White Sox

White Sox end sloppy series, month with walk-off win over Mariners

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White Sox end sloppy series, month with walk-off win over Mariners

A plodding, poorly-played series between two fourth-place teams came to a fitting conclusion.

Tyler Saladino blooped an 11th inning walk-off single to net the White Sox a 6-5 win over the Seattle Mariners in front of 28,031 on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. The game only reached extra innings because of Mariners shortstop Brad Miller, who fired an errant throw toward first base on a routine ground ball with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, allowing Trayce Thompson to score the equalizing run.

In short: Had Miller made an accurate throw, the game would’ve been over. There’s a reason the Mariners (61-70) have vastly underperformed expectations this year — but then again, so have the White Sox (61-68).

“That’s part of playing the game, play it all the way out,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You never know what’s going to happen. It has happened to us. We shot ourselves in the foot too.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Ventura, White Sox playing coy as September call-ups near]

The White Sox had to battle back twice from Kyle Seager-induced deficits. The Mariners third baseman ripped a two-run home run in the first off White Sox starter Jose Quintana, then in the eighth delivered a go-ahead RBI single off Zach Duke.

After Morrison’s two errors gave a run back to the White Sox in the bottom of the first, Austin Jackson launched a two-run homer in the second to give the Mariners an early 4-1 cushion.

The White Sox fought back in the fourth, plating two runs against erratic Seattle starter Edgar Olmos on Saladino’s RBI double and Adam Eaton’s run-scoring groundout. Melky Cabrera’s ninth home run of the season leveled the score in the bottom of the seventh, but Duke allowed a two-out triple to Jackson and Seager’s go-ahead single in the top of the eighth.

Quintana lasted 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on nine hits with three walks and eight strikeouts. It was his shortest outing since the Detroit Tigers tagged him for nine runs in four innings April 19.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox adjust rotation, Samardzija unlikely to pitch vs. Royals]

The White Sox finished August with a 12-16 record, hardly what the organization hoped for when it decided to hang on to Jeff Samardzija and even considered buying at the trade deadline a month ago. The American League wild card race is fickle — Cleveland is on a five-game winning streak and is only five games out of a playoff spot — but the White Sox will need a scorching September to move from the periphery of the playoff race.

“I think if we stay consistent in the way we approach the game we’ll be fine, but it’s just been a real roller coaster for us and with any team, a roller coaster is not a good thing,” outfielder Adam Eaton said. “We’re just going to take it into September, stay on an even keep and try to be consistent. The pitching has been consistent, but our hitting needs to be more consistent and be there every day. When we get punched like we did today, we need to punch back and that’s big. We don’t lay down. Consistency will be a big key in September for us.”

Still, the White Sox haven’t been consistent for five months and 128 games. If this team can find it next month, maybe they can climb into an aggressively mediocre AL wild card race.

But if not, the clock will strike midnight on the White Sox season awfully quickly, if it hasn't already.

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: