Showing posts with label Nate Jones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nate Jones. Show all posts

Friday, July 29, 2016

White Sox settle for split in crosstown series

Tyler Saladino
In a season full of missed opportunities, the White Sox blew another one Thursday night. The South Siders were forced to settle for a four-game split in the crosstown series after a 3-1 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

We talked earlier in the week about the Sox stealing a couple games from the Cubs in which the pitching matchups didn't seem to favor them. Well, in this game, the Sox did have the advantage in the pitching matchup, and their weak offense failed to take advantage.

For his part, Sox ace Chris Sale wasn't particularly sharp in his return from a five-game suspension. The left-hander was making just his second start since July 8, and the rust showed. He did not have his good fastball command -- especially early -- and his velocity was not at peak levels. Sale did not record any strikeouts through the first three innings of the game. That's the first time that has happened in any of his 136 career starts.

That said, he went six innings and allowed only two runs on six hits. The Cubs have a power-laden lineup, and they are especially tough at home (32-16 record), but Sale kept them in the yard and generally held them down. It was not a poor performance given that his stuff was less than his best.

The loss is disappointing because the Sox hitters allowed struggling Cubs right-hander John Lackey to get back on track. Coming into Thursday, Lackey was 0-5 with a 5.06 ERA over his past seven starts. But against the Sox, he allowed only a run on four hits over six innings.

We're not tipping our caps here. This was an example of poor offense. Lackey retired 10 Sox hitters in a row at one point, and that string was broken on a single up the middle by Sale, of all people.

The Sox blew a golden chance to tie with the score at 2-1 in the top of the eighth. Tyler Saladino doubled off  Hector Rondon leading off the inning, but the Sox couldn't get him home. Apparently, the Cubs were serious about holding this lead. Saladino was at third with two outs when Cubs manager Joe Maddon summoned newly acquired closer Aroldis Chapman for a four-out save opportunity.

The hard-throwing lefty struck out Melky Cabrera to protect the lead, then retired the side in order in the ninth after the Cubs added an insurance run in the eighth off Sox reliever Nate Jones.

With the loss, the Sox are now 1-7 on the road since the All-Star break. That's ominous, given that these two games at Wrigley Field start a stretch of 17 out of 20 games away from U.S. Cellular Field.

The Sox drop to 50-52 entering Friday's play, and they are 8.5 games back of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central -- six games back in the AL wild-card race.

The players say they do not want management to pull the plug and sell before Monday's trading deadline, but they are not making a compelling case for themselves when they fail to support their best pitcher in a game such as Thursday's.

Time is running out on the 2016 Sox.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

James Shields leads White Sox to shutout of Cubs

James Shields
I didn't care for the move when the White Sox acquired James Shields from the San Diego Padres in early June.

I didn't think he was the "missing piece" the Sox needed to push themselves into contention in the American League, and I still don't think that. As I type here today, the Sox (50-50) still are the same mediocre team they were the day Shields was acquired.

That said, let's give Shields his credit for pulling it together after a historically bad beginning to his tenure with the Sox. He's made 10 starts since joining the South Siders, and there's a clear line of demarcation between the first four starts and the last six. None of his first four starts were quality, but all of his last six have been.

Shields' first four starts with Sox: 13.2 IP, 29 H, 25 R, 24 ER, 8 Ks, 13 BBs, 5 HRs, 15.80 ERA
Shields' last six starts with Sox: 42 IP, 32 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 20 Ks, 12 BBs, 5 HRs, 1.71 ERA

Tuesday's outing was Shields' best since the trade. He fired 7.2 innings of four-hit, shutout ball to lead the Sox to a 3-0 victory over the Cubs. He struck out five and walked four, which is a few too many walks, but it almost seemed to be by design. Shields has been hurt by the home run ball a lot this season, and it appeared he just decided he wasn't going to give in to the Cubs hitters on the rare occasions he was behind in the count. He was sooner going to walk somebody than just lay one in and risk giving up a home run.

The strategy paid off, as the Cubs were limited to just four singles and couldn't come through on the occasions when they did get a runner in scoring position.

The recent stretch of good pitching has rebuilt Shields' trade value, and there are rumors now that the Sox might flip him for prospects sometime this week. If indeed the Sox have decided they are not in the race for this year, moving Shields now would be the correct call.

The Sox hitters on Tuesday were facing the Cubs' hottest pitcher, Kyle Hendricks, who entered the game with a streak of 22.1 innings without allowing an earned run. That ended quickly, as the Sox got on the board in the first inning. Jose Abreu's single scored Adam Eaton, who had drawn a leadoff walk.

Eaton added to the lead in the fifth with a solo home run -- his seventh of the season. The Sox completed the scoring with a run in the sixth. Hendricks departed after giving up a soft single to Todd Frazier. Cubs reliever Travis Wood gifted the Sox a run by walking three consecutive batters. Tyler Saladino's bases-loaded walk forced home a run to make it 3-0.

This time, the Sox had their two best relievers available to protect a late lead. Nate Jones recorded the final out of the eighth, and David Robertson worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 24th save of the season.

The win keeps the Crosstown Cup on the South Side for the third consecutive season. The Cubs still have a chance to even the season series if they can win both games at Wrigley Field this week, but in the event of a tie, the team that won the Crosstown Cup the previous season keeps it. For that reason, the Sox were awarded the trophy Tuesday night after the game.

