Showing posts with label Tim Anderson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tim Anderson. Show all posts

Monday, October 2, 2017

It could have been worse: White Sox finish 2017 with 67-95 record

Jose Abreu
Here's a sentence that I might not type again for the rest of my life: The 2017 White Sox exceeded expectations by finishing 67-95.

Through 118 games, the Sox were 45-73 and appeared to be on their way to 100 losses. And nobody would have been shocked or unhappy if they had lost 100. Established veterans such as Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera were traded in July. Competent bullpen arms such as Tommy Kahnle, Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak also were shown the door.

After all that, I never would have guessed the Sox would have a winning September -- they went 15-14 -- nor would I have believed they would go 22-22 in their last 44 games. But that's exactly what they did, and you have to give manager Rick Renteria and his staff some credit. He had guys playing hard and playing the right way all the way up to the very end, and the Sox were able to crawl out of last place while the Detroit Tigers (64-98) tanked and finished with the worst record in the league.

The Sox will draft No. 4 overall in the 2018 entry draft, instead of first, as many had hoped. I can live with that, because their late-season competency wasn't led by a group of mediocre veterans. The younger players who are supposed to be a part of the future -- Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer -- all had some positive moments that contributed to winning. You want to see that progress and that development. It's the most important thing for a team that is in the Sox's position.

However, in recent weeks, I have heard some Sox fans getting a little too exuberant about the team's hopes for 2018. It has been pointed out that the Minnesota Twins, who were 59-103 at this time a year ago, rebounded to 85-77 and won the second wild card in the American League. That's led some to ask the question, "Why can't the Sox author a similar turnaround next year?"

That's a noble thought, but it's just not likely. Despite some of the positives we've seen as of late, the Sox have very little talent in their bullpen. In order to contend next season, they would have to buy at least three and maybe four relief arms in free agency, and I don't see that being a prudent course of action at this stage. They've committed to the rebuild, so stay the course.

Looking ahead to 2018, here's my best guess at how things might break down at each position:

Catcher: There's a pretty good chance both Kevan Smith and Omar Narvaez are back next year. Smith hit .283, Narvaez hit .277. We haven't seen that sort of offensive competency from Sox catchers since A.J. Pierzynski left, and neither Smith nor Narvaez embarrassed themselves defensively. Both are probably better options at the position than dumpster diving in free agency.

First base: Jose Abreu enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 2017. He hit .304 with 33 home runs and 102 RBIs. He had 343 total bases and posted a .906 OPS. I've often heard people say the Sox should keep Abreu around to be "a mentor and leader" for young Latino players. It is true that Abreu can be that guy, but keeping him on the club just for that reason sells him short. This guy has had 100 or more RBIs for four straight seasons with not a lot of help. Perhaps the Sox should keep him because he's one of the best in the game at his position.

Second base: Moncada's .231 average reflects the struggles he had when he was first called up to the majors. I said we needed to see a hot streak from this guy before the year ended, and sure enough, we saw one. He hit .276 with an .818 OPS and five home runs after Sept. 1. Something to build on for a player who needs to be a core piece in order for the Sox's rebuild to work.

Shortstop: Anderson's second-half OPS (.732) was a full 100 points higher than his first-half OPS (.632), and he hit .327 in September to raise his season batting average to .257. Eight of his 17 home runs and nine of his 15 stolen bases came after Aug. 1. Signs of progress. Next year is a big year for Anderson. He had a good rookie season. He struggled much of his second year before finishing strong. Consider 2018 the tiebreaker season to give us a read on what type of player Anderson truly is.

Third base: As it stands right now, I think Yolmer Sanchez is the guy. He's the best defensive infielder the Sox have, and he hit .267/.319/.413 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs. That was more production that I ever expected from Sanchez, and he outplayed both Matt Davidson and Tyler Saladino by a wide margin. Sure, Davidson hit 26 home runs, but that's all he does. The .220 batting average and .260 on-base percentage are not impressive, and Davidson doesn't give you much with the glove. Back problems seem to be ruining Saladino's career, as he hit .178 with no home runs in 79 games this year. After a promising 2016, Saladino is perhaps on his way out the door. That's a cautionary tale not to get too excited about Sanchez, I suppose. Long-term, though, I see Sanchez as a valuable bench player on a contender. I think he still can start on next year's Sox team.

Outfield: I'll go on the record: Keep Avisail Garcia. I know some Sox fans want to "sell high," but they are assuming that clubs out there will want to "buy high." I don't know if there will be any takers at a high price. As Sox fans, we don't necessarily believe Garcia can hit .330 again next year. If we don't believe it, why would rival GMs? I'm in favor of putting Garcia in right field for 2018. He won't hit .330, but I'll settle for .280 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs. I think he can do that, and while the Sox have outfield prospects in the system, none will be ready for the start of next season. Adam Engel and Leury Garcia will probably vie for playing time in center field. Engel is good with the glove, but can't hit at all, and Leury Garcia keeps getting hurt. They are stopgap solutions, but that's good enough for now. I wouldn't mind seeing the Sox add a stopgap corner outfield veteran to play left field in case Nick Delmonico's surprising late-season performance with the bat is a mirage. Not to mention, Delmonico is subpar with the glove, so I don't know that I want to give him 140 games in left field.

Designated hitter: Would a platoon of Davidson and Delmonico be reasonable to start 2018?

Starting pitching: I think I know three of the five coming into next season: Giolito, Lopez and James Shields. Giolito was better than expected in seven late-season starts, going 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA. The Sox hope he is part of their present and future, so let him pitch. Ditto with Lopez, whose performance (3-3, 4.72 ERA in eight starts) was more uneven than Giolito's, but promising at times. Shields is a veteran with a bad contract, and veterans with bad contracts tend to stay right where they are. Fulmer had a rough season at Triple-A Charlotte, then surprised by going 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA in seven late-season appearances (five starts). I think Fulmer competes for a rotation spot in the spring, but he didn't show enough over the course of the year for me to be confident that he's one of the five for 2018. Carlos Rodon was limited to 12 starts this season because of shoulder problems. Now, he's out six to eight months after shoulder surgery. I never felt the Sox were being truthful about the extent of Rodon's injury. Maybe we'll see him in May or June of next year, or maybe not. You can't count on him, and I think the Sox need to sign two stopgap veterans on short-term deals to fill out the rotation. I've heard Sox fans call for the team to sign a "Derek Holland type." Frankly, I'd prefer a "Miguel Gonzalez type," since Gonzalez did that job for the Sox in 2017, while Holland failed miserably after a respectable first two months.

Relief pitching: Who do you keep from this morass? You can't sign a whole new bullpen, so you gotta keep somebody. I'll keep Juan Minaya, Aaron Bummer and Greg Infante. I'm not overly impressed with any of them, but they are the best of a bad lot. Nate Jones has a contract for next season, and he's coming off a second elbow surgery. Fingers crossed that he can provide some veteran stability, but you can't count on that. Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam are always injured. It's time to move on from them. Beyond that, who knows? Is stinks that Zack Burdi is going to miss 2018 after elbow surgery. He would have been in the major league bullpen, and that would have been one more young guy to watch.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson surging in second half

Tim Anderson
There is nothing White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson can do at this point to make his overall 2017 statistics look impressive. He struggled both offensively and defensively throughout the first four months of the season, and his numbers reflect that.

There is no greater example than his error total. Anderson has committed 26 errors this season, the most by any shortstop in the American League. There's no getting around it -- that's a high number.

But here's something that is encouraging: Anderson has committed only four errors in his past 53 games. He committed his 22nd error of the season July 16, in his 80th game.

The average fan is going to look at those 26 errors and declare that Anderson is a poor defender. But aside from a two-error game in Texas on Aug. 19, a closer look reveals that Anderson has been playing a mostly clean shortstop for a good two months.

Corner turned? We'll find out next year, and we can hope.

When Anderson was struggling, I suspected he was taking his poor at-bats into the field with him, which is a tendency among many young players. His improved defense coincides with a late-season offensive resurgence.

