White Sox

Carlos Rodon finishes 2015 strong as White Sox beat Yankees

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Carlos Rodon finishes 2015 strong as White Sox beat Yankees

NEW YORK — His command was wobbly against the second-best offense in the majors as Carlos Rodon pitched for the first time at Yankee Stadium.

In spite of all of those challenges, the rookie continued an outstanding sprint to the finish on Friday night, leading the White Sox to a 5-2 victory over the New York Yankees. Even though he put 12 runners on base, Rodon only allowed two runs in six innings to win his third straight — and final — start of 2015. Mike Olt and Gordon Beckham homered off C.C. Sabathia in support of Rodon, who posted a 1.81 ERA over his last eight starts.

“He didn’t have his best control, but he learned how to get through it with a professional lineup,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You have to be able to weasel your way out of some tough situations, and he did it. It wasn’t the prettiest he’s had. But you’re looking at a lineup that is a little bit older and has some savvy, and I thought he really bowed his neck and looked great.”

Nothing about Friday’s start — one Ventura confirmed would be the lefty’s last this season — was easy for Rodon aside from his first inning of work. He struck out two in the opening frame and retired Alex Rodriguez on a fly out to deep center.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Trayce Thompson passes another test in Yankee Stadium debut]

The Yankees — who on July 31 knocked Rodon out after three innings and eight runs — proceeded to make him work overtime the rest of the way. He hit a batter and walked one in both the second and third innings.

The fourth inning provided Rodon’s biggest test as he allowed a pair of tough-luck singles before Trayce Thompson made a fantastic catch in right for the first out. Rodon walked Rob Refsnyder to load the bases, and No. 9 hitter Didi Gregorious tied the game with a two-run single. Brett Gardner then singled to reload the bases, but Rodon induced an inning-ending double play off Chase Headley’s bat.

Rodon worked around a walk and a wild pitch in the fifth inning to preserve a 2-all tie. Then in the sixth, Refsnyder doubled and Gregorious walked with one out only to have Gardner hit into an inning-ending double play.

“It was definitely a little off,” Rodon said. “I was trying to get ahead. I was trying to pound the zone and make them swing the bat. It wasn’t happening like times before.

“Luckily, defensively we had guys behind me making plays.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Beltran's homer costly as Chris Sale nears strikeout record]

Rodon gave up five hits, walked five, hit two and struck out four in six innings.

Since Aug. 5, Rodon allowed 38 hits, 13 runs (11 earned), walked 21 and struck out 49 in 54 2/3 innings. In the same span, Rodon lowered his earned-run average from 5.00 to 3.75.

“He’s come a long way since the start,” said closer David Robertson, who converted his 32nd save with a scoreless ninth inning. “I think he’s realizing now he doesn’t have to throw full speed all the time to get guys out in the big leagues, and I hope he continues on that path because he’s something special, this guy. He’s got exceptional stuff, and I think in the years coming he’s going to prove himself as one of the aces in this league.”

Rodon said he’s happy with the way he developed this season and feels much more comfortable in the clubhouse. One critical element in his ascent has been a reduced walk rate. After he walked 50 batters in his first 84 2/3 innings, Rodon only walked 21 in the last 54 2/3.

“There’s room to get better,” Rodon said. “You have an idea about what you have to do. I’ve been through it once here, so hopefully I feel more comfortable next year.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Robertson's first trip back to Yankee Stadium 'a little different']

Ventura would agree with Rodon’s self-evaluation and is pleased with how his young charge handled himself. From a much-ballyhooed pitching prospect in spring, Ventura thinks Rodon has developed into just one of the guys as he has worked to prove himself over and over this season. The fourth-year manager is really impressed with how Rodon fared given he faced the Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians each two times in his final 10 starts.

“You’re impressed with what he’s done since he's been up here,” Ventura said. “He has learned a lot. He had a lot of things you would like to see him get in his first year in the big leagues. Finishing it off here against a team like this is something you want to see him do, especially after seeing him the first time, and it didn’t go so well.”

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

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GOOGLE IMAGES

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

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USA TODAY

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

"It's a dirty play by a dirty player."

That was Christian Yelich, the all-but-sure-to-be NL MVP, describing Manny Machado, who's about to become one of the best-paid players in baseball history, after Game 4 of the NLCS, a game in which Machado once again grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Machado's Los Angeles Dodgers and Yelich's Milwaukee Brewers have played four games in this NLCS, and after three of them, the focus has been on Machado. Not because of his bat or his glove but because of lack of hustle and certain methods on the base paths that weren't exactly on the up and up.

After Game 2, he was criticized for not hustling on a ground ball to shortstop. In something straight out of a public-relations person's nightmare, he defended himself by saying that hustling really isn't his cup of tea. During Game 3, he twice attempted to break up double plays by interfering at second base and was, upon review, busted for it the second time. In extra innings in Game 4, he appeared to intentionally drag his leg across Jesus Aguilar's at first base. That play cleared the benches, got Machado called "dirty" in the Brewers' clubhouse and earned him the reputation of postseason villain.

And so Machado's impending free agency gets to be discussed in a brand new light. There's now more baggage attached to the 26-year-old superstar with a fantastic bat and a stellar glove.

The question is: Will the White Sox, one of many teams that could be mulling a contract offer worth hundreds of millions of dollars, care?

As much as it’s talked about building a perennial contender of the future by developing the on-field skills of their fleet of highly touted prospects, the White Sox brain trust has discussed developing a culture, a way of doing things, to go along with all that talent and all that skill. Unsurprisingly that conversation has focused on the oft-used phrase of “doing things the right way.”

Does what Machado has been doing count as “doing things the right way”? It seems easy to assess that it doesn't. It's far more difficult to determine whether it will end up making a difference or not.

Not hustling is one of Rick Renteria's biggest bugaboos. He sat down multiple players on multiple occasions throughout the 2018 season — starting with Avisail Garcia in a spring training game and including a veteran like Welington Castillo as well as a young star like Tim Anderson — for not running to first base on pop ups and line outs and ground outs. Would Renteria's tune suddenly change if Machado and his preference for not hustling arrived on the South Side in what would surely be the biggest free-agent deal in club history?

Renteria got fired up over the issue at the end of July, when he benched Anderson for not hustling on what the shortstop believed was a line out.

“We tell these guys, don’t assume anything. ... It’s as simple as that, and he understands it. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. He comes out of the box, he doesn’t stand there. But we just reiterated to make sure that you allow the umpires to make the calls and you allow the other clubs to go ahead and ask for reviews. We run.”

But asked about not running out his ground ball in Game 2, Machado shared pretty much the opposite philosophy.

"Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen," Machado told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am."

What about Machado's interferences at second base? It was that exact play that sent Anderson into an on-field tiff with umpire Joe West during the second Crosstown series of the season just last month. Javy Baez slid into second base, and Anderson thought Baez did something he shouldn't have, raising his arm to interfere with a double-play turn, that sequence of events ending with Anderson screaming at West on the field. Would Anderson be cool with playing alongside — and potentially vacating his position at shortstop for — an infamous interferer?

And what about being a "dirty player," a villain? The White Sox always seemed fine — heck, they loved it — having one of baseball's greatest irritants in A.J. Pierzynski on the roster. Perhaps no player wore the "villain" title as a badge of honor more than the catcher on the 2005 World Series team. But remember that Pierzynski took the punch, he didn't throw it. Being baseball's version of a "villain" and being a guy who makes dangerous plays that could hurt somebody are two different things.

The point being: Do Machado's actions in this postseason series make him anathema to the "Ricky's boys don't quit" mantra? If the White Sox were to turn a blind eye to the events of this NLCS, would it qualify as a betrayal of their quest to establish a high-effort, high-character culture?

Or do they value that culture so much that they stay away from Machado this offseason?

Here's Rick Hahn from September of last year.

"It’s the culture that Ricky and his coaching staff have been able to create in that clubhouse. I cannot tell you how many various fans have stopped me, or emailed me or mentioned to me that they’ve never been this excited over a 60-win team. Or they’ve never been excited about a team that isn’t going to the playoffs. And I think so much of that is based on how Ricky and the coaches have them playing day in and day out. You see them fighting for 27 outs, you see them prepared every night. Sure, we’re going to get out-manned at portions during this process, but the fight and competitiveness and the style of play is the kind of thing that is going to endure year in and year out. And that is extremely important for us to establish at the big league level for all of us."

Machado's talent would make any team he's a part of more competitive. But for the White Sox, who talk an awful lot about hustling and refusing to quit, perhaps all these postseason shenanigans make it so Machado just isn't their cup of tea.