White Sox

Chris Sale cruises as White Sox top Blue Jays

Chris Sale cruises as White Sox top Blue Jays

Justin Timberlake, Drake and Desiigner were among the musical choices on Sunday. But over the last week, the White Sox have been able to blast plenty of celebratory songs in their clubhouse with regularity, representing an audible change from the postgame silence that largely accompanied a stretch of 26 losses in 36 games that looks to be in the rearview mirror. 

Chris Sale delivered eight strong innings to pace the White Sox to a 5-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays Sunday afternoon in front of 28,345 at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox, who took three of four from the Boston Red Sox last week at Fenway Park, last won back-to-back series from April 22-27 against the Texas Rangers and Blue Jays. 

“You look at the teams we went up against too, Boston and Toronto, those are two of the best in the league,” Sale said, referring to both of the American League’s wild card leaders. “... This is what we needed. Stuff like this is what makes you turn the corner. 

“We’ve been listening to some music lately and it’s been fun.”

Sale scattered five hits and two walks and was the recipient of some solid defense behind him. Right fielder Adam Eaton threw out Josh Donaldson at second base in the first inning when the reigning American League MVP tried to stretch a line drive off the wall into a double, and a sterling double play turned by third baseman Tyler Saladino and second baseman Brett Lawrie erased a Donaldson single in the seventh. 

Troy Tulowitzki and Junior Lake both blasted solo home runs in the top of the eighth, but that was the only damage Toronto was able to inflict against Sale. 

The 27-year-old only sprinkled six strikeouts throughout the afternoon as he consistently pounded the strike zone. His efficiency was welcome news for a relief corps that’s had to cover plenty of stressful outs and innings over the last few weeks. 

Only David Robertson — who earned his 20th save — had to jog in from the left field bullpen on Sunday. 

“The way the bullpen was, (Sale) was fantastic today,” manager Robin Ventura said. 

“It’s nice, it’s refreshing, it’s needed,” reliever Zach Duke said. “What (Sale) did today is huge for all of us. To have a guy like that helps everybody.”

Sale only threw 99 pitches, but the home runs he allowed in the eighth inning — which were followed by a walk to Darwin Barney — led Ventura to pull his starter three outs shy of a complete game. 

“He had really good command today with all of his pitches working in and out,” catcher Alex Avila said. “He changed speeds really well with his fastball today along with the great command. He was throwing strikes, a lot of strikes, today, and he did a great job.”

Sale was supported by some opportunistic baserunning from Eaton and Saladino, a scorching Melky Cabrera (who went 3-4 with an RBI) and solo home runs off the bats of Tim Anderson and J.B. Shuck. 

The White Sox improved to 13-3 in games started by Sale, who also became baseball’s first 13-game winner on Sunday. Even during a lengthy nadir from mid-May through the end of last weekend’s sweep in Cleveland, Sale won five games — half the team’s total from May 10 through June 19. 

But the White Sox feel like their arrow is pointing up after winning five of their last seven games against Boston and Toronto. Sale made sure on Sunday this newfound era of good feelings wasn’t going to meet a premature end. 

“It’s just a sign we’re starting to get back on the right track,” Shuck said. “We’re playing the baseball we want to play.”

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

GLENDALE, AZ --  There’s a different Tim Anderson at White Sox spring training this year.

You can see it on his face  You can hear it in his voice.

“I’m busting out of the shell. I’m talking more,” he said as he sat down for an interview with NBC Sports Chicago (in the video above).

It’s not the new Tim Anderson. It turns out, it’s the real one that’s been there all along.

“This is me. It’s always been me. I never knew how to express myself. I feel like I’m being a lot more open,” Anderson explained. “That’s what I want to give to fans. Let them know the real me. You’re cheering for me. Why not know me? I’m being open and kind of let fans into my life.”

The White Sox shortstop has learned a lot about life in the past year. It all started in May when the White Sox were in Baltimore to play the Orioles. Anderson received a phone call at 4 a.m. It was news from back home.

It was the worst phone call of his life.

His best friend Branden Moss had been murdered in the parking lot of a Tuscaloosa, Ala., bar after helping the victim of a fight.  

The two were like brothers. Anderson is the godfather to Moss’s young daughter. Moss was the godfather to Anderson’s 2-year-old daughter.

“It was heartbreaking,” Anderson said.

While Anderson grieved, playing baseball seemed like it would be a perfect escape for his pain. Only it wasn’t. Far from it.  Baseball might have made things even worse.

In fast-paced sports like football and hockey, players don’t have much time to think. It’s react, react, react. Whatever might be happening off the field feels like a million miles away.

Not in baseball.

The game moves at a much slower speed. There’s plenty of time for your mind to wander. Thoughts kept going back to Anderson’s lost friend, taken from him in an instant.

At 23, he didn’t have the tools to deal with the emotional pain and excel at baseball at the same time.

“The year was rough. I wasn’t having fun in between the lines. I was making the game harder than it was. I was thinking too much. I was feeling sorry for myself and the list can go on. When my friend died it definitely took a lot out of me. I had a dark moment,” Anderson said. “Some days I didn’t feel comfortable coming to the ballpark because I knew it was going to be a bad day.”

Making matters worse, there were many nights when Anderson didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Still, he dragged himself to the ballpark and somehow tried to play.

The results weren’t pretty. On June 22, Anderson already had 16 errors at shortstop, most in the majors. At the plate, he was hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.

He knew he was better than that. He also knew something else: He needed help.

In July, Anderson started meeting with a therapist who was able to unlock the pent up thoughts and emotions that he was burying inside him.

The therapist would write down everything that Anderson was feeling on paper and then read it back to him.

“Just going in and talking and pouring everything out of you. It lets you hear what you’ve been going through,“ Anderson said. “When she did it, it was a lot. I took what she read to me, balled it up and threw it away. I got lighter. It was a brightening. Those counseling sessions definitely helped me.”

Soon, Anderson was back to being himself both on and off the field.

In the month of August, he had 8 doubles, 5 home runs and 16 RBI.

“Woof. I was hot,” he said after hearing those stats. “That’s Tim. That’s more Tim that we need to see.”

In September, he batted .327 with 3 home runs and 9 stolen bases.

“We need a lot of that this year. That’s the way I want to go. That’s the way I want to go about it. Get back to what got me here.”

There was still an issue with his plate discipline. He had 32 strikeouts and only 1 walk in September.

“We play a tough sport as it is. They’re going to come,” Anderson said about the walks. “I mean, when I walk more, what are you going to tell me? ‘Start swinging more?’ It’s one of those things. It’s a give and take. We’ll see what happens.”

In 2017, Anderson received a crash course in adversity. What did he learn from all that pain and misery?

“Tough times happen, but they don’t last forever.”

Now that he’s survived the personal storm from last season, he wants “another shot at it. I feel like last year went left. This is new season.”

So, what does he envision for himself in 2018?

“Having fun, smiling a lot, picking up my teammates, hugging on the coaches and players. A lot of love, more so than stats,” Anderson said. “I’m fired up. I’m excited. I feel like I’m ready to lead this pack. We got a great group of guys. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

The White Sox top pitching prospect sits down with Chuck Garfien for a revealing interview at spring training. Kopech says he almost quit the game after he got into a fight with a Red Sox minor league teammate in 2016. He goes in-depth about his desire to be great, why meditating makes him a better pitcher, his failed PED test in 2015, comparisons to Justin Verlander, possibly becoming the future ace of the White Sox and much more.