White Sox

Baltimore unrest puts things in perspective for White Sox

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Baltimore unrest puts things in perspective for White Sox

BALTIMORE -- The pending issues the White Sox faced when they arrived in Charm City three days ago seem trivial now after several days of rioting and canceled baseball games.

Rather than worry about what’s to come of the five-game suspensions doled out to Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija, the White Sox -- who are set to play the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday afternoon in front of an empty stadium -- have been thrust into the middle of chaos as citizens continue to vent their anger over the April 19 death of Freddie Gray, who died a week after he was taken into custody by the Baltimore Police Department.

Instead of thinking about when Carlos Rodon might make his first start or if Alexei Ramirez is in need of a day off, the White Sox have watched the horrifying images form Monday’s riots that resulted in more than 200 arrests, 159 vehicles and structures burned, 20 police officers injured and the deployment of 500 National Guard troops, according to the Baltimore Sun.

“For anyone who’s around or watching it on TV or seeing it outside your window, it helps put in perspective a lot of things,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said shortly after Tuesday’s game was cancelled and plans for Wednesday’s contest were unveiled. “You realize the more pressing and serious issues than what you’re going to do with your rotation or how you’re dealing with suspensions.”

Aside from an afternoon workout, the White Sox have spent most of their time tucked away in the team hotel, awaiting word on whether or not the series would resume. With a need for law enforcement resources elsewhere, the Orioles and Major League Baseball announced the teams would play Wednesday’s game at 2:05 p.m. behind closed doors. The decision is another reminder of the past week’s events in a town will be thrust into a weeklong citywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting on Tuesday night.

“You don’t normally see this anywhere you go,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said after he watched a number of National Guard vehicles roll into town. “When you’re there, it’s different. You’re seeing these vehicles you normally don’t see rolling through a city, it can get scary.”

[WATCH: Rick Hahn, Sox doing whatever it takes to get games played]

Even though the curfew and decision not to play has left the team holed up in its hotel, White Sox players and management agreed with the decision to cancel the first two games of the series.

“You can’t help but feel terrible for what’s going on, and at the same time feeling helpless,” White Sox reliever Zach Duke said. “It’s a different feeling and it’s not a good one.

“With so much terrible activity going on in the city, it’s hard going out there trying to entertain and take attention away from it.”

Not that the team would be entirely comfortable doing so, either. Hours before Monday’s riots began, law enforcement officials bulked up security around Oriole Park at Camden Yards and collected all the garbage cans in the area in anticipation of an event like Saturday’s when fans attending an Orioles-Boston Red Sox game were required to stay in the facility for an inning for safety reasons.

Several helicopters could be seen hovering over downtown during batting practice on Monday. There were also reports of looting taking place within a half mile of Camden Yards.

“To be in the thick of it, at a hotel a half mile or so away, we were taking BP and we could smell burning, whatever was burning nearby,” outfielder Adam Eaton said. “A little surreal. We were happy to stay in the hotel (Monday) and (Tuesday).”

Monday’s contest was canceled 50 minutes before the scheduled first pitch. Players received a police escort back to their hotel and were told to stay put. Many watched the events unfolding from their rooms.

“When you look out the window and see this is really happening right here, it's a little scary,” catcher Tyler Flowers said.

Outfielder Avisail Garcia likened the situation to what he witnessed in Venezuela in early 2014. Those protests ravaged the country and reportedly led to more than 3,000 arrests and 43 deaths, according to Reuters.

“Hopefully everything will get better,” Garcia said. “Hopefully nobody will die because that’s a situation that we have in Venezuela. It’s bad and hopefully everything gets better.

“That’s nothing good about it and hopefully everything will get better and people stay safe.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Once the situation calms down, the White Sox -- who head to Minneapolis for four games after Wednesday’s contest concludes -- will resume worrying about the aspects of the season most important to them.

But for now, baseball is of distant importance.

“It gives you that sense of perspective, which is good,” Hahn said. “And hopefully once we start playing ballgames again we can provide the important role that baseball plays in terms of providing entertainment and distraction and people a little bit of escape from these rough couple of days we’ve had around us here.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: The 10th anniversary of Mark Buehrle's perfect game

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

White Sox Talk Podcast: The 10th anniversary of Mark Buehrle's perfect game

Chuck Garfien and Steve Stone take a look back at Mark Buehrle's perfect game. How did Buehrle do it? How did Dewayne Wise make that catch?