Entering Tuesday's play, Anderson is riding a nine-game hit streak in which he has gone 18 for 43 (.419 average) with three doubles, a triple and a home run. He also has stolen six bases in his past nine games, nearly doubling his season total from seven to 13.

Anderson has hit in 12 of his past 13 games, and he has posted a .418/.426/.612 slash line in September.

Garbage-time heroics, you say? Well, perhaps, but Anderson has been trending in the right direction offensively since about Aug. 1, and given the choice, wouldn't we rather see a garbage-time surge than another two months of Anderson flailing about?

Here are Anderson's slash lines by month for the season:

April: .204/.237/.301
May: .319/.319/.500
June: .213/.242/.298
July: .198/.207/.296
August: .259/.272/.500
September: .418/.426/.612

June and July were a wasteland for Anderson, and his overall slash line (.262/.281/.414) suffers as a result of those extended struggles. The September performance is not sustainable, of course, but his performance has looked more like it should now for an extended period.

Some fans will point out that Anderson still is not taking many walks, and his on-base percentage is suffering for it. True enough, but I think we all need to get over the idea that Anderson needs to walk more. He isn't going to walk more. That's not who he is as a player. Accept that as reality.

Anderson has good bat-to-ball skills. He has speed and athleticism. Those tools should allow him to get hits, steal bases and play good defense. We've seen him do those things recently. If he can do that with more consistency next season, I'll be content with him as the Sox's starting shortstop, low walk totals be damned.

White Sox avoid infamy, split four games with Detroit

Matt Boyd
The White Sox scored 29 runs through the first three games of their four-game weekend series against the Detroit Tigers.

So, naturally, on Sunday, they went out and nearly got no-hit by one of the worst starting pitchers in the American League -- Detroit left-hander Matt Boyd.

Boyd retired 26 of the first 27 hitters he faced in a 12-0 victory, with Rob Brantly being the only man to reach base on a walk with two outs in the top of the third inning.

Alas, Sox shortstop Tim Anderson broke up the no-hit bid with a two-out double in the top of the ninth. The Sox are lucky the Tigers had a third baseman (Nick Castellanos) playing right field, because a good outfielder might have run down Anderson's liner into the right-center field gap.

Boyd finished with a one-hitter, and that will be forgotten about by next week -- if it hasn't been forgotten about already. No-hitters live forever, and it would have been embarrassing for the Sox to be no-hit by Boyd, who is 6-10 with a 5.33 ERA this season.

Crazy thing is, Boyd had been 0-4 with a 6.13 ERA in eight previous career starts against the Sox. Normally, I look forward to seeing Boyd on the mound, so I have no idea how he managed to pitch a one-hitter in Sunday's game.

Here's a look back at the rest of the series:

Thursday, Sept. 14
White Sox 17, Tigers 7: The Sox pounded 25 hits, including 21 singles, and forced the Tigers to use eight pitchers.

It was a career day for right fielder Avisail Garcia, who went 5 for 5 with a three-run homer and seven RBIs. The top five hitters in the Sox lineup combined for 19 hits. Yoan Moncada had four hits, including a home run, and scored five runs. Jose Abreu had four hits, three runs scored and two RBIs. Anderson went 3 for 7 with two runs scored and two RBIs, and Matt Davidson went 3 for 5 with three RBIs. It was quite an offensive display.

And, Tyler Saladino went 0 for 6. Hey, somebody has gotta make the outs, right?

The Sox got a decent outing from James Shields (4-6), who allowed four runs over six innings and struck out seven. With that kind of run support, even the erstwhile Shields is a good bet to pick up a victory.

Friday, Sept. 15
Tigers 3, White Sox 2: There were two positive signs the Sox could take out of this loss. First and foremost, they got a second consecutive good start from Carson Fulmer.

Fulmer went six innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out five and walked only one. The right-hander allowed only one run in six innings in his previous start against the San Francisco Giants, so it's possible Fulmer has found something after struggling for much of the year at Triple-A Charlotte.

Or, perhaps Fulmer just capitalized on pitching against two bad teams in San Francisco and Detroit. His next scheduled start should be against AL West champion Houston, so that might provide a better measure of Fulmer's progress.

The other positive sign? Moncada homered for the second straight game. The prized prospect has been swinging the bat better of late.

The bullpen combination of Al Alburquerque (0-2), Aaron Bummer and Juan Minaya coughed this game up by allowing a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, but what else would you expect from that group?

Saturday, Sept. 16
White Sox 10, Tigers 4: The Sox scored six runs in the first two innings and went on to total 17 hits in a lopsided win.

Anderson went 4 for 5 with two runs scored, Moncada collected two more hits, Nick Delmonico connected for his eighth home run of the season, and Abreu is up to 97 RBIs after he knocked in two more runs in this game.

The run support was useful for right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (2-3), who struggled early but settled in to throw seven innings. The Tigers got three off Lopez in the second inning, but only one the rest of the way.

Lopez, Fulmer and Lucas Giolito all have two wins each since being called up from Charlotte. All of them are at least contenders for rotation spots in the 2018 season.

Sunday, Sept. 17
Tigers 12, White Sox 0: We already talked about this terrible game, so can I just say Dylan Covey is NOT a contender for a rotation spot in the 2018 season and move on?

Thanks.

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, August 28, 2017

White Sox take two out of three from Detroit Tigers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

White Sox lose two of three to Kansas City Royals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alas, the lead did not stick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

As we all expected, White Sox sweep Astros

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

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

It wasn't looking good.

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

Go figure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Chris Sale vs. Jose Quintana: More batting practice than pitching duel

Chris Sale
The White Sox unexpectedly roughed up their former teammate, Chris Sale, on Tuesday night.

The Boston left-hander had his worst outing of the season, allowing six runs (five earned) on 10 hits with two walks. He needed 111 pitches just to get through five innings.

Yet Sale (6-2) got the win in Boston's 13-7 victory, because Sox left-hander Jose Quintana was even worse.

Quintana failed to get out of the third inning, allowing seven earned runs on 10 hits, including three home runs, over 2.2 innings. Two of the three homers were hit by a complete stiff, Boston No. 9 hitter Deven Marrero.

Marrero, a .194 hitter even after his Tuesday night outburst, had six RBIs through his first 62 plate appearances this season. He had five RBIs in two plate appearances against Quintana.

The Boston third baseman hit Quintana's final pitch of the night -- a sloppy, get-me-over 3-2 curveball -- for a three-run homer in the top of the third inning. The blast gave the Red Sox a 7-3 lead, and it was arguably the most poorly executed pitch I've seen from a Sox pitcher all season.

Just brutal.

Not that the Sox didn't fight back. They got one in the third on an RBI single by Tim Anderson and two in the fourth on a home run by Todd Frazier to cut Boston's lead to 7-6.

However, Dan Jennings failed to take advantage of a lefty-on-lefty matchup in the fifth, as Jackie Bradley took him deep for a three-run homer to put Boston ahead 10-6. The Sox didn't have another comeback in them after that.

Bradley, the No. 8 hitter in the Boston order, is hitting .214 this season. So, yeah, I'd say it was a night where the Sox were insistent on giving up three-run homers to the absolute worst hitters the Red Sox have to offer. It would be one thing if they were getting their brains beat in by Mookie Betts, who did have a solo home run Tuesday, but it was Bradley and Marrero who combined to beat the Sox.

Hard to accept.

And what the hell is wrong with Quintana, you ask? Well, all seven runs he allowed Tuesday night came with two outs. He can't extricate himself from innings; he can't get key outs when he's pitching out of the stretch. It's hard to be successful that way.

This season, opponents have a .316/.385/.611 slash line against Quintana when they have men on base. By way of comparison, opponents slashed .247/.309/.375 against Quintana with men on base last season.

Significant difference, isn't it? That's the crux of the problem: Quintana cannot execute any of his pitches from the stretch right now. His fastball command is off. His curve is hanging, and he's getting hurt -- even by poor hitters.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

White Sox recover to take three out of four from Seattle Mariners

Avisail Garcia
Now is the perfect time to have the Seattle Mariners come up on your schedule.

There isn't a team in the American League that has dealt with more key injuries than the Mariners. Seattle's best player, second baseman Robinson Cano (quadriceps), is on the disabled list. Eighty percent of the Mariners' starting rotation  -- Felix Hernandez (shoulder), Hisashi Iwakuma (shoulder), James Paxton (forearm) and Drew Smyly (elbow) -- also is on the disabled list.

Teams don't like to make excuses, and they often say injuries are not an excuse. The reality is a little different: If your best dudes get hurt, chances are you're gonna lose. And the Mariners lost three of four to the White Sox this weekend.

The Sox (20-22) took the final three games of the series, the last two in blowout fashion. Here's our recap of the weekend that was:

Friday, May 19
White Sox 2, Mariners 1 (10 inn.): It's well-known that Sox ace Jose Quintana has suffered from a lack of run support for years, and the same has held true this season. But, Quintana hasn't been pitching up to his capabilities as of late, as his 4.38 ERA coming into this game would attest. So, he's hasn't been quite as sympathetic of a figure as he has been in the past.

That changed in this game. It was back to business as usual for Quintana. He was brilliant over eight innings, allowing one run on only one hit. He struck out seven and walked one -- and got a no-decision. Typical.

Fortunately, while Quintana did not get the win, the Sox did. Melky Cabrera's two-out, RBI double on an 0-2 slider from Seattle's Tony Zych (2-1) plated the winning run in the top of the 10th inning.

Sox closer David Robertson (3-1) retired all six men he faced over two innings to pick up the win, which snapped a four-game losing streak for the Sox.

Saturday, May 20
White Sox 16, Mariners 1: I doubt the Sox will have a more lopsided win than this one all year. They jumped on Seattle starter Yovani Gallardo (2-4) for four runs in the first inning, highlighted by Avisail Garcia's three-run homer on a first-pitch curve ball, and never let up from there.

The South Siders pounded out 19 hits, and while we've still got three-quarters of a season left to play, it's getting harder and harder to overlook Garcia's performance. He became the first Sox player to total 12 bases in a game since Dan Johnson hit three home runs in the same game on the final day of the 2012 season. Garcia homered in each of his first two plate appearances, then added two doubles for good measure, as he finished 4 for 5 with six RBIs.

Garcia leads the Sox with 34 RBIs, and he is tied for the team lead in homers with eight.

Not even Mike Pelfrey (1-4) could lose this game. The erstwhile veteran pitched six innings of one-run ball to earn his first victory in six starts this season. If you get 16 runs of support, hey, you better win. That's about a whole month's worth of runs for Quintana, you know?

Sunday, May 21
White Sox 8, Mariners 1: Seattle called up right-hander Chris Heston to make his first start of the season, and let's just say it didn't go well. He walked the bases loaded in the first inning, and that led to a five-run outburst for the Sox.

The BABIP gods were with the South Siders in this one, as they got a couple solid base hits in the inning -- a two-run single by Yolmer Sanchez and an RBI single by Matt Davidson -- and two really cheap RBI infield singles -- one by Tim Anderson and the other by Kevan Smith.

Heston didn't deserve any luck, of course, because walking the bases loaded in the first inning is not a recipe for success.

Left-hander Derek Holland (4-3) has been the Sox's most consistent starting pitcher this season, and  he capitalized on having a 5-0 lead before he threw a single pitch with another strong outing. He went eight innings, allowing only a solo home run to Nelson Cruz. The veteran pounded the strike zone, throwing 70 of his 105 pitches for strikes, which is precisely what a pitcher should be doing with a big lead. He fanned six, walked only two and lowered his season ERA to 2.47.

Sanchez extended his hitting streak to 12 games with the first-inning single. Anderson added a solo home run in the third, his fifth of the year, and a three-hit performance raised his batting average to .264.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Better to fight back and lose than to lay down and die, right?

Tim Anderson
The White Sox trailed the Seattle Mariners, 4-0, after six innings Thursday night.

Is it wrong that I didn't get excited when they fought back to tie it up? I just figured they'd get walked off in the bottom of the ninth inning anyway, and they did, as Guillermo Heredia singled home Jarrod Dyson with the winning run to give Seattle a 5-4 victory.

The Sox (17-22) are now 0-4 on their current 10-game road trip, but we can't say the failure is for lack of trying.

The South Siders' rally from the four-run deficit started with a two-run homer by Matt Davidson in the top of the seventh. Todd Frazier and Tim Anderson hit back-to-back solo homers in the top of the eighth to even the score at 4, and get starting pitcher Dylan Covey off the hook.

We'll give Covey some credit -- he allowed four runs, but he got through six innings. That's more than we can say for Mike Pelfrey in any of his starts. Covey still gets demolished in the fifth inning, however, and Thursday was no different. Jean Segura hit a three-run homer off him in the fifth inning of this game, and opponents are hitting .538 and slugging 1.038 against Covey in the fifth.

Yuck.

But he's not the loser in this one. That would be left-handed reliever Dan Jennings (2-1), who couldn't work around two singles in the ninth. Sox killer Dyson, of course, was involved. He reached first base after his sacrifice bunt attempt resulted in a forceout at second base.

After a long at-bat and numerous throws over to first base, Carlos Ruiz hit a grounder to Frazier, who tried to start a 5-4-3 double play, only to see Dyson beat his throw to second. The Sox made the turn to first base to retire Ruiz, but that left Dyson in scoring position with two outs.

That set the table for Heredia to deliver the game-winning hit, and send the Sox to their 10 loss in their past 12 games.

But, I guess we should give the Sox some credit. It would have been easy to give away at-bats and just lose 4-0. We've seen previous Sox teams do just that. There are no moral victories in pro sports, but at least this team tries to win, even though they aren't good.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Soft contact costs White Sox closer David Robertson in dumb loss to Angels

David Robertson
Maybe it would have been easier if the White Sox had just lost Tuesday night's game against the Los Angeles Angels in nine innings.

Instead, they rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 5 and force extra innings. Then, they took the lead in the top of the 11th inning on Tim Anderson's home run, only to lose, 7-6, on a series of dumb occurrences in the bottom half of the inning.

I can't blame Sox closer David Robertson (2-1), who pitched a clean 10th inning and still appeared to have good stuff when he came out for the 11th. But some bad luck and clownish outfield defense conspired to hand him the loss.

Robertson gave up a single to Andrelton Simmons to start the inning, and the runner advanced to second on a passed ball by catcher Omar Narvaez. But Robertson was able to cut Simmons down at third base on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Danny Espinosa.

That took the tying run out of scoring position and greatly increased Robertson's chances of closing out the game. However, it was just not meant to be.

Ben Revere followed with a bloop single over the head of second baseman Yolmer Sanchez. Somehow neither of the two Garcias in the outfield -- Leury or Avisail -- got anywhere near the ball, and Robertson was right back into trouble with runners on first and second and one out.

He continued to make decent-to-good pitches, however, and got Cameron Maybin to pop up into shallow left field.

OK, I thought it was a pop up into shallow left field, but it turned into a game-tying "double." The ball hung in the air forever, but apparently Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera "slipped" on a wet patch of grass (in Southern California?!) and shortstop Anderson couldn't quite range far enough out into left field the make the play.

What should have been an easy second out ended up tying the game at 6 and placed runners at second and third for the best player in baseball, Mike Trout. The Sox wisely put Trout on first base and took their chances with Albert Pujols.

A ground ball likely produces an inning-ending double play in that situation, but the veteran Pujols instead hit a fly ball that would have been plenty deep to score the winning run from third base regardless, but the ball clanked off the face of Sox center fielder Leury Garcia for a game-winning "single," adding injury to insult for anyone who bothered to stay up late and watch this mess.

The Sox (17-20) have now lost eight out of 10 and fell to 4-10 in May after a 13-10 April.

Have I mentioned that I'm not worried about the possibility of the Sox being "too good" to qualify as a rebuilding team?

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.

Friday, April 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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