getting upset about it. As fans, we'll just have to wear it in the short run.