Nicky Delmonico

Nicky Delmonico's walk-off homer took him back to high school

Nicky Delmonico's walk-off homer took him back to high school

He’d only done it once before, but the instant Nicky Delmonico hit his walk-off homer on Wednesday night it took him right back.

The White Sox rookie added another highlight to a strong first season when he lifted his club to a 6-4 victory in 10 innings over the Los Angeles Angels with a two-run homer. Delmonico’s round-tripper off pitcher Blake Parker eliminated the Angels from the wild-card race. He said the moment was similar to when Delmonico blasted a game-winning home run in the 2010 Tennessee high school state title game.

“It’s pretty high up there,” Delmonico said. “Obviously, the biggest moment was being called up. But to be able to do that is something you dream about in the backyard.

“It kind of felt something similar (to the high school championship). Same pitch, too. It brought back memories.”

Delmonico has created a number of new memories in this his first season with the White Sox. He made his major league debut on Aug. 1 and reached base in a Sox record 13 straight games and 21 of 22 overall. While he had slowed down recently  -- he was 10 for his last 63 (.159)  in his previous 21 games -- Delmonico has turned in several nice plays in the field of late.

But his bat has begun to pick up again in the final week. Delmonico, who had two hits and two RBIs in Monday’s win, finished with three hits on Wednesday, including an RBI double in fourth inning.

None was bigger, however, than his two-run shot off Parker. Delmonico got ahead 2-1 in the count and with Avisail Garcia on second ripped a split-fingered fastball out to right.

“It was a nice moment,” manager Rick Renteria said.

Delmonico last accomplished a similar moment during his junior season at Farragut High School (Knoxville, Tenn.). On May 28, 2010, Delmonico lifted Farragut to a 3-1 victory over Houston High with a two-run shot in the seventh inning. While this one meant far more to the Minnesota Twins than his own team, Delmonico enjoyed the moment as well as the follow-up ice bath and beer shower equally.

“I can’t even describe it in words,” Delmonico said. “It’s awesome. It’s something you dream about and I guess it doesn’t really feel real right now. It was just an awesome moment for my teammates and me.

“It was just one of those where you just hope it goes out. I thought I got it good enough but I didn’t know until it went out.”

“It definitely felt like that moment in high school.”

Reynaldo Lopez makes best of outing despite White Sox poor defense

Reynaldo Lopez makes best of outing despite White Sox poor defense

Reynaldo Lopez’s defense didn’t do him any favors on Wednesday night, but he managed the situation as best as possible.

The White Sox rookie starting pitcher limited the red-hot Cleveland Indians to a run despite four misplays behind him in six innings. Lopez earned his team’s lone atta boy of the night from manager Rick Renteria for his ability to overcome lousy White Sox play in a 5-1 loss to the Indians at Guaranteed Rate Field. Even though he had to pitch with additional traffic courtesy of a poor defense and it ran up his pitch count, Lopez somehow managed to keep the White Sox within striking distance.

“Even though the numbers were still good he did better than that,” Renteria said. “We should have caught the ball on more plays. It would have allowed us possibly for him to get a little deeper, but he had to make more pitches because of those miscues. We talked to our guys about that. The physical errors don’t bother you as much what precipitated them. Is it lack of focus? What is it? We had to deal with those truths also. We dealt with those today. It will be a great lesson to get better. Those kids want to do very, very well. We say it every day. They’re not looking to fail, but today as far as (Lopez) is concerned, for what he did his numbers could have been better.”

Lopez rarely got any breaks in his fourth start of the season.

With one on and one out in the first, Matt Davidson misplayed a slow roller that went right through his legs into a two-base error. But as he would many times on Wednesday, Lopez sharpened his focus and escaped the inning with a pair of pop outs.

[MORE: Why elite prospects Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez could force White Sox to abandon patient approach

An inning later, Tyler Saladino couldn’t cleanly field a grounder up the middle -- it would have gone for an inning-ending double play -- and Tyler Naquin turned it into a double. Lopez didn’t let it bother him as he struck out Roberto Perez with a changeup and induced a foul out off Francisco Lindor’s bat.

However, Lopez didn’t escape unharmed. Carlos Santana singled off the glove of Nicky Delmonico to start the fourth inning and Alen Hanson couldn’t find the handle on Yandy Diaz’s grounder, which also went for a single instead of a double play. Lopez issued a walk to load the bases and Naquin followed with a sac fly for the only run the pitcher allowed. But Lopez struck out Perez again and retired Lindor to limit the damage.

In spite of a high pitch count, Lopez collected himself and pitched two quick innings to get the White Sox through six. Lopez held Cleveland to a run and six hits with two walks and two strikeouts in a 102-pitch effort.

“I just say they are going to have good days and bad days and they are going to make some mistakes once in a while,” Lopez said through an interpreter. “I believe in them because I know they are trying to do their best, not just to help me but for the team and themselves.

“How did I keep my focus? Just working on executing my plan. That’s the way I did it.”

Why rebuilding White Sox have something to play for down the stretch

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AP

Why rebuilding White Sox have something to play for down the stretch

MINNEAPOLIS -- Who says the rebuilding White Sox don’t have anything to play for in September and October?

Of utmost importance is the potential for development of White Sox rookies who have reached the majors, a group that includes Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Nicky Delmonico, amongst others.

But beyond that is another critical aspect: With 30 games left on the schedule after Thursday, the White Sox are locked in a battle for first. At 52-79 overall, the White Sox are well within striking distance of the Philadelphia Phillies for the worst record in baseball and the privilege to make the first overall pick in the June 2018 amateur draft.

Currently, the White Sox own the third-worst record in the majors. The San Francisco Giants — who come to Guaranteed Rate Field for three games on Sept. 8-10 — have the second-worst mark at 53-82 overall. The Cincinnati Reds (56-77) and Oakland A’s (58-75) round out the top five prior to Thursday’s results.

While it’s nowhere close to as significant as winning a division or, there’s little question about how much impact possessing a top pick and the larger signing bonus pool attached to it can have on an organization. Given the early talk about the 2018 draft class, the White Sox appear to be in great shape to add more impact talent to an already loaded farm system.

“It’s a better draft all around from a depth and impact standpoint,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said, adding it’s potentially the best class since 2010.

The potential for adding a top-three talent via the amateur draft could leave White Sox players and coaches and a portion of the team’s fan base at odds for the final month of the season.

With a team full of inexperience, White Sox players are hungry and looking to sew up future roster spots by showing off their talent. The Giolitos and Lopezes and Moncadas are intent upon improvement and highly unlikely to put their own careers in jeopardy in order to secure the franchise a better draft pick. They want to win and do everything they can to make themselves a prominent part of the club’s future.

“Everybody wants to come out, as far as the players are concerned, you want to come out and play to win,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I think the word rebuild adds a connotation of it doesn’t really matter what goes on and it couldn’t be further from the truth. These guys are trying to go out and exemplify what they’re supposed to be as a team and individuals as trying to continue to perform the things that are necessary to win ballgames.”

On the other side of things, many White Sox fans have fully embraced The Tank. They want a high pick so the team can select Seth Beer, Jarred Kelenic or Brice Turang or any other number of players.

One hundred losses and a first pick? Many fans say bring it on.

It’s yet another strange position in a calendar year full of them.

At the same time, this is exactly where the White Sox have been headed all along. You don’t trade Chris Sale and Adam Eaton off a 78-win roster and expect to improve.

General manager Rick Hahn made it clear this spring that the White Sox would keep the big picture in mind all along in 2017. If the White Sox were going to win, they would have to do it with the players they already had. No short-term trades would be made and prospects wouldn’t be rushed to fill voids at the major league level.

Though the White Sox had plenty of zest in the season’s first two months and hung around longer than most suspected they would, Hahn had no qualms about ripping apart the 25-man roster in July with a series of trades.

Still, as much as Hahn might like to hold the first pick come next June, he doesn’t want to sacrifice critical development to get there.

“There’s been no secret made about what we're trying to accomplish as an organization,” Hahn said earlier this month. “That's been clear since well before the start of spring training, and the players have understood the opportunities that are here for them, in the now, based on that long-term approach that we're taking. Again, I can't say enough about the work that Ricky and the coaches have done in terms of preparing this team on a daily basis and making the most out of what they have on a given night on their roster.”

Should make for an interesting month.