Plus, Buehrle and A.J. Pierzynski talk about how Buehrle actually told Pierzynski before taking that field that day that he would throw a perfect game and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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Yoan Moncada cleans up for White Sox: 'I think we found our No. 4 hitter'

Yoan Moncada cleans up for White Sox: 'I think we found our No. 4 hitter'

Though Jose Abreu and James McCann represented the team at the All-Star Game earlier this month, Yoan Moncada holds the title of the White Sox best hitter through the first 97 games of the 2019 season.

The guy who struck out 217 times during his first full season in the majors last year has been a completely different hitter this time around. Instead of looking lost at the plate, he’s the guy White Sox fans want to see at the plate in run-producing situations. He hasn’t spent much time in one of those traditional run-producing spots in the batting order, but manager Rick Renteria inserted Moncada into the cleanup spot Monday night.

And Moncada cleaned up, all right.

“I think we found our No. 4 hitter,” starting pitcher Ivan Nova said after he went the distance in a 9-1 waxing of the Miami Marlins. “A lot of times you get surprised. While he was hitting second, you're thinking and knowing, the type of hitter that he is — you're only thinking as a player, they have another way to think. But today, I think it was first time hit in fourth, and he showed.”

Moncada went 2-for-4 with the game’s biggest blow, a three-run homer in the fifth inning that blew things wide open. He drove in four runs on the night, and he flashed a potential glimpse of the future of this future-focused franchise.

Combining with Abreu, who went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and three runs scored, Moncada showed what the middle of the order might look like for this team when rebuilding finally transitions to contending. That could come as soon as next year, and when you throw the currently injured Eloy Jimenez into that group, the White Sox could boast a fearsome 3-4-5 as soon as later this season.

“If someone is happy that we finally found a cleanup hitter, it’s me,” Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo. “Nothing that he does surprises me because I know all the talent he has. I know that he still can do more. He has been working hard. He’s a great baseball player with a lot of talent and I still think he can do more.

“What he did today is not a surprise for me. I still know he’s a great player and I think we’ve seen that throughout the whole season this year. He’s going to get better.”

Moncada has been sensational all season long, proving why the White Sox weren’t at all worried during his struggles in 2018. He owns a .304/.362/.530 slash line through these first 97 games, and his three-run blast Monday night gave him a new career high in that category after he smacked 17 a year ago. He’s six RBIs away from setting a new career high there, too. And even though he made a fielding error Monday that only briefly delayed Nova finishing off his complete-game effort, Moncada has been generally excellent at third base in his first season at that position as a big leaguer.

But putting Moncada in a run-producing spot in the order is a new wrinkle for Renteria this season. Coming into Monday’s game, Moncada had spent 63 games as the team’s No. 2 hitter and just 26 everywhere else. According to the skipper, Moncada is good enough to hit anywhere, and that’s certainly true. His eventual everyday spot in the lineup might have more to do with the hitters around him than simply what he can do by himself.

But if Moncada keeps up the kind of offensive production he’s churned out this season, maybe sticking him right in the thick of the order is what's best for the White Sox — even if those lineups of the future include big bats like those swung by Abreu, Jimenez, Luis Robert and Andrew Vaughn.

“For me, it's an advantage to hit in the cleanup spot having (Abreu) ahead of me,” Moncada said through Russo. “That way, you can see how the pitchers are attacking him, and you have a better idea, in those situations when you need to produce, how the pitchers are doing it. Even though he's a right-handed hitter and I hit from both sides of the plate, it's good. It's something that gives you a better idea of how the pitchers are doing, how their pitches are working.”

“He had a nice game,” Renteria said. “He can hit anywhere in the middle and the top of the order. I wish I could say I'm really a genius, but I'm not. He's got that talent. He's able to take advantage of it and today he had a nice day. He made everybody look good.”

It would make sense to see Moncada batting fourth again as this first homestand of the second half and the 2019 season roll on, but that’s up to Renteria, who has his reasons for every permutation to his lineups.

Of course, if Abreu gets ahold of Renteria's lineup card and starts writing out the batting orders, we’ll know where Moncada will be slotted.

“If I would have that decision,” Abreu said, “I would put him in the cleanup spot for the rest of the season.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.