Showing posts with label Cleveland Indians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cleveland Indians. Show all posts

Thursday, July 5, 2018

White Sox right-hander Dylan Covey has turned back into a pumpkin

Remember that brief stretch of glory when people thought White Sox right-hander Dylan Covey was turning the corner as a major league pitcher?

In a period of five starts from May 23 to June 13, Covey went 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA. He beat Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox, 1-0, on June 8 at Fenway Park. He backed that up with a 3-2 victory over Trevor Bauer and the Cleveland Indians on June 13 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

There was a glimmer of hope, but it looks as though those days are gone.

Covey has gotten shelled over his past four starts. He's 0-3 with a 13.20 ERA. He's allowed 23 runs (22 earned) on 21 hits over 15 innings. He's walked 13 men and struck out only four over that ugly stretch.

The latest Covey implosion occurred Wednesday night. He retired the first nine men he faced against the Cincinnati Reds and took a 3-0 lead into the fourth inning. But, it all went astray the second time through the batting order, as seven of the first eight Reds hitters reached base in the fourth inning.

By the time all was said and done, Covey was removed from the game without finishing the inning, and the Sox trailed, 6-3. They went out to lose, 7-4, and dropped two out of three against the NL Central-worst Reds.

Under normal circumstances, Covey's spot in the starting rotation would be in jeopardy after a horrible stretch such as this. However, with no obvious choice to replace him, chances are he remains in the mix for now.

In the meantime, let's get the notion out of our heads that Covey is going to be some sort of long-term fixture as a starting pitcher. I started to hear that from some Sox fans when Covey was pitching well, and I never bought it.

We need to call Covey what he is: roster filler. He's here until the Sox minor league system produces somebody better. Nothing more, nothing less.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Indians starting pitchers dominate White Sox in three-game sweep

Corey Kluber
Should we be surprised the White Sox got swept (again) by the Cleveland Indians? Probably not, but it still is pretty frustrating to see the South Siders put a noncompetitive product on the field.

Wednesday was one of "those days," as the Indians took a 3-0 lead three batters into the bottom of the first inning and went on to crush the Sox, 12-0.

Cleveland is 40-33 overall, including 8-2 against the Sox, which means the Tribe is a mediocre 32-31 against teams that do not play home games at 35th and Shields. I don't think Cleveland is the 102-win juggernaut it was last season, but the bottom line is the Sox are going to continue to struggle against this team until they find a way to score against the Indians starters.

Look at the lines posted by the three men who started for Cleveland in this series:

Trevor Bauer: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 8Ks, 2 BBs
Mike Clevinger: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 10 Ks, 2 BBs
Corey Kluber: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 Ks, 1 BB

So, in 21.1 innings, Indians starters gave up one run on nine hits, while striking out 25 and walking only five. That is domination.

I'm tired of seeing the Sox get dominated like this.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

White Sox infielder Matt Davidson hitting better in recent games

Matt Davidson
The White Sox (24-47) have lost five games in a row, and they appear to be descending back into the seventh sector of hell.

But infielder Matt Davidson has provided a bit of a bright spot. He homered for the second consecutive game Monday, his team-leading 13th home run, as the Sox lost, 6-2, to the Cleveland Indians.

It's good to see Davidson hitting for power after returning from the disabled list. He did not play from May 22 to June 5 because of back spasms, and for some reason, he was thrown right back into the major league lineup without the benefit of a rehab assignment.

In his first seven games after coming off the disabled list, Davidson went 2 for 24 with 14 strikeouts. The slump culminated in back-to-back games in which Davidson went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts June 10 and 11.

But in the past six games, Davidson has found his swing again, going 9 for 23 with three doubles, two home runs and four RBIs. He's still struck out nine times, of course, but the high strikeout totals become more palatable when coupled with power production.

The way the Sox have handled rehab assignments, or the lack thereof, has been confusing to me as of late. Davidson came right back into the major leagues, but Avisail Garcia remains at Triple-A Charlotte after five rehab games.

In five games for the Knights, Garcia is slashing .353/.450/.706 with three doubles, three walks, a home run and six RBIs. It seems to me he's ready to return to the lineup, but the Sox are saying Garcia will play two more games in Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday, before a possible return this weekend against the Oakland A's.

Granted, Garcia hasn't played in the majors since April 23 because of a strained right hamstring. So, he missed much more time than Davidson, but if he's feeling good, it's head-scratching why he hasn't been activated.

The Sox had no problem throwing Davidson right into the mix, but they are taking their time with Garcia, for whatever reason.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Perhaps Michael Kopech really does need more Triple-A time

Up until now, I've been a proponent of Michael Kopech getting an opportunity to continue his development at the major-league level.

However, the White Sox's top pitching prospect gave me pause with a poor performance Thursday night.

In Charlotte's 6-4 loss to the Norfolk Tides, Kopech walked eight, threw five wild pitches, hit two batters and threw only 35 of his 86 pitches for strikes. He struck out two and gave up two hits.

He only lasted three innings, and somehow, he only gave up five runs.

The control problems continue a trend for Kopech, who has had three uneven outings in row. Here is his composite pitching line from his past three starts:

11 IP, 12 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 17 BB, 14 K, 3 HBPs

OK, I'll relent and say general manager Rick Hahn is doing the right thing by keeping Kopech at Charlotte a little longer. However, I still believe Eloy Jimenez should have been promoted from Birmingham to Triple-A by now.

Indians 5, White Sox 2

I can't say Carlos Rodon's second start back from the disabled list Thursday was a bad one -- he didn't lose -- Chris Volstad took the loss in relief.

But Rodon was not sharp, so let's call the outing "laborious."

The left-hander went five innings, allowing two runs on two hits. He struck out four, walked three and hit two batters. A low point came in the third inning when he walked Yan Gomes with the bases loaded to force in the tying run.

We'd all like to see Rodon get deeper into games, but the score was tied at 2 when he left the game after five, so he gave the Sox a chance to win.

The Indians won, however, after Jose Ramirez broke the tie with a two-out, two-strike, two-run home run off Volstad in the top of the seventh. Volstad had a first base open, and he just got too much of the plate with his pitch.

I was frustrated with that outcome, because Edwin Encarnacion was the on-deck hitter for Cleveland in that situation. Although Encarnacion is an accomplished hitter, he is mired in a 2-for-19 slump.

I'd rather take my chances with him, righty-on-righty, than let Cleveland's most dangerous hitter (Ramirez) beat me.

Ramirez, in this case, burned the Sox, who settled for a split of the four-game series.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

James Shields beats Indians, gets first win since March 29

James Shields
I had a sense that Tuesday's pitching matchup provided the White Sox with their best chance to beat the Cleveland Indians in this week's four-game series.

Sure enough, the Sox won Tuesday, 5-1. 

Does it sound weird that I expected to win a James Shields start? Maybe, but my hopes for victory Tuesday were less about Shields and more about the Cleveland starter, Adam Plutko.

Plutko's name is not Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer or Mike Clevinger, and I figured he would be the one Indians starter the Sox could hit.

They hit him all right, as Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez hit home runs on back-to-back pitches in the bottom of the first inning. Matt Davidson added a pair of RBI doubles -- one in the first and one in the fifth -- and Omar Narvaez contributed an RBI single as the Sox touched up Plutko for five runs over 4.2 innings.

And, oh yeah, credit Shields (2-7) for doing his job. He went seven innings and allowed only one run on four hits. He didn't miss many bats -- only two strikeouts -- but he didn't walk anybody, and he induced a fair amount of weak contact with 14 fly-ball outs.

Shields has pitched six innings or more in each of his past 10 games, and this is his first victory since March 29 -- the season opener in Kansas City. His ERA is down to 4.63, after being at 6.14 after the month of April.

Is Shields emerging as a potential midseason trade candidate? I'm not holding my breath, but Sox fans can hope. He's pitching better now than at any point since he put on a Sox uniform.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco suddenly owns the White Sox

Carlos Carrasco
Carlos Carrasco's career numbers against the White Sox aren't particularly impressive.

The 31-year-old veteran has made 21 career starts against the South Siders, going 7-9 with a 4.27 ERA.

Pretty mediocre, right?

But if you do a deeper dive into the numbers, you will find there was a time when the Sox owned Carrasco. From 2011 to 2016, Carrasco made 16 starts against Chicago and lost nine of 12 decisions, posting a terrible 5.60 ERA.

During that era, a Sox fan could feel good about his team facing the Cleveland right-hander.

Those days are gone.

Since the start of the 2017 season, Carrasco has made five starts against the Sox, and he's 4-0 with a 0.99 ERA. That is mastery.

Carrasco continued his dominance Monday night, throwing seven innings of shutout ball in a 4-0 Cleveland victory. He allowed only two hits and struck out 11. The Sox never had a chance.

Obviously, the mix of players has changed significantly for the Sox over the past two seasons. It's apparent the current group has no idea what to do against Carrasco. I cringe now when I see him listed as Cleveland's probable starter.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Carson Fulmer continues to struggle in White Sox rotation

The White Sox are wish-casting with Carson Fulmer.

There is plenty of evidence that the 2015 first-round draft pick is not ready to be a major league starting pitcher, but the Sox continue to push forward with the idea that everything will be OK with Fulmer if we just remain patient.

I don't buy it.

Fulmer was handed a golden opportunity to get his first victory of the season Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics. Yoan Moncada's first career grand slam highlighted a five-run second inning that staked Fulmer and the Sox to an early 6-1 lead.

Alas, the right-hander never recorded an out in the bottom half of the inning. The Sox ended up using a franchise-record 10 pitchers in a 12-11, 14-inning loss.

Fulmer's final line: 1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BBs, 0 Ks.

His season ERA has swelled to 7.59. His WHIP is a hideous 2.156. He has walked nine batters and struck out nine in 10.2 innings pitched over three starts. This is not a recipe for success, friends, and we shouldn't be surprised.

Yes, I know. Fulmer had three good starts in September of last season. But let's remember, those three outings came against the last-place San Francisco Giants, the last-place Detroit Tigers and a Cleveland Indians team that already had secured its playoff positioning and had nothing to play for.

Before that, Fulmer had a struggling season at Triple-A Charlotte. He went 7-9 with a 5.79 ERA in 25 starts. We would expect numbers such as those from veteran journeymen such as Chris Volstad. You'd like to see better from Fulmer, but it's just not there.

Spring training didn't go well for Fulmer either. He didn't throw strikes, walking 13 men over 10.2 IP in the Cactus League. The end result was an 11.81 ERA, 17 runs allowed, 14 of them earned.

The Sox, for some reason, seem to be ignoring the rough season Fulmer had overall in 2017. They also seem to be ignoring the terrible spring he had, instead choosing to believe that good results in three 2017 games against uninterested opponents are going to translate into success this season.

I just don't see it. Fulmer doesn't belong in a major league rotation now. Maybe someday he will, but that day isn't today. For the good of his development, send him back to Triple-A to work on his control. Only bring him back when he's demonstrated that he can throw strikes on a consistent basis.

The Sox seem to be forcing Fulmer into the rotation, hoping and praying that all that has been invested in him now will start to pay off. It isn't working.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Yankees rally from 0-2 series deficit, upset Indians

Didi Gregorius
The Cleveland Indians once had a 22-game winning streak. They finished the season winning 35 of their final 42 games.

None of that means much now, does it?

The New York Yankees are in the ALCS after winning Game 5 of the ALDS, 5-2, at Cleveland on Wednesday night.

I felt as though the Yankees would be a dangerous opponent for Cleveland, just because New York is the one team that can match the Indians' bullpen arm for arm. However, I never expected the Yankees to pull this thing off, especially after Cleveland won the first two games of the five-game series.

New York rallied to win the final three games of the series, and sure enough, strong bullpen work was essential in the Game 5 victory.

That said, we would be remiss if we did not point out that Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia outpitched Corey Kluber, the Cleveland ace and likely Cy Young Award winner in the American League this year.

Didi Gregorius touched Kluber up for two home runs, a solo shot in the first inning and a two-run blast in the third. Kluber lasted only 3.2 innings and left the mound in the top of the fourth inning with his team trailing, 3-0.

Sabathia, meanwhile, allowed no runs on only one hit through the first four innings. He ran into trouble in the fifth, when he gave up two runs on four hits.

The Indians cut the New York lead to 3-2, and had runners on first and second with only one out. But former White Sox reliever David Robertson came in and slammed the door, inducing Francisco Lindor to hit into an inning-ending double play.

Sabathia struck out nine over his 4.2 innings pitched, and that's all the Yankees needed from him with Robertson and Aroldis Chapman coming out of the bullpen.

Robertson played the role of super reliever perfectly, navigating a scoreless 2.2 innings. He did not allow a single hit and protected that one-run lead through the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

That got the ball to Chapman, who struck out four and did not allow a hit while recording a six-out save.

The Yankees got a little breathing room in the top of the ninth inning, when Brett Gardner's single on the 12th pitch of an at-bat against Cleveland closer Cody Allen produced two runs to make it 5-2. Gardner fouled off five consecutive 3-2 pitches before getting the base hit. Credit him for a terrific job against one of the better relievers in the AL.

In Game 5, the Yankees' starter outpitched the Indians' starter, and the New York bullpen was better than the Cleveland bullpen. Add in a big-time performance from Gregorius, and there's your upset.

The Yankees are headed to Houston to open the ALCS on Friday night.

Nationals force Game 5

So, I guess sending Stephen Strasburg to the mound worked out OK for the Washington Nationals, huh?

Strasburg struck out 12 over seven shutout innings Wednesday, and the Nationals beat the Cubs, 5-0, to tie the NLDS at 2-all. I don't think Tanner Roark gives you that performance, Washington fans.

We probably wouldn't be talking about a Game 5 back in Washington on Thursday night if Roark had started that game.

The Nationals are at home for this decisive game, which can only help them. But I still think the Cubs have the advantage pitching-wise. Kyle Hendricks was brilliant in Game 1, and he'll start Game 5 on regular rest. Can the Washington offense solve him?

Washington will have to go with either Gio Gonzalez or Roark, but Max Scherzer should be able to give them a couple innings of relief, if necessary.

Still, I'd give the edge to the Cubs. But don't listen to me. I thought the Cubs would close out the Nationals in four. I also thought the Indians would beat the Yankees.

The only thing I know is that I know nothing about baseball.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Reynaldo Lopez was good; the rest of the White Sox were bad

Carlos Carrasco
The White Sox are 54-84 with 24 games remaining. That's a lot of losses, and it's hard to say any one single game is the worst I've seen this team play this season.

However, Wednesday's 5-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians has to be on the short list.

Yes, the Indians are good. They've won 14 in a row for a reason. And Carlos Carrasco is a good pitcher. He's 14-6 this season for a reason.

But there were some pretty pathetic at-bats turned in by Sox hitters Wednesday, as Carrasco needed only 97 pitches to sail through a complete-game, three-hitter. The Cleveland right-hander was one out away from a shutout, and he faced the minimum 26 batters through 8.2 innings. Adam Engel hit a meaningless solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to save the Sox from complete disgrace.

As bad as the Sox offense was, their defense was even worse. Rookie right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (0-3) has three quality starts in his four outings with the Sox, and this performance was probably the best of the bunch. He deserves a handshake for making it through six innings and allowing only one run to the red-hot Indians, especially given the horrible play behind him.

In the first inning, first baseman Matt Davidson booted a grounder that should have been an inning-ending 3-6-3 double play. Lopez bailed him out by getting Edwin Encarnacion to pop out and Carlos Santana to fly out. No runs allowed.

Shortstop Tyler Saladino kicked a ball that should have been a double play in the second inning. The official scorer inexplicably ruled it a "double." Lopez faced a second-and-third, one-out situation for the second inning in a row, and he again escaped with a strikeout and a popout.

In the fourth inning, the Indians loaded the bases with nobody out on a walk and two "singles." One glanced off the glove of Nick Delmonico after the rookie left fielder took a bad route to the ball. The other "single" should have been turned into an out by second baseman Alen Hanson but was not. Lopez was forced to get five outs in the inning. He allowed a sacrifice fly and nothing more, and that was a good job of pitching.

When Lopez left the game, the Sox trailed 1-0 in a game that could have easily been 5-0 or 6-0. The Indians broke it open late against the Chicago bullpen, and the Sox received a well-deserved loss, even though Lopez deserved a better fate.

The Sox are outmanned against the Indians, so to some extent you can live with losses to this Cleveland team. But there was a sloppiness to Wednesday's game that cannot sit well.

Carlos Rodon will get his shot at ending the Cleveland winning streak Thursday night, and with his stuff, he always has a puncher's chance against any lineup. But he's going to need his teammates to catch the ball for him. The Indians have their ace, Corey Kluber (14-4), scheduled to pitch, so Cleveland has good reason to like its chances of extending this win streak to 15. If the Indians are successful, it will be a new franchise record.

Friday, August 4, 2017

'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.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Weekend in review: White Sox lose two of three to Indians; Melky Cabrera traded to Royals

The view from the Guaranteed Rate Club on Sunday
Hey, at least the White Sox won one out of three over the weekend against the first-place Cleveland Indians. At this point, could we have expected better? I don't think so.

I made it out to two of the three games, and fortunately, the one that was a real snooze was the one I did not attend, a 9-3 loss Friday night.

The Sox also lost Saturday, 5-4, but I enjoyed having dinner at the Stadium Club before the game, and I got a sweet 1917 Sox replica jersey for my trouble. And it wasn't a terrible game to watch. The Sox were in it the whole way, even though they blew it in stupid fashion -- with the score tied at 4 in the top of the ninth and the bases loaded with two outs, Sox reliever Gregory Infante plunked Cleveland's Brandon Guyer to force in the winning run.

Still, I've seen enough 10-2 losses this year that losing 5-4 doesn't seem so bad anymore. It's all a matter of perspective.

And, on Sunday, my friend and I were named StubHub fans of the game or some damn thing, and we had our seats upgraded to the Guaranteed Rate Club right below the press box behind home plate. We got all we could eat and drink for free, plus a free T-shirt, in exchange for our willingness to be on the Jumbotron and smile and wave for the camera during a mid-inning promotion for StubHub, which we learned is the official fan-to-fan ticket marketplace of Major League Baseball or whatever.

In any case, that deal was way too good to pass up, and we gleefully took advantage of it. As an added bonus, Carlos Rodon pitched 6.2 innings of one-run ball, and Matt Davidson hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Sox to a 3-1 victory over the Indians.

We'll take it.

Cabrera dealt to Kansas City for two prospects

When I got to the ballpark Sunday, I looked at the Sox lineup on the scoreboard and noticed Leury Garcia was leading off and playing left field. Garcia was just coming off the disabled list, so I knew immediately another roster move had taken place.

I also noticed that Melky Cabrera was not in the lineup, so I checked my phone and learned the veteran outfielder had been traded to the Kansas City Royals for pitching prospects A.J. Puckett and Andre Davis.

Cabrera is a defensive liability, so I doubt the Royals are too excited about him patrolling the spacious outfield at Kauffman Stadium. But, the soon-to-be-33-year-old does have a little something left with the bat. He's hitting .295/.336/.436 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs this year, and his high-contact, gap-to-gap approach should fit in that Kansas City lineup.

The Royals enter Monday's play as the second wild card team in the American League, and they sit two games back of Cleveland in the AL Central. In his final game with the Sox on Saturday, Cabrera got four hits off Cleveland ace Corey Kluber. Perhaps that was what the Royals needed to see to finalize the deal. Cabrera can get hits off good pitchers.

As for the prospects coming back, Puckett, 22, is a right-hander who was the Royals' second-round pick in the 2016 draft. He was 9-7 with a 3.90 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 108.1 innings and 20 starts with Class-A Wilmington. His fastball sits at 92-93, and his best pitch is reportedly a changeup.

Davis, a 23-year-old left-hander, was 5-4 with a 4.83 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 85.2 innings and 18 starts with Class-A Lexington.

Puckett is likely the better of the two prospects, and we'll see how he does in the Winston-Salem rotation that already features Dane Dunning and Alec Hansen.

Cabrera is owed $5.1 million for the rest of this season, and given the money involved, it's not a big surprise the return in this trade did not involve elite prospects. But these two guys are at least somewhat interesting, so it's OK. The Sox will be paying half of the remaining dollars owed to Cabrera.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Surprise! White Sox win a series against defending AL champion Cleveland

Avisail Garcia -- AL's leading hitter as of April 14
We concluded yesterday's blog post by noting that White Sox manager Rick Renteria would be wise to avoid using relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones for a fourth straight game.

Well, guess what? There was never a reason to consider going to high-leverage bullpen guys in Thursday's game, as the Sox rolled to a 10-4 win over the Cleveland Indians.

The Sox (4-4) took two out of three from the defending AL champions and sent the Tribe (4-5) to their fifth loss in their past six games.

Shortstop Tim Anderson hit a home run off Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin (0-2) on the first pitch of the game, and that sparked a five-run first inning for the South Siders. The other four runs were scored after two were out. Matt Davidson hit a three-run, opposite-field homer to make it 4-0. Yolmer Sanchez doubled and scored on a single by Omar Narvaez to cap the rally.

The Sox ended up scoring nine of their 10 runs with two outs, and the trend continued in the second inning when Avisail Garcia delivered a two-run single to make it 7-1 and end Tomlin's night.

Final line for the Cleveland right-hander: 1.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 0 Ks, 2 HRs

It was nice to see the Sox knock Tomlin around. He had a 1.83 ERA in three starts and 19.2 IP against Chicago last year. Hey, it's a new season.

With all the early run support, you would have thought Miguel Gonzalez would have been in line for his second win. Alas, the right-hander ran up a high pitch count, walking four men in the first four innings, and he couldn't make it through the fifth after the Tribe scored two runs to cut the lead to 7-3.

Gonzalez allowed three earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts in 4.2 innings.

Renteria, as we suggested, went to some of his secondary relievers. Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Tommy Kahnle combined for 4.1 innings of one-run relief. Swarzak (1-0) recorded five outs without allowing a run to pick up his first win as a member of the Sox.

The Sox put the game away with three more two-out runs in the eighth on singles by Jose Abreu, Cody Asche and Garcia.

Unbelievably, Garcia is leading the league in hitting with a .452 average. He also has eight RBIs. Cue the talk about small sample sizes.

The Sox will continue their nine-game road swing with a three-game weekend series in Minnesota. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Dylan Covey (First appearance of 2017) vs. Adalberto Mejia (0-1, 10.80 ERA)
Saturday: Jose Quintana (0-2, 6.17 ERA) vs. Ervin Santana (2-0, 0.69 ERA)
Sunday: James Shields (1-0, 1.69 ERA) vs. Hector Santiago (1-1, 2.38 ERA)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Derek Holland continues mastery of Cleveland in 2-1 White Sox win

Derek Holland
White Sox left-hander Derek Holland is now 4-0 with a 1.02 ERA over five career starts at Cleveland's Progressive Field, after he tossed six shutout innings Wednesday in Chicago's 2-1 victory over the Indians.

Holland (1-1) limited the Tribe to only one hit -- a leadoff double by Francisco Lindor in the bottom of the sixth -- while striking out four and walking four.

The 30-year-old veteran has a 1.50 ERA through 12 innings and two starts, and if you look at some of the pitch charts, it's clear that he's changed his approach after struggling with injuries and ineffectiveness the past three seasons.

Based on my own observations, it has seemed as if Holland is throwing his curveball a lot more this season than he did during his time with the Texas Rangers, and this research conducted by our friends at SouthSideSox confirms my suspicion.

Holland is throwing his curve on 21.1 percent of pitches this season, as compared with 7.5 percent in 2016. He's also using more four-seamers and fewer sinkers. His sinker use has dipped from 58.9 percent of pitches to 13.9 percent, while he's using the four-seamer 29.4 percent of the time, as compared with only 1.4 percent last year. The use of the changeup and the slider has remained status quo.

Give credit to Holland for realizing he needs to make adjustments. His fastball is sitting at 92 mph, as opposed to his pre-injury 94 or 95. That two or three miles per hour can make a big difference, and sometimes a veteran pitcher needs to make some concessions to Father Time.

Is Holland's early success sustainable as the weather warms and the conditions become more hitter friendly? I don't know. We'll have to watch and learn.

As for Wednesday's game, the Sox offense was limited again, but Holland and three relievers made two early runs stand up. Matt Davidson's two-run single in the second inning accounted for the only Sox offense, and it was enough for a rare win in Cleveland.

Something to watch for in Thursday's game: Both closer David Robertson and setup man Nate Jones have worked in three consecutive games. If it's a close game late, will new manager Rick Renteria have the restraint to not overwork Robertson and Jones, who could be valuable trading pieces for the Sox later in the year?

Renteria shouldn't be afraid to allow Zach Putnam, Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak to pitch. Even if the Sox were expected to contend, it's too early in the season to be going to the whip with the best bullpen guys on the club. Robin Ventura made that mistake last year, and despite early success, the relief corps crumbled with injury and ineffectiveness in May and June.

Soto to DL; Smith recalled

The Sox have placed catcher Geovany Soto on the 10-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation. Kevan Smith has been recalled from Triple-A Charlotte.

It's too bad for Soto, who was off to a good start with three home runs. (The Sox only have six as a team). It's also too bad for the Sox, as their already shaky defense behind the plate just got a little bit worse.

I saw Smith catch a few games during spring ball, and while he hit well in Cactus League play, let's just say he did not impress me with his receiving skills.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

White Sox begin nine-game trip with typical Cleveland loss

Michael Brantley
The White Sox are 12-25 in their past 37 games in Cleveland, so we shouldn't be surprised that their first road game against the Indians this year ended with an archetypal punch to the groin.

Sox reliever Tommy Kahnle (0-1) retired the first two batters in the bottom of the 10th inning, but then he walked Francisco Lindor and gave up a game-winning double to Michael Brantley as the Indians came away with a 2-1 victory.

It's too bad, because the Sox wasted a serviceable start by the erstwhile James Shields. The veteran right-hander gave up a solo home run to Lindor in the bottom of the first inning, but nothing more over 5.1 innings. He allowed only two hits, walked two and retired 12 consecutive Cleveland hitters at one point.

Given the garbage we saw from Shields last year, how can we complain about that performance against one of the better lineups in the American League? We can't.

And, the Sox bullpen covered 13 more outs before Kahnle finally cracked in the bottom of the 10th.

Have we mentioned the fact that the Sox can't hit? Yeah, it's becoming a theme. Other than Todd Frazier's solo home run in the fifth inning, the offense generated little. The Sox were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and four of the nine starters finished the game 0 for 4.

The best scoring chance came in the top of the eighth inning against Cleveland bullpen ace Andrew Miller, of all people. Geovany Soto walked and advanced to third on a double by pinch-hitter Matt Davidson with one out.

With runners on second and third, Tyler Saladino hit a Miller slider right on the screws, but his line drive landed in the glove of diving Cleveland third baseman Yandy Diaz. Good defense by Diaz, bad luck for Saladino. If that one gets through, the Sox (2-4) take a 3-1 lead. Alas, it did not, and Tim Anderson swung over the top of two Miller sliders and basically struck himself out to end the threat.

The Indians also missed an opportunity in the eighth inning, thanks to some curious managing by Terry Francona. Sox reliever Nate Jones was laboring; he walked the first two hitters. But Francona for some reason ordered the red-hot Lindor to sacrifice bunt, which he did.

Sure, that gave Cleveland (4-3) runners on second and third with one out, but it opened the door for Sox manager Rick Renteria to walk Brantley intentionally and set up the double play. That's precisely what Renteria did. Jones got a righty-on-righty matchup that was favorable for him against Cleveland's Edwin Encarnacion, and he induced a 5-4-3 double play to keep the game tied. Good managing by Renteria, not so good by Francona, who is normally the game's best.

Unfortunately, given a second life, the Sox's offense was too inept to scratch across a run and steal a winnable game.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cubs rough up Indians starter Josh Tomlin, force Game 7 in World Series

Addison Russell
Well, Game 6 of the World Series sure was boring, wasn't it? The Cubs trounced the Cleveland Indians, 9-3, on Tuesday to even the series at 3.

This one was lopsided from the outset. So lopsided that I don't have anything nuanced to say about it. (Not that I ever do.) It was a strong performance by the Cubs, and a poor performance by the Indians. How's that for analysis?

Game 7 is Wednesday night in Cleveland.

You could tell that Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin just did not have it pitching on short rest from the very start of this game. Sure, he retired the first two hitters, but he hung a sloppy 0-2 curve to Kris Bryant, who deposited it in the left-field seats for a 1-0 Chicago lead.

Tomlin then hung a curve to Anthony Rizzo and left a changeup high in the zone to Ben Zobrist. Those two at-bats resulted in singles for the Cubs, and placed runners on first and third. The Indians' defense then failed Tomlin as center fielder Tyler Naquin and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall stood and looked at each other as a lazy fly off the bat of Addison Russell fell in for a "two-run double."

Just like that, it was 3-0 Cubs. The game was essentially over there, but for good measure, the Cubs blew it open with four runs in the third inning

A walk and two singles to load the bases ended Tomlin's night, and Russell cleared 'em off with a grand slam off Cleveland reliever Dan Otero. 7-0. No drama on this night. Jake Arrieta worked 5.2 innings of two-run ball to get the win.

I did think it was interesting that Cubs manager Joe Maddon used Aroldis Chapman in the seventh inning. The Chicago closer entered with two on and two out in a 7-2 game, and finished that inning by inducing a groundout by Francisco Lindor.

Chapman also pitched a scoreless eighth. After the Cubs got two in the ninth on a Rizzo home run, Chapman returned to the mound in the bottom of the ninth and walked the leadoff man before departing. He threw 20 pitches and was charged with Cleveland's third and final run, which came across after he left the game in the ninth.

I'm certain Chapman will be available for Game 7. It's all hands on deck in these situations. But it's worth noting that Chapman threw 42 pitches in an eight-out save in Game 5, plus the 20 pitches in Game 6. That's a greater workload for him than usual. Will it matter? We'll see.

You can't really blame Maddon, because you can't win Game 7 if you don't get to Game 7, and I've never faulted a manager for going to his best reliever in a must-win situation. I do think there is some chance fatigue will catch up to Chapman, if he pitches Wednesday -- and I assume he will.

Momentum is on the side of the Cubs at this point. They've won the past two games. This victory in Game 6 was an overwhelming one. The Indians will now be forced to go to their ace, Corey Kluber, on short rest for Game 7. Kluber won Games 1 and 4 for Cleveland in this series, and like Chapman, we also have to wonder how much he has left in the tank. His mound opponent will be Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks.

Two things that could help the Indians: 1) They are playing at home. Cheering fans don't win games, but all things being equal, you'd rather be at home than on the road in Game 7. And 2) Cleveland's top three relievers -- Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw -- did not appear in Game 6. They will be rested and ready to go. Indians manager Terry Francona could turn the game over to them as early as the fifth inning, if necessary.

So far this series has featured two epic games -- Games 3 and 5. Each team won one. The other four games have been lopsided, with each club taking two one-sided victories. Here's to hoping Game 7 is a close one, and not another snoozer.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Cubs get away with two egregious mental mistakes, stave off elimination in Game 5

Anthony Rizzo
The 2016 Major League Baseball season will continue for at least another day, after the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians, 3-2, on Sunday night at Wrigley Field in Game 5 of the World Series.

Cleveland's lead in the series is cut to 3-2. Game 6 is Tuesday night in Cleveland.

The Cubs got this win with quality pitching. Jon Lester did what he is paid to do -- pitch well in big games. He limited the Tribe to two runs on four hits over six innings. He struck out five and didn't walk anybody. After a brief relief appearance by Carl Edwards in the seventh, Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman recorded eight outs to pick up the save.

It was not easy for Chapman. The Indians got the tying run to second base in the seventh inning, and they got the tying run to third in the eighth. Both times, Chapman turned them away. The hard-throwing lefty then worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning, striking out Jose Ramirez to close out the game.

The Cubs got three runs in the fourth inning off Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer, highlighted by a solo home run from Kris Bryant. Addison Russell had an RBI on an infield single, and David Ross added a sacrifice fly.

That said, I thought the Cubs were fortunate to get away with two egregious mental mistakes that just can't happen at this time of the season. One miscue was made by Anthony Rizzo in the fourth, the other by Chapman in the eighth.

After Bryant's home run tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth, Rizzo was the next hitter. He put a good swing on a pitch from Bauer and drove it to deep right field. He stood there, watched the ball, admired it, then slowly started to jog toward first base. Too bad the ball wasn't gone. It hit the wall, and Rizzo suddenly had to hustle to get into second base for a double.

The Cubs are fortunate Cleveland right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall made a poor throw back into the infield. Any kind of decent throw to second base and Rizzo would have made an embarrassing out. Rizzo later scored the go-ahead run in that inning on the Russell single, so if he's out at second base two plays earlier, that three-run inning doesn't happen, and it's anybody's guess whether the Cubs are still in the hunt today.

This isn't an isolated incident, either. Throughout these playoffs, we've seen Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, Jorge Soler and now Rizzo not hustle out of the box after making contact. That's embarrassing for your team, even if you don't get thrown out, when you're competing for a championship. It's also a poor reflection on manager Joe Maddon. If one guy pulls that crap, it's the player's fault. But when it's a team-wide thing, the manager better do something. The Cubs can't afford that sort of mistake if they hope to win two games in Cleveland. Next time, Chisenhall might make an accurate throw.

Chapman nearly cost himself the lead, too, when he failed to cover first base on a grounder to the right side of the infield by Rajai Davis. Rizzo made a terrific stop on the play, preventing the ball from getting down the right-field line for extra bases. But when he got up to make a feed to first base, Chapman was nowhere to be found and Davis was easily safe.

Davis led the American League with 43 stolen bases this season, and he predictably swiped second and third base after Chapman gifted him the infield single. From Day 1 of spring training, pitchers work on getting over to first base on grounders to the right side. For Chapman to fail to get a good break off the mound in that spot is inexcusable. It's inexcusable in any situation, let alone in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the World Series, with a one-run lead, in an elimination game with everything at stake. That miscue cost the Cubs three bases. It could have cost the game.

Fortunately for Chapman, he did have his best stuff on the mound, and he got Jason Kipnis to pop out weakly and struck out Francisco Lindor looking to strand Davis at third.

Again, though, that's a mistake the Cubs better not make once they get to Cleveland. I think the Cubs need to play not one but two clean games Tuesday and Wednesday in order to win this series.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Indians push Cubs to the brink with dominant Game 4 win

Corey Kluber
First things first: Can we please stop with the narrative about Cubs pitcher John Lackey being great in the postseason?

Yes, Lackey has had some good playoff moments, such as this game, but he's also gotten his butt kicked in some playoff games, such as this one that is fondly remembered by all White Sox fans.

I keep hearing from both local and national media that Lackey is an awesome playoff pitcher, but frankly, at age 38, it looks like his best days are past. The right-hander has been nothing but mediocre for the Cubs in the postseason. He hasn't worked past the fifth inning in any of his three starts, and he's posted a pedestrian 4.85 ERA in only 13 innings.

Lackey was once again so-so Saturday night, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits over five innings in the Cubs' 7-2 loss to Cleveland in Game 4 of the World Series.

The Indians now enjoy a 3-1 series lead and have three chances to close out the Cubs. Game 5 is Sunday night at Wrigley Field.

Lackey was outpitched by Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, who allowed one run on five hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked one, while improving to 4-1 with 0.89 ERA in five postseason starts. Kluber pitched on three days' rest, and will be prepared to pitch again in Game 7 if the Cubs somehow extend this series that far.

Kluber left the mound after the sixth inning with a 4-1 lead, and the Tribe broke the game open moments later in the top of the seventh on a three-run homer by second baseman Jason Kipnis. Cleveland got Lackey out of there after five, then capitalized for four runs off Chicago middle relievers Mike Montgomery, Justin Grimm and Travis Wood.

The Cubs had somewhat of a moral victory in the eighth when Dexter Fowler homered off Andrew Miller, thus proving the Cleveland relief ace is mortal. Miller already has set a record for playoff strikeouts in a single season with 29, and that Fowler homer was the first run he has allowed in 17 postseason innings.

Having a 7-2 lead allowed the Indians to rest closer Cody Allen for a night. Dan Otero closed out the ninth inning with no difficulty.

We can't count the Cubs out of this yet, as they have the edge in the pitching matchup in Game 5. Ace Jon Lester is going for the North Siders, and he'll be opposed by the one Cleveland pitcher who has not been doing his job in these playoffs, right-hander Trevor Bauer.

We'll see if the season ends Sunday, or if there will be a Game 6 on Tuesday in Cleveland.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cody Allen closes out dramatic ninth inning for Cleveland in Game 3

Cody Allen
Saw an interesting stat today: The Cleveland Indians are 23-0 when relief pitchers Cody Allen and Andrew Miller pitch in the same game.

I always say the longer a streak goes in baseball, the more likely it is to end. The Cubs had a chance to end that streak Friday night, but Allen slammed the door on them, striking out Javier Baez with two outs and two runners in scoring position to preserve a 1-0 Cleveland victory in Game 3 of the World Series.

With the win, the Indians hold a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 is Saturday night at Wrigley Field.

Even if you don't care about either of these two teams, the ninth inning of Game 3 was as dramatic as it gets in a non-elimination game.

Cleveland scored the lone run on an RBI single by pinch-hitter Coco Crisp. The combination of Josh Tomlin, Miller, Bryan Shaw and Allen had combined to keep the Cubs off the board through eight innings.

