White Sox

Sox fail with sacks packed, fall to second place


Sox fail with sacks packed, fall to second place

Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010Updated 11:37 PM

By Brett Ballantini

The Chicago White Sox picked a bad time to revert to their 2009 form.

Tuesday night's romp by the Minnesota Twins was, in Juan Pierre parlance, an old-fashioned butt whipping, aided by Freddy Garcia's generous, batting-practice hurling. And Wednesdays 6-1 triumph by the White Sox was an exploitation of a rare lapse in fundamentals by Minnesota, and by game's end injury added to insult as three Twins left the locker room in slings.

And Thursday? Well, Thursday was a 6-1 Chicago loss of potentially staggering proportions.

First, it was reminiscent of past Chisox seasons of fundamental futility, as the Sox packed the sacks three times in the first six innings and came away with just one run. Of seven batters to come to the plate in an attempt to drive home some of the easiest runs possible, only A.J. Pierzynski in the first, with a swinging bunt down the third-base line that was seemingly destined to swerve foul, tapped in a run.

Not that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was overly concerned, instead accenting what his club did accomplish against Twins ace Francisco Liriano.

"We had a lot of opportunities, a lot of people on base in almost every inning," Guillen said. "We had our big guys up to hit with the bases loaded and couldn't get anything done."

Second, Chicago played a sloppy game, including a run-scoring balk by White Sox starter Gavin Floyd, failure to cover second on a steal attempt, poor outfield throws and indecisive baserunning.

Guillen had an off-night as well, with overly-cautious sacrifice bunting and making the curious decision to walk Twins catcher Joe Mauer with two out in the seventh, Chicago down just 3-1, then failing to bring in southpaw Chris Sale (and not even warm up lefty ace Matt Thornton) to face lefthanded Sox killer Jason Kubel.

Floyd had blown past 120 pitches and wasn't at his sharpest even from the get-go, so it was hardly a shock when Kubel doubled Minny's runs with a three-run, opposite field bomb.

"Gavin was throwing the ball well," Guillen said, adding that he had no thought of removing Floyd from the game when he made a mound visit prior to the Kubel at-bat, but merely wanted to give his righthander a breather. "I didnt even ask him how he felt. I wanted to give him an opportunity to finish the game. He threw a bad pitch, a breaking ball right over the plate."

"I just have to throw a better pitch there," said Floyd, conceding that he didn't feel as sharp as usual in this game. "It broke pretty well, but Kubel made adjustments all game and got a good part of the bat on the ball."

While coming into the season with a rough career mark vs. Chicago, Liriano has been splendid this season against the White Sox, upping his 2010 record to 2-1 with a 2.83 ERA courtesy of one-run, four-strikeout ball.

"We were facing a good pitcher," Guillen said. "He was throwing those sliders, and we couldn't do anything against them."

"He's usually effectively wild and gets a lot of swings and misses with his slider," first baseman Paul Konerko said. "You're hoping he hangs one, because you just need one good mistake to hit."

With the game out of hand, Guillen trotted out Bobby Jenks for a rehab ninth inning in an effort to reposition him as the closer, and even that didn't work out according to plan; Jenks left the game with back spasms after recording just one out. The burly righthander is considered day-to-day and is unlikely to see action in this weekends series vs. the Detroit Tigers.

Overall, the White Sox played not to fall into second place, rather than fighting to take back sole possession of first. In spite of another flat effort against their rivals up north (Chicago is now 4-8 vs. the Twins on the season), chins were up in the clubhouse and the team is looking toward Friday for a shot at redemption.

"It's just one game," Konerko said. "Now, one game can win or lose a division, and one game can be made up in just 24 hours. No one in here is getting down.

"This is the position we want to be in, playing meaningful games in the middle of August. There's a lot of baseball to be played, and we all know that."

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

White Sox name James Shields as Opening Day starter

White Sox name James Shields as Opening Day starter

The White Sox have announced who will toe the rubber when the season begins later this month.

As expected, James Shields will be the team's Opening Day starting pitcher when the White Sox kick off the 2018 campaign against the Kansas City Royals on March 29 at Kauffman Stadium.

The starting rotation's elder statesman at 36, Shields seemed the logical pick for the first start of the season.

It's been a rough go for the one-time All Star since he came to the South Side in a trade with the San Diego Padres in the summer of 2016. In two seasons with the White Sox, he's got a 5.99 ERA with 181 strikeouts and 58 home runs allowed in 231.1 innings. Last season, he made 21 starts, finishing with a 5.23 ERA and 103 strikeouts and 27 home runs allowed in 117 innings.

While that trade still smarts considering the player the White Sox gave up, Fernando Tatis Jr., is currently ranked as the No. 8 prospect in baseball, Shields brings plenty of value to the 2018 rotation as a veteran mentor for young major leaguers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, as well as pitchers making their way to the big leagues like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen and Dylan Cease.

If Shields could rediscover some of the magic that made him a great pitcher during his best years with the Tampa Bay Rays and the aforementioned Royals, with whom he made World Series trips in 2008 and 2014, respectively, and have a strong couple months out of the chute, he could provide Rick Hahn's front office with a midseason trade piece, someone who could potentially fetch a prospect or two that could help advance the franchise's rebuilding efforts.

The Royals have announced that it will be Danny Duffy opposing Shields on Opening Day.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?

What’s there to know about the Houston Astros?

They’re the best, that’s what there is to know.

The Astros are the defending world champions for a multitude of reasons, and it’s all those and more that will have them as a favorite to repeat in 2018. Yes, the Cubs and New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians will all have something to say about that. But right now, no team is better on paper than the team the just won the big enchilada not five months ago.

The best 1-2 starting-pitching in combo in baseball? It belongs to the Astros. Justin Verlander was sensational for them after coming over in a late-summer trade with the Detroit Tigers. All he did was post a 1.06 ERA in five regular-season starts and a 2.21 ERA in six postseason outings. Justin Verlander. Again. And then there’s his running mate Dallas Keuchel — who doesn’t like the Cubs very much, apparently — has been just as good. He had a 2.90 ERA last year and won the American League Cy Young in 2015 with a 2.48 ERA and 20 wins.

Get past those guys and you’ll have to face the new guy. Gerrit Cole is now an Astro, as well, the reigning champs bolstering their already excellent rotation by importing one of the National League’s best pitchers. Cole saw his numbers jump last year (4.26 ERA) but still almost had 200 strikeouts and now has a much better roster around him than the one he left in Pittsburgh.

Charlie Morton? He threw four one-run innings in Game 7 of the World Series. Lance McCullers? He had 2.1 shutout innings in Game 7 of the World Series. This rotation is a force that could mow down the AL. There are questions, sure, but this five is entering 2018 as the best collection of arms in the Junior Circuit.

And we haven’t even gotten to the hitting. Oh, the hitting! The Astros scored 34 runs in seven World Series games. They banged out 56 hits. They hit 15 home runs. This after they were baseball’s best offense during the regular season.

The names are obvious to anyone who watched the postseason. Jose Altuve, surely tired of all the short jokes, is arguably the best player in baseball, and he won the AL MVP last season with a ridiculous .346/.410/.547 slash line. Carlos Correa, perhaps baseball’s best young shortstop, had a .315/.391/.550 slash line. George Springer, your World Series MVP, hit 34 regular-season home runs and got on base at a .367 clip before hitting five homers and slashing .379/.471/.1.000 in the Fall Classic.

Then there’s Alex Bregman and Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez, who were all very good to great in 2017. They shouldn’t all be expected to do what they did last season — you need look no further than the Cubs to see what a deep World Series run can do to a team, especially early. But is there a better lineup than this in the AL? Anyone? Bueller?

It’s hard to repeat, and “hard” is becoming one heck of an understatement considering no one’s repeated in almost two decades. The Yankees last did it when they beat the broken-bat-throwing Mike Piazza and the New York Mets in the 2000 World Series. Since then, no one’s done it twice in a row.

Last year, most of us looked at the Cubs and said, “They have the best team, they are favorites to do it again.” And then they were not even in first place in the NL Central at the All-Star break. A similar fate could await the Astros. But right now, they look like the best team the AL has to offer.

Houston, you are clear for takeoff ... again.

2017 record: 101-61, first place in AL West, World Series champions

Offseason additions: Gerrit Cole, , Joe Smith, Hector Rondon

Offseason departures: Carlos Beltran, Cameron Maybin, Mike Fiers, Tyler Clippard, Luke Gregerson, Francisco Liriano

X-factor: The Astros now count one-time Cubs closer Hector Rondon among their relievers now, but the X-factor pick here is Bregman. After a fine but nothing special first half, he was one of baseball's best after the All-Star break last year, slashing .315/.367/.536 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs in 71 games in the second half.

Projected lineup:

1. George Springer, CF
2. Alex Bregman, 3B
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Josh Reddick, RF
6. Marwin Gonzalez, 1B
7. Brian McCann, C
8. Evan Gattis, DH
9. Derek Fisher, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Justin Verlander
2. Dallas Keuchel
3. Gerrit Cole
4. Lance McCullers
5. Charlie Morton

Prediction: First place in AL West

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants