Showing posts with label Jose Abreu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jose Abreu. Show all posts

Thursday, September 14, 2017

White Sox damage Kansas City's wild card hopes

The 2012 White Sox lost the AL Central by three games. And from Aug. 7 until the end of that season, the Sox lost nine out of 11 games to the Kansas City Royals.

The 2012 Royals were a 90-loss team, but the Sox couldn't do anything against them coming down the stretch, and I've long felt the inability to beat Kansas City was the reason the South Siders missed the playoffs that year.

The Sox haven't played meaningful September games in the five years since, while the Royals have won two American League pennants and the 2015 World Series. Kansas City has tortured the Sox for most of this decade, and frankly, I will probably carry the scars from this 2016 loss for the rest of my life. It is the worst loss I've ever endured as a Sox fan.

So, given all that history, it is with great joy that I report that the last-place Sox (58-87) damaged Kansas City's 2017 playoff hopes this week by taking two out of three at Kauffman Stadium.

This was a series the Royals (72-73) needed to win. They didn't win it, and now they are four games out of the second wild card with three teams to pass as they embark on an 11-game road trip that starts in Cleveland against an Indians club that has won 21 games in a row.

Good luck, Royals. There isn't a Sox fan alive that has any sympathy for you.

Here's a look back at this week's series:

Monday, Sept. 11
White Sox 11, Royals 3: Jose Abreu almost hit for the cycle for the second time in three days. He came to the plate in the top of the ninth inning needing a home run, but he ended up drawing a walk from Kansas City reliever Trevor Cahill.

The Sox's first baseman went 4 for 5 to lead a 17-hit attack. Adam Engel and Yoan Moncada added three hits each, with Engel capping off a six-run sixth inning with a three-run home run.

The offensive outburst allowed right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (1-3) to pick up his first victory with the Sox. Lopez allowed three runs in the fifth inning, but he got through six, allowing eight hits. The Sox are hopeful it will be the first of many wins for the hard-throwing 23-year-old.

Tuesday, Sept. 12
Royals 4, White Sox 3: Dylan Covey had a miserable first inning. He walked the bases loaded and gave up a grand slam to Brandon Moss to put the Sox in an early 4-0 hole.

But Covey (0-5) settled down and retired 14 out of 15 hitters at one point, and the Sox had their chances to come back and win the game. They outhit the Royals, 13-4, but left 10 runners stranded.

The Sox had runners at first and third with nobody out in the top of the ninth inning, but could not get the tying run home against Kansas City reliever Scott Alexander.

Moncada struck out, Abreu popped out and Matt Davidson grounded out, ending an unsatisfying offensive day for the Sox.

Wednesday, Sept. 13
White Sox 5, Royals 3: The Sox solved Alexander in the rubber match of the series with two runs in the top of the ninth inning that broke a 3-3 tie.

Tim Anderson singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and stole third as Moncada walked. That put runners on first and third with one out for Abreu, who delivered a sacrifice fly for his 93rd RBI of the season and 4-3 lead. Avisail Garcia's two-out RBI single plated Moncada and capped the scoring.

Juan Minaya (3-2) sealed the win with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth. It's too bad Lucas Giolito didn't get the win after he pitched 6.1 innings of one-run ball. Alas, Danny Farquhar allowed two runs in the eighth to give up the lead, and the Sox starter got a no-decision.

But Giolito can take the positives out of the start. He allowed only four hits despite not having his best stuff. His ERA is down to 2.56 in five starts, and he's positioning himself for a job in the 2018 Sox rotation.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Jose Abreu becomes first White Sox player to hit for the cycle since 2000

Jose Abreu
What are the odds that slugging White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu will hit a triple in any given at-bat?

Not high, you say? Well, you are correct.

Abreu has appeared in 596 career games through Sunday, and he has made 2,582 plate appearances. He has 11 career triples, which means he triples once in every 235 plate appearances.

So, when Abreu stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday night needing a triple to complete the cycle, I doubt too many people thought he would actually do it. His odds got even worse after he fouled a ball off his leg in that at-bat, and the game had to be delayed briefly while manager Rick Renteria and trainer Herm Schneider checked on him.

Wouldn't you know, Abreu got back in the box and lined the very next pitch into the right-center field gap. Sore leg and all, the race was on, and somehow the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Abreu lumbered into third base to complete the cycle.

He went 4 for 5 with three RBIs in the Sox's 13-1 win over the San Francisco Giants.

I had the good fortune of attending Saturday's game, and it was the first time I've seen a Sox player hit for the cycle in person. That part is really not surprising, because cycles have been rare in club history. There are only six of them, and Guaranteed Rate Field isn't what you would call a triples park - with its short power alleys and symmetrical design.

Here are the other cycles in Sox history:

Jose Valentin: April 27, 2000 vs. Baltimore
Chris Singleton: July 6, 1999 vs. Kansas City
Carlton Fisk: May 16, 1984 vs. Kansas City
Jack Brohamer: Sept. 24, 1977 vs. Seattle
Ray Schalk: June 27, 1922 vs. Detroit

I think the Sox should give free admission to an upcoming home game to anyone who was actually alive when Schalk hit for the cycle.

As for Abreu, he continued his torrid hitting Sunday with two home runs in an 8-1 win over the Giants. The Sox took two out of three in the series after losing 9-2 on Friday night.

The .300/30/100 watch continues for Abreu. He's got 31 home runs now, so the "30" part is secure. He's at 90 RBIs, which means he needs 10 more in the remaining 20 games. The batting average sits at .302 entering Monday's action.

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.

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:

Traded:
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.

Yuck.

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.

Friday, June 30, 2017

White Sox likely to have more representation in Futures Game than All-Star Game

Yoan Moncada
White Sox fans will have a reason to watch this year's Futures Game. The rosters were announced Thursday for the annual midsummer showcase, and three Sox prospects made the list: second baseman Yoan Moncada, pitcher Michael Kopech and catcher Zack Collins.

It appears likely the Sox will have more representation in the Futures Game than they will in the All-Star Game itself, with right fielder Avisail Garcia and first baseman Jose Abreu the only two legitimate All-Star candidates on the big-league roster.

Moncada will play for the World team, and will try to defend the MVP honor he won in the Futures Game last season when he still was a member of the Boston Red Sox organization.

This season, Moncada has hit .281/.381/.454 with 10 home runs, 29 RBIs and 15 stolen bases for Triple-A Charlotte. He spent some time on the disabled list with a thumb injury about a month ago, and struggled when he first returned, but he's had a solid season overall and has lived up to the billing as the Sox's No. 1-ranked prospect.

Kopech, the fireballing right-hander who was acquired along with Moncada in the Chris Sale trade, is 4-5 with a 3.72 ERA in 15 starts at Double-A Birmingham. Kopech has demonstrated that he has the raw ability to be an elite pitcher -- he's fanned 97 hitters and allowed only 51 hits in 75 innings for the Barons. However, his control remains a work in progress. He's walked 49, and that's what has prevented him from earning a promotion to Charlotte, despite being selected to the Double-A All-Star Game, and now, Team USA in the Futures Game.

Collins also is on the Team USA roster, and his selection is a little more of a surprise. He's a had a rough season at Class-A Winston-Salem, although he has 10 home runs and leads the league with 56 walks. But his.206/.362/.399 slash line qualifies as a disappointment, and so do the 82 strikeouts in 233 at-bats. However, they say catching is the fastest path to the big leagues, and perhaps there aren't many good catching prospects out there. This is Collins' first full year in pro ball, so there's plenty of time for him to get his career on right track.

Sox salvage split with Yankees

Thanks to the rainy conditions here in Chicago, Thursday night's game didn't end until after 1 a.m. local time, but it ended happily, with the Sox picking up a 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees.

I've been critical of James Shields (2-1), so let's give credit to him for a respectable outing. He fired 6.1 innings of three-run ball and left the mound with the 4-3 lead intact. The big hit of the game came from Willy Garcia, whose two-out, two-run double in the fourth inning put the Sox ahead for good at 4-2.

The Sox bullpen combined to throw 2.2 innings of shutout ball. Closer David Robertson earned his 12th save, striking out New York slugger Aaron Judge with a man on base for the final out.

It's been a tough homestand so far, even with Thursday's win. The Sox are 2-5 with three games to come this weekend against the Texas Rangers.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

White Sox manager Rick Renteria admits he stuck with Mike Pelfrey too long in loss to Angels

Mike Pelfrey
White Sox starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey has made it through the fifth inning only once in his first five starts of the season. Once the opposition begins its third time through the batting order, Pelfrey falls apart.

Case in point, Monday's 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Pelfrey worked effectively through four innings, and the Sox (17-19) took a 3-0 lead into the fifth inning -- thanks to a two-run homer by Jose Abreu and an RBI triple by Tyler Saladino.

But in the fateful bottom of the fifth inning, Pelfrey walked both Cameron Maybin and Danny Espinosa. Then, he gave up a long fly-ball out to No. 9 hitter Martin Maldonado.

It was decision time for Sox manager Rick Renteria. Two on, two out in the bottom of the fifth, Sox up by three, Pelfrey clearly tiring, but one out away from being eligible for a win. Left-hander Dan Jennings was ready in the bullpen, and the Angels were sending their left-handed hitting leadoff batter, Kole Calhoun, to the plate.

Calhoun also represented the start of the third time through the batting order, which has been poison for Pelfrey all season.

What's your move, Rick?

He stuck with Pelfrey, and Calhoun hit a three-run homer on a 1-0 sinker to tie the game. The next hitter was the best player in baseball, Mike Trout.

Right-hander Anthony Swarzak was ready in the bullpen. What's your move, Rick?

He stuck with Pelfrey, and Trout hit a 1-2 splitter out of the park to give the Angels the lead. That's your ballgame. After the Trout homer, Pelfrey (0-4) was removed from the game. Some might say he was removed two batters too late.

Interestingly, one of the people who believes that Pelfrey was left in too long was the man who made that decision: Renteria.

“I thought Pelf gave us a nice four-plus innings,” Renteria said in postgame remarks on CSNChicago.com. “Really, he gave us enough to do what we needed to do. I had those guys out there ready to pick him up, and I didn’t. I went against my better judgment. We had (Dan Jennings) ready for Calhoun, and we had our righty (Swarzak) ready. So that’s not any of their faults but mine. At least it would have given us a better chance. I couldn’t guarantee that the outcome would have been what we wanted, but I think the matchups would have been better, and pretty much that’s it.”

Isn't that refreshing? No excuses. No blaming of the players. No "tipping of the cap" to the other team. Just an acceptance of responsibility from a manager who realizes that he left a pitcher in too long. Robin Ventura routinely made mistakes such as this as a manager, never learned from them, and never changed his ways.

That said, I can defend Renteria's decision to stick with Pelfrey. Just last week, I criticized the Sox manager for overusing Jennings in middle relief. We're in the middle of May. There's still a long season ahead, and you want Jennings and Swarzak healthy coming out of the bullpen for the duration. You can't run them out there every day just because starting pitchers are not doing their jobs.

For long-term thinking, it wasn't unreasonable to try to squeeze one more out from Pelfrey in Monday's game. But, for purposes of trying to win Monday's game, sticking with him was the wrong move.

Oh, and with those home runs by Calhoun and Trout, opposing batters are now 9 for 12 with two home runs, two doubles and a triple when they face Pelfrey for a third time in a game.

Ugly, isn't it?

Sooner or later, a starting pitcher needs to work into the sixth or seventh inning, and if he cannot do that, then he needs to not be here.

Monday, May 15, 2017

White Sox win two of three games vs. Padres in clash of rebuilding teams

Todd Frazier
There are some White Sox fans out there who have their hearts set on losing as many games as possible this season, in hopes of getting the No. 1 pick in the 2018 MLB draft.

I hate to tell those folks this, but it's going to be real hard for the Sox or any other team to be worse than the San Diego Padres this year.

The Sox (17-18) took two out of three from the Padres (14-25) at Guaranteed Rate Field over the weekend, and I saw San Diego do some terrible things that I've never seen a major league team do in all the years that I've following the great sport of baseball.

Let's get to some thoughts on the weekend that was:

Friday, May 12
Padres 6, White Sox 3: Even a brutal team such as San Diego is going to win 55 to 60 games, and this was one of those games for the Padres.

They hit three home runs, including two off Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez, who continued his inevitable regression to the mean by allowing five earned runs in five innings. San Diego had a 3-0 lead by the third inning, and offense was scarce for the South Siders.

Five of the nine Sox starters took 0-fers, and the team wasted a multiple homer game by Leury Garcia, who had had three hits. Garcia's two homers accounted for all three Sox runs.

Saturday, May 13
White Sox 5, Padres 4: The Sox trailed, 2-1, going to the bottom of the fourth inning when Jose Abreu reached on an error by San Diego third baseman Ryan Schimpf. Abreu then advanced to second base on a wild pitch by Trevor Cahill. Abreu then advanced to third base on a wild pitch by Trevor Cahill. Abreu then scored the tying run on a wild pitch by Trevor Cahill.

The Padres gave up a run on an E-5 and three wild pitches. I've seen such incompetence before in my days as a high school sports reporter, but I've never seen such buffoonery by a big league club.

The Sox ended up collecting their first walk-off win of the season. With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, San Diego reliever Brad Hand committed a cardinal sin by walking the Sox's No. 9 hitter, Tyler Saladino, to start the inning.

Garcia bunted Saladino into scoring position. Hand jumped ahead of the next hitter, Yolmer Sanchez, 0-2. But, Hand had fallen into a pattern of throwing his breaking ball every time he got into a two-strike count. He got a pair of strikeouts on the curve in the bottom of the eighth inning, but Sanchez appeared to be sitting on it in that situation.

The second baseman smacked one back up the middle for a single, and Saladino scored the winning run on a bang-bang play at the plate.

Sunday, May 14
White Sox 9, Padres 3: For seven innings, this was an aggravating game for Sox fans to watch. The offense was limited to only one run over six innings against the corpse of Jered Weaver, who has an ERA of 6.05 even after baffling Sox hitters throughout the afternoon.

Weaver hasn't won a game all season, and I had heard reports that he would be a candidate for release if he did not pitch well in Chicago. The Sox had a chance to perhaps literally end his career in the bottom of the first inning. Bases loaded, no outs. Alas, Weaver was out of the inning with only one run allowed two pitches later, after Avisail Garcia hit into a run-scoring double play and Todd Frazier grounded out.

No matter, San Diego imploded in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Padres had a 3-1 lead, but they walked five hitters, plunked a batter and committed two errors in that inning. The Sox sprinkled in four hits and parlayed all that into an eight-run outburst that gave them the 9-3 victory.

Melky Cabrera provided the big hit, a two-run single with the bases loaded that put the Sox ahead to stay at 4-3.

Moments later, the Sox had first and third with one out when Saladino popped up a bunt to first baseman Wil Myers. Frazier tagged and scored from third on a ball that traveled about 50 feet in the air to make it 5-3.

Yes, you read that right.

Myers had his back to the play after making the catch, and he casually flipped the ball back to pitcher Brandon Maurer. While the Padres were acting like a bunch of aloof idiots, Frazier tore down the third-base line to score a run. By the time Maurer realized what was happening, he made an errant toss to the plate that allowed Cabrera to advance to second.

The Sox tacked on with an RBI single by Willy Garcia, a two-run double by Leury Garcia and a RBI single by Sanchez.

I've never seen a team at any level give up a run on a pop-up bunt to first base before. Give the Padres credit; they seem hellbent on being the worst team in baseball.

Friday, May 5, 2017

No complaints about a White Sox split in Kansas City

Anthony Swarzak is on a career hot streak.
As a White Sox fan, I'm often in bad spirits while the team is playing against the Royals in Kansas City. Horrible things tend to happen to the Sox when they go to Kauffman Stadium, and I carry all the scars from past years with me.

Even if the Sox were up 900-0 going into the bottom of the ninth inning at Kansas City, I'd be somewhat concerned that the Royals would roar back with 901 runs and pull out a win. Hey, I've got my reasons to be paranoid.

So, when the Sox were leading 7-0 going to the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday, I wasn't counting my chickens. It's never over in Kansas City until the 27th out is recorded, and fortunately, the Sox finished off an 8-3 victory to gain a split in the four-game series.

Perhaps most importantly, at least for me as a fan, they avoided the archetypal, gut-wrenching, devastating, lingers-with-you-for-a-week loss that tends to occur against the Royals. In this series, the Sox (15-12) won the two games in which they had the lead, and they lost the two games in which they did not. That's fine. We'll take it and keep moving.

The Sox are 5-2 against the Royals in 2017, after going 5-14 against them last season. It's refreshing to see the Sox punch back against this Kansas City club for a change, even though the Royals (9-18) are admittedly struggling right now.

Some particulars from Thursday:
  • The Sox took the lead three batters into the game on Jose Abreu's fourth home run of the road trip. It was a two-run shot after a bloop single by Melky Cabrera.
  • Matt Davidson connected for a 452-foot homer in the second inning. It was his fifth of the season, and it came off a right-handed pitcher -- Kansas City's Ian Kennedy (0-3).
  • Derek Holland (3-2) continues to pitch well for the Sox. He allowed no runs and only two hits over the first six innings. He got nicked for a couple runs in the seventh, but again, the Sox had a big lead, so no harm. The second run he allowed was not his fault -- it was unearned after Davidson booted a routine grounder that should have had the Sox out of the inning. Holland's ERA is down to 2.02 after this latest strong outing.
  • Slumping shortstop Tim Anderson had the day off, and third baseman Todd Frazier was a late scratch with back spasms. The Sox had Leury Garcia batting fifth in this game, yet they still posted eight runs. Funny game, this baseball.
  • Sox reliever Anthony Swarzak faced two batters and got both of them out. He has now retired 30 of the last 31 batters he has faced. Swarzak has been on four clubs in the past four years, and his career ERA is in the mid-4s. Yet right now, he's pitching as if he's one of the best relievers in the league.
Have I mentioned that baseball is a funny game?

Monday, May 1, 2017

White Sox settle for two out of three in weekend series in Detroit

Jose Abreu -- 12 for 22 in his past six games
The White Sox's six-game winning streak came to an end Sunday in Detroit, but I doubt anyone is complaining too loudly about a series in which the South Siders took two out of three games.

Sure, the Tigers were without offensive stars Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez, but you have to remember the Sox were 1-8 last season at Comerica Park. So, in other words, the Sox (13-10) won more games in Detroit this weekend than they did during the entire 2016 campaign.

We'll take it, right? Here's a look back at the weekend series:

Friday, April 28
White Sox 7, Tigers 3: This is a game Detroit third baseman Nicholas Castellanos would like to forget. He made three errors, including two in a decisive top of the eighth inning.

The miscues came on back-to-back plays with the score tied at 3. The Sox loaded the bases and eventually took the lead on a two-out, two-run single by Geovany Soto. The South Siders tacked on two more in the ninth on a two-run homer by Tim Anderson. A game that could have gone either way turned on poor defense and poor bullpen work by the Tigers.

Meanwhile, the Sox's bullpen was stellar. Starter Mike Pelfrey turned in a predictably mediocre outing. He went 4.2 innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits. He also walked four, which was not an encouraging sign. The good news is the relief corps cleaned up the mess. Dan Jennings, Anthony Swarzak (2-0), Nate Jones and Tommy Kahnle combined for 4.1 innings of scoreless, one-hit relief.

The Tigers did not have a single base runner in any of the last three innings.

Saturday, April 29
White Sox 6, Tigers 4 (10 inn.): First baseman Jose Abreu has had two hits in each of his past six games, going 12 for 22 in that span to raise his average to .280.

Both of Abreu's hits in Saturday's game were home runs, his first two of the season. The Sox's best hitter was due to break out, and his second home run of this game in the eighth inning staked the South Siders to a 4-2 lead.

That should have been enough to make a winner out of Sox starter Derek Holland, who once again pitched well: 6.1 innings, two runs on five hits with four strikeouts and two walks. The veteran's ERA now sits at 2.17.

Alas, David Robertson's run of perfection came to an end, as the Sox closer failed to close, coughing up the two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth.

Fortunately, the Sox grabbed the lead back in the top of the 10th on Melky Cabrera's first home run of the season and an RBI triple by Avisail Garcia.

Given a second chance to close out a victory, Robertson (1-0) put up a zero in the bottom of the 10th inning to extend the Sox's winning streak to six.

Sunday, April 30
Tigers 7, White Sox 3: Miguel Gonzalez had won each of his first three decisions this season, and coming into Sunday's start, he had allowed only six hits over 16.1 innings in his previous two outings.

Let's just say regression (and the Tigers) hit Gonzalez (3-1) hard in this one. He gave up 14 hits over six innings, and was fortunate to allow "only" seven runs (six earned) in a struggling outing.

The Sox got an RBI triple from Abreu, an RBI single from Cabrera and a solo home run from Todd Frazier, but it was not nearly enough to overcome a rough day for the Sox's starting pitcher.

The good news is Gonzalez saved the bullpen. He managed to scratch through six innings. The only reliever used was Chris Beck, who labored through two scoreless innings (He walked three. Blech.).

Why does that matter? Well, the Sox are on a 10-game road trip, and they don't have another off-day until May 8. If you're going to lose a ballgame, at least don't run through the whole bullpen. Gonzalez did enough to prevent that from happening, and all relievers except for Beck should be available for Monday's series opener against Kansas City.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana has his first win of 2017

Jose Quintana
Here's a sentence I did not think I would type at any point this season: The White Sox are tied for first place entering Thursday's games.

The South Siders completed a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals with a 5-2 victory Wednesday, improving their record to 11-9. The Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians also are 11-9, creating a three-way tie atop the AL Central.

Sox left-hander Jose Quintana (1-4) finally got in the win column Wednesday, as he pitched six innings of two-run ball with a season-high 10 strikeouts. It easily was Quintana's best performance so far, as he entered the outing with an uncharacteristic 6.17 ERA and 5.69 FIP in his first four starts.

In fairness to Quintana, the Sox scored only four runs combined for him in those four games, so wins would have been hard to come by even if he had pitched well.

But Wednesday, the Sox handed him a 2-0 lead on RBI doubles from Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier in the first inning. The lead eventually slipped away as the Royals nicked Quintana for single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. With the scored tied at 2, it looked as if Quintana might be destined for a no-decision.

Alas, the Royals (7-14) are in a deep slump right now -- seven losses in a row -- and they seem to be inventing ways to lose games. A really, really bad pitch by Kansas City starter Nate Karns (0-2) allowed the Sox to grab the lead back in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Karns had been fooling the Sox's right-handed hitters all day with breaking balls in the dirt. Avisail Garcia was retired on pitches down and out of the zone in each of his first two at-bats Wednesday, and in his third at-bat, he swung and missed badly at a Karns breaking pitch that was down, outside and well out of the zone to open the sequence.

You got the feeling that Karns would retire Garcia again if he just stayed with his offspeed pitch. Instead, on the 0-1 count, he thought he'd go ahead and try to sneak a middle-in fastball past Garcia. The Sox right fielder was ready, and he clubbed the pitch 451 feet to center field for a two-run homer that put Chicago ahead, 4-2. Horrible pitch selection by Karns, and even worse execution.

Quintana's day was done after six innings, but he was then in line for the win. Leury Garcia's solo home run in the seventh made it 5-2, and four Sox relievers combined to throw three scoreless innings to put away the game.

David Robertson worked the ninth inning to earn his fifth save in five chances. His ERA is down to 1.17, for all those clubs out there who are in need of bullpen help. (I'm looking at you, Washington Nationals.)

The Sox probably won't stay in first for long. Thursday is an off day, while Detroit and Cleveland are both in action. At least one of them likely will win and drop the Sox down the standings, but it's nice to be at the top -- if only for a day -- during a rebuilding season.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jimmy Rollins says White Sox clubhouse was in 'disarray' last year

Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins doesn't collect paychecks from the White Sox anymore, which affords him the opportunity to speak honestly about his time on the South Side of Chicago.

Here's a link. Listen for yourself.

Rollins is asked about the bizarre tale of Adam LaRoche, who retired in spring training last year after Sox management decided his teenage son would no longer be allowed in the clubhouse.

The incident divided the team and led to high-profile players such as Chris Sale and Adam Eaton clashing with the front office.

"It was a clubhouse in disarray after that point," Rollins says on the video. "Although we did great (at the start of the season). It’s always a little players versus the front office, but I think just because of the way it was handled -- a lot of the guys that were outspoken are no longer there. They’re in better places if you ask me, but they’re no longer there."

Rollins also used the word "chaos" to describe the situation in Chicago, which gets to the point of why some of us aren't as optimistic about the rebuilding plan that is underway with the Sox. The same front office that was in place during last year's "chaos" and "disarray" is the same front office being entrusted with the future of the organization.

Does that make you comfortable? I'd be more comfortable if the failures of last season had resulted in a change in leadership beyond just the manager's office.

Rollins correctly notes that the outspoken players -- Sale and Eaton -- are no longer with the Sox. Isn't it interesting that they still are the only two key players from last season to be traded? The good soldiers who keep their mouths shut and just play ball -- Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Jose Quintana -- they all are still here.

I'm not going to argue that there is any conspiracy at work here. I think the Sox would deal Quintana tomorrow if the right offer came up.

That said, I don't think it's a coincidence that Sale and Eaton were the first established veterans to be told to pack their bags as part of the rebuilding plan.

Friday, February 3, 2017

White Sox position players: There are roster spots available

Todd Frazier -- still here
As we stated Wednesday, for a rebuilding team, the White Sox's pitching staff looks surprisingly set going into spring training. Position players? That's another story.

Looking over the 40-man roster, you can find about eight position players -- maybe nine -- that would be considered roster locks for Opening Day, and most of them are infielders. I'm assuming the Sox are coming north with 13 position players, so that means there are jobs to be won when the team convenes this month to begin workouts in Glendale, Arizona.
Melky Cabrera -- still here

Let's take a look at how things stand right now, while at the same time acknowledging that more trades are possible between now and April:

Infielders
1. Jose Abreu
2. Todd Frazier
3. Tim Anderson
4. Brett Lawrie
5. Tyler Saladino
6. ?????

The infield might have been considered a weakness for the Sox as recently as two seasons ago, but if this rebuilding club has a strong point, this is probably it. The Sox are set with Abreu at first base, Lawrie at second base, Anderson at shortstop and Frazier at third base. Saladino is a solid utility player. His glove won't hurt you at any of the four positions, and his bat is league-average.

Abreu and Frazier combined for 65 home runs and 198 RBIs last year at the corners. Anderson is an emerging young talent, and Lawrie is a league-average player who should be serviceable if he can stay healthy.

The hope is Lawrie will eventually be replaced by Yoan Moncada, the highly regarded prospect who was the Sox's marquee acquisition in the Chris Sale trade. It's unlikely we'll see Moncada make the team out of camp, but it's possible he'll make his Sox debut sometime in 2017.

Others in the mix for a roster spot include Matt Davidson and Carlos Sanchez. If Davidson hits during spring training, he'll probably make the club and get some starts at third, first and designated hitter. Davidson is entering his age 26 season, so I'm thinking the Sox want to find out once and for all what they have with him, if anything.

If Davidson stinks it up in Arizona, that might open the door for Sanchez to make the club, although he'd be redundant on the roster with Saladino, and he's not as good in the utility role as Saladino is.

Leury Garcia still is hanging around as a rostered player. I'm not a fan, so I'm hoping he'll be enjoying the sights and sounds of Charlotte, North Carolina, once again this season.

One other thing to watch: There's no obvious choice for a backup first baseman here, so look for non-roster invitees Nick Delmonico and Danny Hayes to get some spring playing time. Injuries limited Hayes to 55 games at Charlotte in 2016, but the left-handed hitter did put up 10 home runs and 42 RBIs in 184 at-bats. Delmonico tore apart Double-A last year, hitting .338 with 10 home runs in 38 games. But he was so-so after a midseason promotion to Charlotte (.246 with 7 home runs in 72 games).

Other non-roster invitees in camp include former Philadelphia third baseman Cody Asche and former San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera.

Outfielders
1. Melky Cabrera
2. Avisail Garcia
3. ??????
4. ??????
5. ??????

Here's where it gets interesting. Cabrera and Garcia are probably going to play left field and right field, respectively, although both are candidates to get some DH time, as well. The starting center fielder and the backup outfield spots are open questions.

At SoxFest, GM Rick Hahn expressed a preference to see Charlie Tilson get an extended look in center field. Tilson was acquired mid-2016 from the Cardinals in the Zach Duke deal, but he suffered a serious groin injury in his Sox debut and was not seen again for the rest of the season.

If he's healthy, he's going to get the first shot in center, but I'm not going so far as to make him a roster lock. Prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May are both on the 40-man roster. A strong spring could put either man in the mix for a roster spot. They are similar players, however -- speedy, good defensively, and questionable with the bat.

Engel has had an interesting past 18 months. He was the 2015 MVP of the Arizona Fall League, but he struggled at the start of the 2016 season in Birmingham. He got demoted to High-A Winston-Salem, but by the end of the year he was at Triple-A Charlotte and ended up getting added to the 40-man roster. Senior Director of Baseball Operations Dan Fabian told me at SoxFest that he believes the trip to Winston-Salem allowed Engel to iron out some issues with his swing. We shall see.

The Sox also will have three busted outfield prospects in camp. Rymer Liriano, who was a waiver claim from the Milwaukee Brewers, and Willy Garcia, who was a waiver claim from the Pittsburgh Pirates, are both on the 40-man roster. Neither man seems like a good bet to do anything, but sometimes rebuilding teams need roster filler.

And, yes, Courtney Hawkins still is hanging around the organization. He's only 23, blah, blah, blah, but the reality is he hit .206/.255/.349 in his second season at Birmingham last year. Injuries have hindered his development, and there's nothing going on with him that suggests progress. Oh well.

Catchers:
1. Omar Narvaez
2. ???????

Narvaez essentially made the 2017 club last year with a respectable performance in 34 games at the big league level. He hit .267/.350/.337 and seemed to be a calming influence for left-hander Carlos Rodon, who enjoyed his best two months of the season with Narvaez behind the plate in August and September.

The Sox invited Geovany Soto to camp, and if the veteran is healthy, he's going to be the second catcher on the roster. That's a big if, however, as knee injuries limited the 34-year-old to 26 games with the Los Angeles Angels last year.

Other rostered catchers include Alfredo Gonzalez and Kevan Smith. Hahn was asked about the catching situation at SoxFest, and perhaps tellingly, he did not mention Smith's name. He talked about Narvaez and Soto, and he praised Gonzalez as a good defensive catcher. So, perhaps those three men are in the mix for the two roster spots, and Smith is headed back to Charlotte.

Position players report to camp Feb. 18. There won't be any shortage of intrigue as they guys work to make the team.