White Sox

Adam Eaton's late grand slam helps White Sox top Indians

Adam Eaton's late grand slam helps White Sox top Indians

CLEVELAND -- Adam Eaton insists the bubble he blew before hitting a game-winning grand slam Wednesday night wasn’t the equivalent of his eyes lighting up at the sight of a fat pitch.

On the contrary, the White Sox outfielder said he was focused after looking bad on the previous two pitches of the at-bat.

But right before the point of impact, Eaton blew a perfect bubble and then matched it with a flawless swing on an 0-2 pitch from Cleveland Indians closer Cody Allen. The first grand slam of Eaton’s career helped the White Sox snap a seven-game losing streak as they topped the Indians 10-7 in front of 14,371 at Progressive Field. Dioner Navarro also had an RBI single during a five-run ninth inning against the American League Central’s top team.

“I think I was so flustered about my swing before, I was just trying to make contact, not to look really stupid, and apparently I blew a bubble,” Eaton said. “I’m all right with that.”

“It was a lot of fun. I give a lot of credit to the guys I had ahead of me to even put me in that position.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox had already rallied twice earlier in the contest before Todd Frazier started a one-out comeback in the ninth with an infield single off Allen. Trailing 7-5, the White Sox offense hadn’t done anything since the fourth inning as starter Carlos Carrasco and two relievers kept them quiet. But singles by Frazier and J.B. Shuck and a Tim Anderson walk loaded the bases. Dioner Navarro’s blooper to left hit off the glove of Jose Ramirez to make it a one-run game and brought up Eaton.

Three pitches later, the White Sox delivered the same kind of punch they’ve experienced too many times to count since May.

“I’ve felt one of those before,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “For us, we realize what it feels like, but we realize it can happen, too. I think that’s part of fighting all the way through to the ninth inning and not giving it to them. You make them earn it and tonight we just fought our way back where we get something and it goes in your favor.”

The White Sox need a lot more like this one to go in their favor and realistically don’t have the time. Though they have winnable upcoming series at home against Oakland and Philadelphia, the White Sox remain nine back in the race for the second wild-card spot. They also sit at 57-62 with 43 games to play.

Despite their extremely long odds, the White Sox refuse to give in. That was made clear early when it looked like the offense would go nowhere against Carrasco, who struck out four of the first six he faced and had a 2-0 lead.

But Shuck singled to start the third inning and Anderson blasted his seventh homer, a two-run shot off the left-field foul pole to tie the score. His ninth-inning walk was also the fifth Anderson has drawn in 48 plate appearances after he took only two in his first 203.

Down 4-2, the White Sox pulled ahead in the fourth inning as Frazier doubled in two and scored the go-ahead run later when the Indians botched a rundown. But Carrasco didn’t budge from there as he retired nine of the last 11 he faced.

“Very fun to play in that kind of game, especially when Eaton hit the grand slam,” Anderson said. “It was a big moment for us.”

It was also quite a big bubble, though Eaton did it involuntarily and teammates told him about it later. He also shot down the notion that Allen left the pitch too far up and the bubble was a reaction to seeing a pitch in the zone.

“It wasn’t hanging,” Eaton said. “Concentration you do some things you’re not thinking about, and mine must be blowing a bubble, so we’ll take it."

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

For the first time in two months, Avisail Garcia is back in the White Sox lineup.

Garcia’s return from his lengthy stay on the disabled list was a refreshing sight for a team that came into the season believing he’d be one of its biggest bats. After all, Garcia was excellent in 2017, an All-Star campaign for him that saw him with some of the best hitting statistics in the American League.

But even with those good numbers, there were plenty of questions about where Garcia stood in the rebuilding White Sox long-term future. After a long wait for that breakout season, was it going to be the new normal or a one-hit wonder? He’s got just two more seasons of team control left, and there are a ton of outfield prospects developing behind him in the minor leagues.

His admittedly slow start this year didn’t help clarify anything: He returned to action with a .233/.250/.315 slash line, a far cry from the .330/.380/.506 line he finished with last season.

So now he’s back, and the “prove it” season resumes. He’s got time left to show the White Sox he can fend off challenges from the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Luis Alexander Basabe, Micker Adolfo and all the rest. Getting back on the field is the first step in doing that.

“Be healthy and play hard like I’ve been playing all my career,” Garcia said Friday. “Just trying stay healthy, do my routine and do my best to help my team win.

“My knee is good. My hamstring is good. I have no pain in my body right now. I feel great, great and focused and trying to compete every single day.”

The injury — injuries, it turns out — certainly didn’t help. After the hamstring strain he suffered turned out to be a tad more significant than originally believed, he suffered a separate knee injury during his recovery that kept him on the shelf a while longer.

But Garcia showed that maybe his bat is ready to come back to life during his rehab at Triple-A Charlotte. He slashed an eye-popping .360/.429/.840 with three home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs in just seven games.

No one’s expecting that kind of production now that he’s back at the major league level. But plenty of fans and observers are expecting a lot who is still young enough to warrant consideration for a spot on the White Sox next contending team. He’s got the advantage of already playing at the big league level to show off for all the decision makers.

But there’s no doubt that it’s a stacked group behind him. Jimenez, the third-ranked prospect in baseball, was just promoted to Triple-A. A trio of high-performing outfielders — Basabe, Alex Call and Joel Booker — just got bumped up to Double-A. And perhaps the most exciting group of all — Robert, Rutherford, Adolfo and Luis Gonzalez — are all playing together at Class A Winston-Salem.

That’s an awful lot of young, inexpensive depth to contend with in the discussion for how the White Sox should align their outfield of the future. But Garcia can still stay in that discussion by doing one thing: hitting. His quest to turn his season around starts now.