White Sox

Adam Eaton's big night lifts White Sox over Tigers in 12

Adam Eaton's big night lifts White Sox over Tigers in 12

They committed three errors, appeared to be blown out early, trailed by two in the ninth inning and twice walked themselves into bases-loaded jams.

But somehow, the White Sox overcame themselves.

Adam Eaton’s fourth hit Monday night, a single past a drawn-in infield, propelled the White Sox to a highly improbable 10-9 comeback victory over the Detroit Tigers in 12 innings in front 16,314 at U.S. Cellular Field. A leadoff man in each of his previous 338 White Sox games, Eaton reached base five times batting in the second spot and had a sacrifice fly as his club won for only the ninth time in 31 games. Jose Abreu and Dioner Navarro both homered as the White Sox rebounded from another poor outing by starting pitcher James Shields, who allowed seven runs in five innings.

“It’s huge,” Eaton said. “To claw back the way we did, especially in the ninth to tie it up, it’s a huge win for the team. We can hopefully hop on this wave and ride it a little bit. We’ve had so much go against us, some bad luck here and there, and some stretches that have been tough here recently.

“You could kind of feel the momentum shift to us.”

The White Sox had very little in their favor when they trailed 7-0 after 2 1/ 2 innings courtesy of another rough turn from Shields and two errors, including one from the pitcher that wiped out a potential inning-ending double play and led to a run.

Their win expectancy at that point was 3.7 percent, according to fangraphs.com. Even after they had rallied back to within two runs by the ninth, the chances of a White Sox victory were still a miniscule 8.6 percent.

But they pieced together a two-out, game-tying rally against Francisco Rodriguez with key, two-out RBI singles by Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia.

Three action-packed innings later, including David Robertson pitching out of a bases-loaded jam and Zach Duke retiring J.D. Martinez on a fly ball to the wall, the White Sox found themselves in prime position to steal a victory. J.B. Shuck doubled down the right-field line and advanced to third on a Tim Anderson bunt. Eaton’s single up the middle off Anibal Sanchez sent his teammates into a frenzied state.

“The most important thing guys were trying to do was have good at-bats and keep chipping away,” said bench coach Rick Renteria, who took over after manager Robin Ventura was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing balls and strikes. “Robin and (Todd Steverson) had a talk with the guys (Monday) about just grinding out at-bats and not worrying about results because results are obviously an outcome and I thought today they did a really nice job of doing that.”

Trailing 7-0, Eaton and Abreu gave the White Sox life in the third.

Eaton came back from a 1-2 count to work a one-out walk and Abreu crushed a two-run homer — his second in two days — to make it a five-run deficit. One inning later, Navarro’s solo homer made it 7-3.

Eaton, Melky Cabrera and Abreu all singled in the fifth inning with the first baseman’s driving in a run. Abreu’s three RBIs were his most since May 3 and matched his season high.  

Todd Frazier had an RBI groundout and Lawrie, who had three hits, singled in a run to make it a 7-6 game.

Down two again, Eaton’s sac fly in the sixth made it an 8-7 game though the White Sox stranded a pair on Abreu’s comebacker.

Detroit added an insurance run in the ninth when Melky Cabrera’s two-base error on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s single led to a run. Jose Iglesias put down a successful squeeze to put the Tigers ahead 9-7.

But the White Sox continued to rally. Lawrie singled in Melky Cabrera and Garcia worked the count full after taking two quick strikes and singled in Frazier.

They didn’t give up on Shields, either, even as he surrendered seven runs in a second consecutive start.

His second pitch Monday resulted in an Ian Kinsler leadoff homer, the fourth Shields has yielded with the White Sox. Two batters later, Garcia kicked away Miguel Cabrera’s double, which led to a run and J.D. Martinez singled in another to make it 3-0. It was the first of three balls misplayed by Garcia in right.

Shields’ second inning included a walk, a wild pitch and two stolen bases, after which he trailed by six runs. The pitcher’s throwing error with one out in the third wiped out a double play and led to a Kinsler sac fly.

Shields loaded the bases again in the fourth with a pair of walks. But he escaped the jam — his first scoreless frame since the trade — and also retired the side in order in the fifth.

“Ever since I got in this clubhouse, these guys have wanted it,” Shields said. “The vibe in here, I said before, has been amazing. And these guys want it so to be able to come out on top is pretty special.”

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: