White Sox

Floyd's brilliance gives Sox series win over Rays

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Floyd's brilliance gives Sox series win over Rays

Sunday, April 10, 2011
Posted: 3:24 p.m. Updated: 5:25 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGOApril hasnt been the kindest month to Chicago White Sox starter Gavin Floyd.

While hes had an occasional flash of greatness early, historically, the opening month of the season has been Floyds hardest-hit. Choose your measure over his 25 career games in the opening montha mere 1.27 KBB, a .360 OPB, .463 SLG, 118 OPS, 6.24 ERA, or 1.61 WHIPApril and Floyd arent close friends.

That is, until todays series finale vs. the Tamp Bay Rays, where Floyd spun simply his most spectacular April game yetand that includes a 2008 one-hitter vs. the Detroit Tigers. With eight innings pitched, eight strikeouts against four hits and a walk in earning the 6-1 win, Floyds first of the year, the young righthander was simply spectacular.

Watch: Ozzie on Floyd's brilliance

Its the best he threw the ball in a while, a playful White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. The last outing, he struggled in the first couple of innings. Then after that, he was greatall the way through today. He was aggressive, threw strikes, and his breaking ball was working. He kept the ball down and thats the key.

Floyd, with his customary compaction, boiled it down: You want to throw strikes, and just attack and try to get quick outs.

Using Bill James game score measure (which objectively adds points for things like strikeouts and outs recorded, subtracts for hits and runs), Floyd turned in an 79 on Sundaywhich is a significant uptick on his prior high, a 76 set back with that one-hitter on April 12, 2008.

Floyd is as straightforward a hurler as they come and is unlikely to have any use for sabermetrics, but undoubtedly his strong start will spur him through the rest of his cruelest month.

In support of Floyd was the Captain, Paul Konerko, who tapped out two longballs to carry the White Sox to a 6-1 win and helped spur the White Sox to a quick 5-0 lead through three.

But just because a pitcher is handed a win on a platter doesnt mean its easy for him to execute it, says the King.

Gavin was great but just because we gave him some early runs doesnt mean its easy, Konerko said. They have a team that likes to swing the bat, so when you have a lead of four or five runs it can turn really quick. So obviously Gavin was making quality pitches because they were still swinging the bat and he was keeping them from making good contact.

The White Sox have rocked their way through the first nine games of the season, piling up a 6-3 record that was one Friday ninth from 7-2. The club is batting .307, with a rowdy .485 slugging percentage and tidy .367 on-base.

Watch: Beckham says Floyd was awesome

The thing that comes out of today is were having fun out there, said Gordon Beckham, who homered in the Chicago 9s second at-bat. Obviously, we lost so many games last year early, it was miserable to come to the park. We show up to the park now and were excited to play, and were playing well. Everybodys swinging the bat well and the pitchings been great. Its a great starthow many games have we played? Nine. Well, thats good.

Konerko cited Beckham, along with leadoff man Juan Pierre (both of whom got off to insipid starts in 2010), as the stars of the 6-3 start.

The two guys at the top of the lineup, if I had to pick one thing, that would be it, he said. Right from the word go this year, theyve been getting on base, having good at-bats, and making it tough on the other team. That makes it easier for us guys in the middle, because when you get guys out there and its happening and you can tell theyre feeling good, you dont put a bunch of pressure on yourself in any one given situation Right from the get-go in Cleveland they got it going, and havent stopped yet.

PK came up big, Guillen said. The base hit by A.J. Pierzynski, pushing the lead to 5-0 with two outs was huge. It gave the team a lift. We have been playing good and swinging the bat good. Hopefully we can carry on.

How the rotation turns

It was the ballyhooed White Sox rotation that took the blame for the teams slow start, scuttling any real hope of a playoff berth. This year, the five hurlers seem to have gotten the message.

I think so, Guillen said. Its a nice competition, especially every time I start with Mark Buehrle. Everybody kind of struggled early, but they settled down and did a tremendous job. The starting rotation has been great. Thats the reason our bullpen is doing what they are doing right nowthe rotation has been throwing the ball very well. We expect that. We have good arms out there.

Floyd, the final starter of the core four to get his second start of the season, agrees.

Watch: Floyd knew he had to go out and do his job

Compared to last year, I guess its nicewe got off to a real good start in Cleveland and were just kind of rolling with it. Anytime you win a couple games, you feel good. You want to go out there, theres definitely momentum, and you push each other. We definitely feel they put a real good club together and everybody in the clubhouse thinks that, so I think we can do great things.

Long live the King
With his clouts in the first and fifth, Konerko not only helped up his offensive splits on the young season to .400.463.686 but notched his 28th career multihomer game. He also extended his hitting streak to 10 games (dating to the last game of 2010).
Watch: Konerko talks about his strong start

I felt good today, the Captain said. Ive been hitting some balls hard, but hooking the ball and kind of getting around some pitches that normally I would get up in the air and drive with some carry. I did that today.

Interestingly, Konerkos best offensive output of the season wasnt shaping up that way.

I really wasnt feeling good before the game, he said. Hitting coach Greg Walker actually grabbed me and gave me something in the cage. I have to give him some credit because before the game I didnt have a good feel. I was kind of a mess and he kind of gave me a tip and it seemed to click.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant: Now this is the show South Side fans have been waiting for

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AP

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant: Now this is the show South Side fans have been waiting for

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant sound like characters from your kid’s favorite show (or your favorite show, if you happen to be a kid).

But instead they’re the duo South Side baseball fans have been waiting for.

You might know them better as the Cuban Connection, an alliterative and far less confusing nickname that describes Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu, who in Monday night’s 10-4 win over the visiting Seattle Mariners combined for seven hits, three home runs, a double, a triple, six runs scored and four RBIs.

It was a welcome sight after the White Sox offense slumbered through a weekend series with the Houston Astros in which they mustered just two runs. Heck, this offense has been hard to find during the entire month of April. Entering Monday, it’d produced just 16 runs in its last seven games (with 11 of those coming in a single contest).

But then came Monday’s show, in which Abreu launched a pair of homers and Moncada came a single short of hitting for the cycle. That had to be a proud moment for Abreu, who’s taken his countryman under his wing since Moncada arrived in the majors last summer.

“I’m really mad at him because he had two chances to do it and he couldn’t,” Abreu joked with the help of a translator. “Seriously, I’m really happy for him. I know today was a special game for him. I know he couldn’t hit for the cycle today. But he’s going to have more chances in the future. He’s going to be good.”

This is what White Sox fans have been hoping for. It’s what they’re still waiting for, considering much of that oft-discussed team of the future is still developing in the minor leagues. But Moncada is the story of 2018 at the major league level, how development will continue for the player White Sox fans drooled over at this time last year, when he was ranked as baseball’s top prospect.

Moncada got a lot of early attention for his high strikeout total, and with another punch out Monday he’s now got 34 on the season, still one of the highest totals in the league. But his numbers are looking good in many other facets. He raised his batting average .026 points Monday alone, and he’s now slashing .240/.345/.493 on the still-young season.

Abreu, of course, is the White Sox best hitter and has been ever since he arrived from Cuba before the 2014 season. For a team in such an offensive rut, Abreu’s four-hit night Monday raised his batting average up over .300, to .308. He’s now got six homers on the season, the most on the team and one of the higher totals in the American League. While Moncada and others will spend 2018 showing the White Sox what they will be in the future, this was expected from a guy who’s been one of baseball’s most consistent hitters in the last half decade.

But the future comes into play with Abreu, too, whose consistency at the plate and his presence in the clubhouse as a mentor to Moncada and other young players make him as believable a part of those planned future contenders as any of the organization’s highly rated prospects. A contract decision will need to be made at some point, obviously, but the White Sox will tell you any day of the week how much they value Abreu, who knows exactly where this franchise is and is excited as anyone about where it’s going.

“Everybody knows we are in the process, and everybody knows what this process is about,” Abreu said. “We have a lot of young talent, a lot of young players. They are going to hit some bumps and have some struggles as a team. But I think we all know how we have to play this game. (Manager Rick Renteria) has taught us how to play this game, how to play this game representing the White Sox organization and how they play this game.

“I feel really happy. We prove today that we are able to play a good game and to show the rest how we win games. That is the way we like to play.”

Monday was a bright spot in what’s been an otherwise very tough start to the 2018 campaign. But for a team where the future is what matters most, this is what fans have been waiting to see. A game like this might not be commonplace as the summer rolls on on the South Side. But for those dreaming about Moncada and Abreu teaming to lead those contenders of the future, this was one heck of a glimpse into the crystal ball.

“That’s our goal to have big games together for this team,” Moncada said. “Having the opportunity to play with Abreu — ‘The Big Elephant’ as we call him in Cuba — it’s good for me. It’s a big honor. I feel really happy when we have these kinds of games.”

Yoan Moncada nearly hits for the cycle, Jose Abreu hits two homers and the White Sox finally break out the bats

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AP

Yoan Moncada nearly hits for the cycle, Jose Abreu hits two homers and the White Sox finally break out the bats

So, anyone out there still worried about Yoan Moncada?

The White Sox second baseman, who at this time last year was the top-ranked prospect in baseball, was the subject of much social-media frustration through the season's first few weeks. But it's safe to say he's "redeemed" himself in the eyes of fretting fans.

Monday night, he led the White Sox offensive eruption with a three-hit night that brought him just a single shy of the cycle in a 10-4 win over the visiting Seattle Mariners.

Moncada started the offensive outburst with a leadoff triple in the bottom of the first inning. He doubled to start the bottom of the second and launched a solo homer to begin the bottom of the fourth. He scored all three times.

Moncada entered the game with a .214/.329/.400 slash line, though he's been hot of late. In the last seven games, he's got nine hits, six extra-base hits and three homers. He still has 34 strikeouts on the season, one of the highest totals in the majors, but he's putting up some good numbers elsewhere.

Abreu also had a red-hot Monday night, picking up four hits with a couple of homers, the 12th time he's bashed multiple long balls in a single game.

It was quite the performance for a White Sox offense that has mostly been quiet so far in 2018. They scored just two total runs in three straight blowout losses against the Houston Astros over the weekend. And while they plated 11 in that 14-inning marathon in Oakland, the three road games prior to that featured a grand total of three runs.

Monday night that all changed with the White Sox banging out 18 hits, including seven straight to start the bottom of the first, the first time that happened in the big leagues in four years.