I don't often say much about the Cubs on this blog, because I prefer not to attract trolls. But I was noticing their record is 59-40 entering Wednesday's play, and I remember them starting the season 25-6. A little quick math tells me the Cubs are a .500 team over their last 68 games (34-34).

The narrative around Chicago has been that the Cubs are an elite team, that they are enjoying a magical season, and that they are on the brink of history. For those first 31 games, they sure looked pretty damn good. But in these first two games against the Sox, they have been ordinary, and based on their .500 record over a 68-game period, they've been ordinary for a while.

The Sox are starting a Triple-A pitcher (Anthony Ranaudo) Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, and I won't be surprised if the Cubs light him up. That said, I have been surprised at how well the mediocre Sox have done so far against the highly regarded Cubs. A lot of folks seemed to believe the Sox would be overmatched in this series. That has not been the case to this point.

Miguel Gonzalez and Shields were better than Jake Arrieta and Hendricks, and that's been the difference so far.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Miguel Gonzalez outpitches Jake Arrieta in crosstown series opener

Jake Arrieta -- not sharp lately
Based on pitching matchups, just about everyone was expecting the Cubs to prevail in Monday's opener of the 2016 crosstown series.

The North Siders had their ace, defending NL Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta, on the mound, while the White Sox were countering with their No. 5 starter, Miguel Gonzalez.

However, games are not played on paper -- and surprise, surprise -- Gonzalez outpitched Arrieta in a 5-4 Sox victory:

Gonzalez: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BBs, 8 Ks, 1 HR
Arrieta: 6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BBs, 6 Ks, 1 HR

Neither man figured in the decision, but taking a longer view, maybe we should have known this was not a mismatch.

Arrieta has not been pitching well. The Cubs have lost seven of the last 10 games he has started, including the last four. Arrieta has allowed 20 earned runs in 29.1 innings pitched over his last five outings, only one of which has been a quality start. That will pencil out to a 6.14 ERA.

In contrast, Gonzalez has churned out five consecutive quality starts for the Sox. He has allowed 11 earned runs over 32.2 innings during that span, good for a rock-solid 3.03 ERA.

The Sox right-hander is only 1-2 during that stretch, but it's through no fault of his own. He should have gotten the win Monday night, as he walked off the mound with a two outs in the seventh inning and a 4-2 lead.

But as we discussed in yesterday's blog entry, the Sox are woefully thin in the bullpen right now. Jacob Turner had a short start Friday against the Detroit Tigers. And Chris Sale did not make his start Saturday after the whole jersey-slashing incident, so the Sox bullpen has had to cover an absurd amount of innings over the past few days.

Both closer David Robertson and top set-up reliever Nate Jones were unavailable Monday, leaving Matt Albers and Dan Jennings to try to protect the 4-2 lead in the ninth. They could not. The Cubs tied it, although we can credit Jennings for recording a key strikeout of Jason Heyward with two on and two out to preserve the 4-4 tie.

The Sox then recorded their third consecutive walk-off victory. J.B. Shuck singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth against newly acquired Cubs left-hander Mike Montgomery. Dioner Navarro advanced the runner to second with a sacrifice bunt, and Tyler Saladino delivered a game-winning base hit to center field.

In case you were wondering, this is the first time the Sox have had three straight walk-off winners since Aug. 4-6, 1962.

The Sox will send James Shields to the mound in the second game of the series Tuesday. He'll be opposed by Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks.

Technically, I guess Hendricks is the fifth starter for the Cubs, but much like Gonzalez, he's been pitching better than that moniker would suggest.

Hendricks hasn't given up an earned run since June 29, and has logged a 0.72 ERA over his last seven appearances (six starts).

Maybe as Sox fans, we should be more worried about Hendricks and less worried about Arrieta, media hype aside.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Chris Sale suspended; White Sox pitching staff hanging by a thread

Chris Sale
White Sox ace Chris Sale has been suspended five days for "violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment," general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement Sunday.

Sale did not want to wear the 1976 throwback jerseys the team was supposed to wear during his scheduled start Saturday, so he cut them up in the locker room before the game. The Sox subsequently sent Sale home and had reliever Matt Albers start Saturday's game instead.

Sale will be eligible to return Thursday, and I'm not going to waste any time discussing the actions by Sale or management in this whole mess. It led SportsCenter on Saturday night. It was a headline on CNN's website. Anything I might say about the matter would only be adding to the noise.

What I will say is the Sox's entire pitching staff is in deep trouble for the next week as a result of this incident. I commend the team for salvaging the final two games of a four-game series with the Detroit Tigers over the weekend, but the bullpen, in particular, is hanging by a thread after what just took place.

The relief corps had to pitch the entirety of Saturday's game. Albers went two innings. Dan Jennings worked two innings. So did Tommy Kahnle. Zach Duke pitched the seventh inning. Nate Jones started the eighth, but struggled -- his own error allowed the Tigers to tie the game at 3. Closer David Robertson relieved with two on and two out and struck out Tyler Collins to keep things even.

After the Sox failed to score in the bottom of the eighth inning, heavy rains moved into Chicago for the second time during the game. Play had to be suspended until Sunday afternoon.

When the game resumed Sunday, Robertson was still on the mound. He essentially had to get four outs to navigate the top of the ninth after J.B. Shuck misplayed a routine fly into a double, but Robertson fanned Cameron Maybin with a runner in scoring position to once again keep it at 3-3. It's worth noting that Robertson had his A stuff during that inning -- two of the three outs were swinging strikeouts.

The Sox won the game, 4-3, on a two-out RBI single by Adam Eaton in the bottom of the ninth. You have to give the bullpen credit for covering all nine innings on an emergency basis and pulling out a win.

However, that workload took its toll in Sunday's regularly scheduled game. The Sox won, 5-4, but it should have been much easier than it was. Starting pitcher Jose Quintana fired 117 pitches on a day where the heat index was 109, and he got two outs deep in the seventh inning with a 4-0 lead.

You'd like to think the Sox bullpen could close that one out, but Jones and Robertson couldn't get it done. Jones gave up a solo home run to Andrew Romine in the eighth inning, and Robertson surrendered three solo shots in the ninth -- Nick Castellanos, Collins and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit those home runs.

Robertson had two strikes with two outs on Collins, and again on Saltalamacchia, and he couldn't close. In the earlier contest, Robertson overmatched both those two hitters with his best stuff. Both struck out swinging. But in this game, Robertson left a cutter in the center of the plate against Collins, and hung a curve ball to Saltalamacchia  -- both with disastrous results.

The Sox won anyway when Melky Cabrera singled home Eaton, who had drawn a leadoff walk, in the bottom of the ninth. But, fans are ready to tie Robertson to a chair and throw him on the eastbound lane of the Dan Ryan after he blew Quintana's win.

I'm not sure the criticism is fair. Robertson entered Saturday's game around 10 p.m. He had to be ready to take the mound again at 1:10 Sunday. And, he was summoned again shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

So, in about an 18-hour span, Robertson had to warm up three times and take the mound three times, in some of the hottest weather we've had in Chicago in about four years.

How many pitches can we expect a short reliever to throw in that amount of time before he loses effectiveness? Keep in mind, it's not just the pitches on the mound, it's the pitches in the bullpen, too.

Jones has pitched five times in the past six games. Robertson is obviously overworked. Should we really be surprised that they labored so badly in the Sunday afternoon heat?

Sale's actions put his teammates in a tough spot. The Sox are not a good offensive team. They play a lot of close games (49 of 98 games decided by two runs or less). The high-leverage relievers get used a lot. Overuse crossed the line into abuse on Sunday, from my perspective.

The Sox don't have an off day until next Monday. They have two games at home against the Cubs, two games on the road against the Cubs, then three in Minnesota against the Twins.

The schedule offers no relief in the short run. Robertson and Jones almost certainly will need the night off Monday vs. the Cubs. Starter Miguel Gonzalez is probably going to have to go six innings, regardless of whether he is effective or not.

I won't be surprised if some losing comes as a result of all this over the next week. This is the price the Sox will pay for Sale insubordination. Arms are being taxed, and sooner or later, more games are going to be lost. Frankly, it's fairly surprising the Sox got two wins Sunday.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Rick Hahn: White Sox are 'mired in mediocrity'

Rick Hahn
Remember when we thought the White Sox would be better in 2016 than they were last season? That was fun while it lasted, huh?

Well, guess what? The Sox are 46-49 after 95 games. At this same point last season, they were 45-50. So, all that moving and shaking over the last calendar year has resulted in a net gain of one lousy win. Hooray!

Before Thursday night's 2-1 rain-shortened loss to the Detroit Tigers, Sox general manager Rick Hahn admitted the plan is not working.

“We looked to get ourselves right as quickly as possible,” Hahn told members of the media scrum. “There was a spurt this season where it looked like it worked. As we sit here today, we’ve been wrestling with being a couple games over, a couple games under .500 for the last few weeks.

“We’re mired in mediocrity. That’s not the goal, that’s not acceptable, that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish for the long term.”

So, there you have it: The first sign that the Sox might be looking at a change in direction at the Aug. 1 trading deadline. The team is 10.5 games out of first place in the AL Central, and 7.5 games back in the wild-card race. There isn't much hope left for 2016, and Hahn acknowledged the team has ruled out any deals that would involve trading prospects for short-term rentals.

Hahn noted several times that the Sox are "open-minded" about their options. He did not rule out a complete teardown, although he commented that trading All-Star pitchers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana "might be extreme."

The Sox are not the most transparent organization in the world -- and I don't care that they're not -- so we're left to speculate about what this might mean. My speculation is they'll keep Sale. Shortstop Tim Anderson also is off limits in a trade. Quintana is unlikely to be dealt, but could be had if the right offer comes along. Everyone else is on the block, with David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Zach Duke and Melky Cabrera among the most likely candidates to be traded.

Here's what I fail to understand: The Sox allowed this season to slip away without firing the manager or anyone else on the coaching staff. Maybe the 23-10 start to the season created false hope, but the 23-39 mark since then is ridiculous. There's no way this team should have played that poorly over a stretch of 62 games.

The Sox were willing to shake up the roster, with John Danks, Mat Latos and Jimmy Rollins all being shown the door. Anderson was called up from the minors. The Sox traded for James Shields. They signed Justin Morneau. They recently recalled top prospect Carson Fulmer. They've been willing to address problems on the roster, but that hasn't improved results. There's no question the team is playing below its talent level at present, and it's been that way for more than two months. Why isn't anyone that's part of the dugout brain trust accountable for that?

I'm reluctant to let Hahn and Ken Williams undertake a new rebuilding project. They've turned almost the entire roster over since the midpoint of the 2013 season -- Sale, Quintana and Nate Jones are the only players left from that time -- but the results still are disappointing.

There's a lot of folks who want to trade Sale and Quintana, but I'm opposed to that line of thinking for two reasons: 1) I don't trust this front office to get the appropriate return, and 2) Right now, you'd be shopping them only to contending teams, and contenders are only willing to give up prospects during the middle of the season. If you're going to trade one or both of the crown jewels of your organization, I think you need to get at least one, if not two, major league players in return -- not just prospects.

Teams that are in the hunt typically are not willing to subtract players from their 25-man roster at this time of year. If the Sox do want to make a move with their top pitchers, they might be better served to wait until the offseason when every team in baseball could conceivably be in the market for Sale or Quintana. At that point in time, the Sox might be better positioned to maximize their return.

Right now, the vultures are circling, looking to pick at the carcass of the 2016 Sox. Hahn needs to exercise patience here. If he is going to move, he better make sure he gets exactly what he wants. These decisions are too important to the future of the Sox organization to rush.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

White Sox should have swept Seattle; they lose two of three instead

Dan Jennings
As previously noted, the White Sox choked away a brilliant effort from ace Chris Sale in Monday night's series opener against Seattle, but surprisingly enough, they responded with a crisp 6-1 victory on Tuesday night.

Jose Quintana (8-8) got back to .500 by winning his third consecutive start, and he was backed by home runs from Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera and Todd Frazier. Cabrera's blast leading off the top of the seventh inning broke a 1-1 tie and sent the Sox on their way to the win.

The Sox should have won the series finale on Wednesday, too. They had a 5-2 lead in the seventh inning, but then the old choke reflex kicked in again.

Zach Duke gave up a two-run homer to Mike Zunino in the seventh inning. Adam Lind, who homered off David Robertson to win the game Monday, struck again with a solo home run to tie it off Nate Jones in the eighth. Then, Leonys Martin went deep in the bottom of the 11th inning off Dan Jennings to lift the Mariners to a 6-5 win.

Here's the real shame of it: Miguel Gonzalez outpitched Felix Hernandez.

Yes, you read that right. The Sox's No. 5 starter got the game into the seventh inning with a three-run lead against the Seattle ace. Gonzalez provided his team with a golden opportunity to steal a win in a game that featured an unfavorable pitching matchup.

Instead, the Sox kicked the opportunity away, like they have so many others over the past 60 games. Teams that contend take advantage of those chances. Teams that finish in fourth place blow them. I'll bet you can guess which kind of team the Sox are.

Monday, July 4, 2016

White Sox take two out of three from Astros

Chris Sale
The Houston Astros had won 11 out of their previous 12 games through Friday, so it was impressive to see the White Sox come back and take the final two games of a three-game series this weekend.

The Sox (42-40) are now two games over .500 for the first time since June 4, and they have won four consecutive series -- including three against winning teams (Boston, Toronto, Houston). Here's a look back at the weekend that was:

Friday, July 1
Astros 5, White Sox 0: The Sox's offensive inconsistency reared its head again in the opener of the series. The South Siders had scored 15 runs in their final two games in the previous series against Minnesota, but they couldn't get anything done Friday against Mike Fiers -- who is nothing more than a league-average starter -- and three Houston relievers.

The Sox were limited to just five hits and went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.

It was a shame, because one of Miguel Gonzalez's better starts went to waste. He went seven innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits. Through the first six innings, the Astros managed only one run against Gonzalez, and that came on a cheap infield single in the fourth.

An error on Tyler Saladino opened the door for Houston in the seventh, and Carlos Gomez homered off Gonzalez to make it 3-0 Astros. That was essentially the final nail in the coffin, although Houston tacked on two more in the eighth against Sox reliever Chris Beck for good measure.

Saturday, July 2
White Sox 7, Astros 6: Sox ace Chris Sale collected his league-leading 14th victory on a day where he had less than his best stuff.

Jose Altuve homered for Houston in the first inning, and the Astros touched Sale up for three runs in the third to take a 4-2 lead.

The Sox would rally. J.B. Shuck homered in the fourth, and then Dioner Navarro delivered a two-run single in the fifth to put the South Siders ahead to stay at 5-4.

Shuck added an RBI triple in the eighth and came around to score on a double by Tim Anderson. That increased the Sox lead to 7-4, and those two runs would prove to be the difference.

Perhaps the biggest sequence of the game came in the bottom of the eighth. Sale allowed a base hit to George Springer, and Todd Frazier committed a two-base error that put Houston runners on second and third with nobody out.

Sox reliever Nate Jones was summoned, and he got the next three hitters out, allowing only one of the inherited runners to score. The Astros missed perhaps their best opportunity to get back in the game right there.

Closer David Robertson retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the ninth before giving up a home run to A.J. Reed that made the score 7-6. Robertson then fanned Colby Rasmus to secure his 22nd save of the season.

Sunday, July 3
White Sox 4, Astros 1: There has been a lot of talk about a lack of run support for Jose Quintana, and much of that discussion is justified. However, that narrative obscured the fact that Quintana had a lousy June. He went 0-3 with a 5.51 ERA in five starts for the month.

On Sunday, the good Quintana (6-8) made his triumphant return. The left-hander earned his first win since May 8 with a brilliant seven-inning performance. He gave up a home run to Springer on his second pitch of the game, but allowed no runs after that.

Quintana allowed just two hits over seven innings, and he retired the final 15 hitters he faced.

The Sox got two runs in the third and two more in the eighth. They went 3 for 8 with runners in scoring position, with Jose Abreu, Brett Lawrie and Navarro all collecting RBI singles in the clutch.

Jones was once again strong, working a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth with two strikeouts.

Robertson was a bit shaky in the ninth. He allowed a leadoff hit to Marwin Gonzalez and walked Gomez. That brought Reed to the plate representing the tying run with two outs.

During Saturday's ninth inning, Reed took Robertson deep on a cut fastball. He did not see that pitch this time. Robertson threw him four straight breaking balls, the last of which was a nasty knuckle-curve that Reed swung over the top of for strike three.

Robertson is now 23 for 25 in save opportunities this season.

Friday, July 1, 2016

White Sox have won three straight series for the first time in 2016

Nate Jones
You would think the White Sox would have won three straight series at some point during their 23-10 start to the season, right?

Well, they didn't, but they have now after taking two games from the last-place Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. The Sox (40-39) have won seven of their last 10 games, so I can't complain too much -- especially after living through the misery of the 10-26 stretch that carried on from May 10 all the way until June 19.

Some consistent winning is welcome, even if the wins are over a team as bad as the Twins, and even if the wins aren't as easy as perhaps they should have been.

Do you want to know the last time the Sox won a game by more than three runs? It was May 9 against the Texas Rangers, and even that was an extra-inning affair. The Sox won by four (8-4) because Todd Frazier hit a grand slam in the top of the 12th inning.

On Wednesday night, it looked as if the Sox were finally going to coast across the finish line with an easy victory. They had a five-run outburst in the seventh inning against Minnesota starter Ricky Nolasco and reliever Michael Tonkin. Sox right-hander James Shields finally resembled a major league pitcher, allowing just one run over 6.2 innings.

The Sox led 9-1 after eight innings. Piece of cake, huh? If only.

Minnesota's ninth inning went as follows: Double, walk, strikeout, E-4, single, groundout, HBP, walk, double, flyout.

The South Siders hung on for a 9-6 win, but not before three relievers were needed to get through the final inning. It's unfortunate that Nate Jones had to be summoned to pitch in this game. He entered with two on, two out and the tying run at the plate, and got Eduardo Escobar to fly out to end the drama.

But so much for that rare blowout win.

The Sox squeaked out a victory Thursday, as well, winning 6-5 after J.B. Shuck delivered a go-ahead single with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Anybody who has ever watched baseball with me knows that relievers who walk people are my biggest pet peeve in the game. "You walk people, you lose"  has always been my mantra.

In this game, Minnesota reliever Fernando Abad walked people, and he lost. He retired the first two men he faced in the bottom of the eighth inning, but then he walked both Avisail Garcia and Jason Coats. The walk to Coats came on four pitches, and that's especially ridiculous when you consider that Coats is 1 for 17 since his recall from Triple-A Charlotte.

Why was Abad afraid to throw a strike to Coats? You got me, but that walk put Garcia in scoring position, and Shuck's bloop over Escobar's head brought Garcia home to put the Sox ahead, 6-5.

The hit made a winner of Jones, who worked 1.1 innings of scoreless relief. David Robertson got three outs for his 21st save of the season.

Carlos Rodon's performance Thursday was a disappointment. He went 5.2 innings, allowing four runs on five hits, but he just wasn't any good with the lead.

Rodon retired the first 11 he faced, but blew an early 2-0 advantage by giving up back-to-back homers to Robbie Grossman and Brian Dozier in the fourth. The Sox came right back with three in the bottom of the inning to stake Rodon to a 5-2 lead, but he still couldn't complete the sixth inning and had to be removed with the score 5-4 and the tying run in scoring position.

The Sox need more from their young lefty, who has way too much talent to be 2-6 with a 4.24 ERA. He hasn't pitched into the seventh inning since May 22, a span of six starts. Not coincidentally, that's the last time Rodon won a game. Make the first goal pitching deeper into the game, then go from there.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

White Sox settle for 3 out of 4 in Boston

Jose Abreu
The pitching matchup for Thursday's series finale between the White Sox and the Boston Red Sox did not bode well for Chicago: James Shields vs. Rick Porcello.

After all, Shields had allowed 22 runs in his first 8.2 innings as a member of the Sox, and Porcello entered Thursday's play with an 8-2 record -- including a 6-0 mark at Fenway Park.

The Sox lost, 8-7 in 10 innings, but it had nothing to do with the Shields vs. Porcello matchup. Both men turned in mediocre starts and were gone before the sixth inning was over. Frankly, this Sox loss would have been easier to take if Shields had just gotten knocked around again.

Instead, the Sox squandered two leads and blew two golden chances to score with the bases loaded in the eighth and 10th innings, and it's impossible to feel like they shouldn't have come away with a four-game series sweep.

The Sox led, 4-1, in the sixth when Shields cracked. He departed after walking David Ortiz and Ryan LaMarre consecutively to start the inning. Matt Albers provided no relief, hitting a batter and loading the bases before giving up a pair of singles. One of the singles was of the infield variety, with Brett Lawrie making an errant throw that didn't help matters.

The Sox had to use a second reliever, Dan Jennings, who extricated the team from the mess, but not before Boston had surged in front, 5-4.

Jose Abreu answered for the South Siders, clubbing a three-run homer in the top of the seventh off Junichi Tazawa to give the Sox a 7-5 lead.

That would be short-lived, as Boston scored one in the seventh off Chris Beck and another in the eighth off Nate Jones to tie it at 7.

But the real issue for the Sox here was the inability to put the game away by taking advantage of prime scoring opportunities. The South Siders loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the eighth inning. But J.B. Shuck popped out to shallow left, Tim Anderson struck out swinging and Adam Eaton grounded out weakly to second base.

The failures kept the Sox lead at a meager one run (7-6), and Boston tied it off Jones in the bottom of the inning.

The same exact situation presented itself in the top of the 10th inning. Lawrie at third, Alex Avila at second, Avisail Garcia at first, bases loaded, no outs. Shuck popped out to shortstop. Anderson struck out swinging. Eaton struck out swinging. Once again, no runs, and a heaping pile of frustration.

In the bottom of the inning, Matt Purke lost the game. He walked two hitters and gave up a game-ending single to Xander Bogaerts.

At that point, it felt like Boston was finally putting the Sox out of their misery. They had their chances. They blew them, and Boston finally handed them the loss they deserved.

It's disappointing, because a four-game sweep of the Red Sox could have really built some momentum for the upcoming homestand against Toronto and Minnesota.

Instead, we're once again talking about an infuriating loss. We're once again talking about a sub-.500 Sox team (36-37), and we're looking at a team that is in fourth place, six games out of first.

On Monday, I think any Sox fan would have been more than happy with three out of four in Boston. From that perspective, it was a good series. But, in the bigger picture, it's still difficult to see a path to the playoffs for this deeply flawed Sox team.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

White Sox ace Chris Sale becomes first 12-game winner in majors

Chris Sale
White Sox ace Chris Sale became the major leagues' first 12-game winner Tuesday night, as he tossed seven innings of one-run ball to lift the South Siders to a 3-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

Sale (12-2) allowed just four hits and one walk. He equaled his season high in strikeouts with nine.

Rookie shortstop Tim Anderson staked Sale to an early lead by hitting the first pitch of the game from Boston starter Clay Buchholz over the Green Monster for his first career home run. The Sox added one more in the first inning when Adam Eaton doubled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Melky Cabrera.

The Sox remained ahead 2-0 until the third inning when Boston scored its lone run on two singles and a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts. The Red Sox loaded the bases after that, as Dustin Pedroia singled and Xander Bogaerts walked. But Sale escaped any further trouble by striking out Hanley Ramirez on a nasty slider.

Boston never threatened against Sale the rest of the night.

Todd Frazier connected for his 20th home run of the season in the fourth inning to put the Sox ahead 3-1 and complete the scoring. Nate Jones and David Robertson combined for two innings of shutout relief, with Robertson earning a four-out save -- his 18th of the year.

The Sox (35-36) have won two games in a row for the just the second time in June, and with the team playing in Boston, ESPN is predictably starting the rumors about how the Sox need to trade Sale to the Red Sox.

Sale is probably the best pitcher in the American League, and he is signed to a team-friendly deal through the 2019 season. His production and his contract make him one of the most valuable players in baseball. I have no doubt the Red Sox would covet him for their rotation. What team wouldn't?

But here's the thing that really pisses me off about these "trade Sale" articles: The authors always make it sound as if Sale can be had for a package of prospects who are currently toiling at Double-A or Triple-A.

I don't think so, friends.

The White Sox should not trade the best pitcher in the league unless they are getting at least one major league position player in return. The ESPN author of this Red Sox article touts the three "young, inexpensive" stars on the Boston roster -- Bogaerts, Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr

My message to "Red Sox Nation" and ESPN is this: If you want the best pitcher in the American League on your roster, it's going to cost you one of either Betts or Bradley Jr. Highly regarded prospects aren't enough.

The White Sox are not anybody's farm team, and you're not acquiring a potential Cy Young winner for nothing more than a package of ifs and maybes, because after all, prospects are nothing more than ifs and maybes. There are plenty of teams out there that could use Sale, and I'll bet you one of them will be willing to send along a player or players who are already big-league caliber.

Any club that acquires Sale is getting three and a half years of an All-Star pitcher in his prime at cost-controlled price. I'm sorry, but that's worth more than Double-A players. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

White Sox get swept once again vs. a divisional opponent

"Poor Jose" Quintana
The White Sox are once again on a losing streak, having been swept in a divisional series against the Cleveland Indians over the weekend. Let's take a look back at the carnage:

Friday, June 17
Indians 3, White Sox 2: Jose Quintana ranks fourth in the American League with a 2.63 ERA. He's also 0-6 in his last seven starts because the Sox offense has scored only five runs total when Quintana has been on the mound during that same span.

It's no wonder we're seeing classic satire such as this when describing Quintana's hard-luck career pitching for a perpetually underachieving Sox team.

In any case, Quintana was spared a loss Friday. The Sox trailed 2-1 in the ninth inning, but back-to-back doubles by Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia off Cleveland closer Chad Allen tied the game.

While Quintana was spared, the team was not. Carlos Santana hit a walk-off home run for Cleveland on a hanging slider from Sox reliever Nate Jones in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Jones jumped ahead of Santana 0-2 with two good sliders. Sox catcher Alex Avila called for a fastball on 0-2, but Jones shook him off for another slider. Moral of the story: If you're going to throw the same pitch to a major league hitter three times in a row, you better make it a good one.

That third slider to Santana was as bad as it gets.

Saturday, June 18
Indians 13, White Sox 2: So, that James Shields trade isn't working out so well. The veteran right-hander needed only 11 pitches to get the Sox blown off the field in this game.

Shields walked Santana on four straight pitches to start the first inning. Jason Kipnis narrowly missed a two-run homer on Shields' sixth pitch of the game. The ball hit the fence for a double and placed runners on second and third.

Francisco Lindor hit an RBI single on the eighth pitch from Shields, and Mike Napoli connected for a three-run, opposite-field homer on pitch No. 11. At that point, it was 4-0 Indians, and the game was over.

Cleveland ended up scoring five runs in the first inning and three more in the second. All eight were charged to Shields, who was removed after lasting just 1.2 innings.

Shields has allowed 22 runs (21 earned) on 24 hits with nine walks in his first three starts with the Sox. We were told he is an "innings eater," but so far he's thrown only 8.2 innings.

In other words, he's recorded 26 outs as a member of the Sox, while allowing 22 runs. Let that ratio roll around in your brain for a moment. He's allowed 15 first-inning runs since the trade.

It makes no sense at all for Shields to remain a member of the starting rotation. You can't keep running a guy out to the mound who is putting your team four, five or six runs down in the first inning. Yet the Sox have stated Shields will make his next start Thursday in Boston.

Have I mentioned the Shields deal is the type of trade that gets GMs fired?

Sunday, June 19
Indians 3, White Sox 2 (10 innings): After the way the first two games went, Sunday's game just had a feeling of inevitability to it. Sox starter Carlos Rodon pitched pretty well; he went 6.1 innings and allowed only two runs.

That's not a bad outing at all, although it was disappointing that Rodon blew two leads. The Sox went ahead 1-0 in the first; the Indians tied it in the bottom of the inning. Melky Cabrera hit his sixth home run of the season in the fourth to put the Sox up 2-1; Rodon served up a home run to Juan Uribe in the bottom of the inning to make it 2-2.

It stayed that way until the bottom of the 10th when Jose Ramirez hit a two-out single with the bases loaded off Sox closer David Robertson to win the game. The Sox never trailed until the moment they lost, but watching the game, there was never a single moment where I thought they would win. Sometimes you just know it isn't going to end well.

The loss dropped the Sox (33-36) 5.5 games behind the first-place Indians. The South Siders have lost the last six head-to-head meetings with Cleveland, and they are 0-9 in road games against divisional opponents Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit. They have been swept in three-game series in all three of those cities.

Overall, the Sox are now a combined 6-18 against Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit -- the teams that remain relevant in the AL Central race. Manager Robin Ventura is now 140-190 (.424 winning percentage) against divisional foes during his tenure.

The Sox have dropped 26 of 36 since their 23-10 start. This "slump" has continued on for six weeks, but all the decision-makers in the organization still had jobs as of Monday morning.

People wonder why the Sox have a dwindling fan base and poor attendance. Personally, I can't blame people for not wanting to put up with this anymore.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Jose Quintana continues mastery of Blue Jays

Jose Quintana is 3-1 this season.
Something was going to give Wednesday night. The Toronto Blue Jays hadn't been swept at Rogers Centre since Sept. 10-12, 2013. And White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana was 3-0 in three previous starts in Toronto.

As it turns out, Quintana continued his streak, and the Blue Jays' long run of not being swept at home has come to an end.

The Sox left-hander fired six shutout innings in a 4-0 win. Quintana (3-1) struck out a season-high 10 and stranded a Toronto baserunner in scoring position in four of his six innings. He is now 4-0 with 0.68 ERA in four career starts at Toronto. His season ERA is 1.47 -- fourth-best in the AL -- and he has yet to allow a home run in 30.2 innings this season.

Zach Duke, Nate Jones and David Robertson all pitched a scoreless inning to finish the shutout.

Toronto starter Marco Estrada matched zeroes with Quintana through six innings, but the Sox once again broke through in their favorite inning -- the seventh. Dioner Navarro's two-out, two-strike, two-run triple put the Sox ahead and ended Estrada's night. Austin Jackson greeted reliever Jesse Chavez with an RBI triple to complete the three-run rally.

Avisail Garcia's RBI single in the eighth inning tacked on an insurance run as the Sox won their sixth straight and improved to 16-6.

Comings and goings

A few roster moves over the past couple days:
  • Catcher Kevan Smith was placed on the disabled list with a back problem before appearing in a game. The Sox purchased the contract of Hector Sanchez from Triple-A Charlotte. I wouldn't be surprised if Sanchez gets a start Thursday with John Danks on the mound against Baltimore
  • Pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte, and relief pitcher Daniel Webb was recalled.
  • On a sad note, Robertson had a death in his family, and the closer has been placed on the bereavement list, meaning he will be away from the team for 3 to 7 days. Infielder Carlos Sanchez has been recalled to fill that roster spot. Sanchez was off to a good start at Triple-A Charlotte, with a slash line of .309/.356/.469 with three home runs and six stolen bases in 20 games. With Webb being on the roster, the Sox still have seven relievers available for the Baltimore series.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

White Sox add to Minnesota's early misery; Twins drop to 0-7

Minnesota's Kyle Gibson had never lost to the Sox -- until Monday.
I was hoping the Minnesota Twins would win at least one game over the weekend against the Kansas City Royals. Not so much because I wanted the Royals to lose, but more because I didn't want the Twins to enter their three-game series against the White Sox this week winless.

I figure the longer a streak goes -- either a good streak or a bad one -- the more likely it is to end. The law of averages eventually kicks in.

So, I had a little bit of dismay Sunday when the Royals erased a 3-1 deficit in the ninth inning and went on to beat the Twins, 4-3, in 10 innings. That meant Minnesota would enter its home opener Monday against the Sox with an 0-6 mark. The Twins were sending right-handed pitcher Kyle Gibson to the mound. Gibson had a 4-0 career record against the Sox, including a 2.13 ERA.

The Twins were due for a win, and the Sox were facing a pitcher they never hit well. Gulp.

It turns out I had no reason to worry. Jose Quintana outpitched Gibson, and the Sox beat Minnesota 4-1, sending the Twins to 0-7.

This was a methodical win for the Sox, who improved to 5-2. They took the lead early, added to their lead, and then protected it. Brett Lawrie had an RBI single in the second inning. Austin Jackson narrowly missed a grand slam in the fourth -- the ball hooked just foul -- moments before delivering a two-run single up the middle. Todd Frazier's RBI double in the ninth accounted for the final Sox run.

Quintana fired six innings of one-run ball. Matt Albers worked a scoreless seventh. Zach Duke and Nate Jones combined for an easy eighth. Closer David Robertson worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save of the season. For the Sox, that's how you draw it up.

The Twins, however, did not plan on being 0-7 at this stage. Yes, there are 155 games to go, but history tells us Minnesota is a long shot to get out of this hole.

Of the 10 previous teams to start the season 0-7 in American League history, none have recovered to post a winning record, let alone make the playoffs. The 2008 Detroit Tigers started 0-7 and ended up 74-88. No team has ever reached 75 wins after starting 0-7. On average, teams that start 0-7 end up with 60 wins.

There are three teams in MLB history that have started 0-6 and recovered to make the playoffs: the 1974 Pittsburgh Pirates, the 1995 Cincinnati Reds and the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays. All three of those clubs picked up their first win of the season in their seventh game.

Make no mistake, the Twins are still likely to win one soon. Odds are the Sox will not sweep this current three-game set. But even after that first win comes, Minnesota will be fighting history the rest of the way as a result of its historically bad first week.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Jimmy Rollins, Todd Frazier deliver for White Sox

Jimmy Rollins' first home run with the White Sox was a game-winner.
Maybe 37-year-old Jimmy Rollins has a little something left after all.

With the score tied at 4 with two outs in the top of the ninth inning Tuesday, the veteran shortstop got a 2-2 fastball from Oakland closer Sean Doolittle and pounded it over the left-field fence for a solo home run that lifted the White Sox to a 5-4 victory.

Doolittle's fastball was clocked at 94 mph, so at this point I think we can safely say Rollins still has some bat speed.

Rollins wasn't the only newcomer to make an impact in Tuesday's win. Todd Frazier hit a three-run homer in the top of the fifth inning that put the Sox ahead 3-1 at that time.

The thing that was impressive about these two home runs: Both came with two strikes and two outs. Frazier had just seen Oakland starter Chris Bassitt strike out Jose Abreu with breaking balls down. And Bassitt grabbed a strike on a curve ball to get ahead of Frazier 0-2. The Sox third baseman was ready for the second breaking ball that came his way, however, and even though it was down, he golfed it over the left-field wall for his first home run of the season.

Once again, this wasn't the cleanest victory for the Sox. Nate Jones let a 4-2 lead get away in the eighth, costing starting pitcher Jose Quintana a win. But Rollins bailed Jones out with the home run, and David Robertson worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his second save in as many games.

Would you believe it if I told you the Sox have started 2-0 in four of the past five seasons? I guess that's a commentary on how being 2-0 doesn't mean much in the big picture, because the Sox haven't made the playoffs in any of those seasons.

In fact, the last time the Sox were two games over .500 at any point was April 15, 2014, when they were 8-6 two weeks into the year.

The Sox have not been three games over .500 since they concluded the 2012 season with an 85-77 record.