Allen, the Cleveland closer, struck out Kris Bryant on a nasty curve to end the bottom of the eighth inning, but he found himself in immediate peril after giving up a leadoff single to Anthony Rizzo in the ninth.

With Chris Coghlan running for Rizzo, Allen bounced back to get the first out on another good curve that caused Ben Zobrist to swing and miss. Coghlan advanced to second on a weak groundout by Willson Contreras, which set up the drama of having the tying run in scoring position with two outs in the ninth.

Jason Heyward came to the plate for the Cubs with the game hanging in the balance, causing audible groans throughout the Chicago area. The $184 million man is 2 for 31 this postseason, and he's probably the last player the Cubs wanted up in that situation. Heck, they've got some pitchers who have been swinging the bat better than Heyward.

This time, the Cubs lucked out when Cleveland first baseman Mike Napoli booted what should have been a routine grounder off Heyward's bat. Suddenly, the Cubs had first and third and the much more dangerous Baez at the plate.

Heyward stole second and got into scoring position representing the winning run, and Baez jumped ahead in the count, 2-1. It was set up for the Cubs to possibly steal this game, but that's when Allen got tough.

The Cleveland reliever went back to his curve on 2-1. It broke hard and down in the dirt, and Baez could not check his swing. Strike two.

Gutsy pitch, because remember the tying run is on third base. If Indians catcher Yan Gomes doesn't block the ball, the game is tied. Gomes made the block. Cleveland got the strike, and Allen had succeeded in changing Baez's eye level.

With two strikes, Baez had to be thinking about that curve ball. After all, Allen had recorded three outs to that point -- all on curve balls. So what did Allen do? He pitched Baez backward. He went away from his preferred out pitch. He probably figured Baez would be protecting against the low breaking ball, so he threw a high fastball, above the hands. And he blew it right past Baez. Swinging strike three. Game over.

Brilliant pitching and a dramatic end to a great baseball game between the two top teams in the sport this year. Who says a 1-0 game is boring? Not me.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cubs don't look as if they are going to choke

Kyle Schwarber
One of the main questions I had about the Cubs coming into the playoffs was whether they'd be able to deal with adversity.

Most of their fans would probably never admit to this, but the Cubs faced no adversity whatsoever all season. They played a soft schedule -- 106 of their 162 games were against losing teams -- and dominated a weak NL Central. St. Louis had a down season by its standards. Pittsburgh's pitching staff fell apart. Milwaukee and Cincinnati weren't even trying to win.

The Cubs won their division by 17.5 games, and it was every bit the cakewalk that figure represents. So, I wondered how the Cubs would respond when they were placed in a situation where they had to win a game, because there wasn't a single time during the whole regular season when they were seriously challenged.

So far in these playoffs, the Cubs have been seriously challenged twice. Give them credit, because they've responded both times. Once, on the road in Game 4 of the NLCS, where they were trailing 2 games to 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers after having been shut out in Games 2 and 3. They trounced the Dodgers, 10-2, in that game and went on to win the next two to claim the NL pennant.

The other challenge was Wednesday night. After the Cubs were clobbered, 6-0, in Game 1 of the World Series by the Cleveland Indians, how would they respond in Game 2? Quite well, as a matter of fact, as they collected a decisive 5-1 victory to even the series.

Previous Cubs teams have always choked when they get in these tight situations where they need to win in the playoffs, but this group shows no sign of that. They got a good performance from Jake Arrieta, who is basically a five- or six-inning pitcher these days, but he gave the Cubs an effective 5.2 innings Wednesday. He didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning, when the Indians scored a run off him and manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen.

Arrieta doesn't have the same command of the strike zone he had during his 2015 Cy Young campaign. His walk rate has nearly doubled. His ERA and home run rates are up, his strikeout rate is down. He needs more pitches to get through innings, and he can't get as deep into games as he might like, but he doesn't give up a lot of hits -- only 6.3 per 9 IP this season -- and that's been his saving grace.

Wednesday night, Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman provided 3.1 innings of scoreless relief, and that made a winner out of Arrieta, whose performance was far superior to that of Cleveland's Trevor Bauer.

Bauer needed 87 pitches to record only 11 outs. The Cubs scored two runs on six hits against him in 3.2 innings. The North Siders then added on with three in the fifth off Cleveland relievers Zach McAllister and Bryan Shaw, although the run charged to Shaw was unearned.

Kyle Schwarber, just back from a major knee injury, is becoming the story of the series for the Cubs. He went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBI singles in Wednesday's win. He became the first non-pitcher in the history of baseball to record a hit in the World Series after not getting a hit in the regular season. He has shown that he is healthy enough to be an effective DH in an American League park. That can only help the Cubs, if the series heads back to Cleveland for Games 6 and 7.

Big question for Maddon for Games 3, 4 and 5 at Wrigley Field: Can he put Schwarber in left field?

There's no getting around the fact that Schwarber was a butcher in the outfield even before he got hurt. Putting him out there would significantly weaken the Cubs defensively, but there's also no getting around the fact that he's a difference maker with a bat in his hands.

Schwarber is the kind of player who can hit a three-run homer off a good pitcher and win a ballgame for his team. He's also the kind of player who can misplay a routine fly ball, cost his team runs and lose a ballgame. 

Will Maddon choose to use his best offensive lineup? Or will he opt to put the best defense on the field?

Personally, I subscribe to the philosophy of putting the best defense out there. Of course, I'm not the one being paid millions to make these decisions, so what do I know?