White Sox

Carolina League playoffs: Winston-Salem vs. Kinston

Carolina League playoffs: Winston-Salem vs. Kinston

Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010
2:00 PM

By Kevin T. Czerwinski
CSNChicago.com

Winston-Salem has had one of the most potent offenses in the minor leagues this season. Kinston has had the best pitching staff if the Carolina League for much of the year. Beginning Wednesday the two teams will get the chance to see which squads forte is stronger as the two teams meet in the opening round of the Carolina League playoffs.

The Dash has been dominant all season while the Tribe has been scrambling to play catch up for months. Will Winston-Salems offense get the better of Kinstons pitching? Heres a closer look at what to expect when these two teams collide.

Winston-Salem Dash vs. Kinston Indians
Best of Five beginning Wednesday

Regular-Season Series
The Dash won 13 of 20 meetings. Winston-Salem swept a four-game series in June against the Indians at home but the teams have split six games since. The Dash posted a team ERA of 3.36 in the 20 games while Kinstons team ERA for the season series was 4.16.

HEAD-TO-HEAD
Winston-Salem
The Dash had four players reach double digits in RBIs in the 20 games. Jon Gilmore 12, Seth Loman 11, Andrew Garcia 11 and Brandon Short 11 were all effective against the Tribe. Loman hit .333 in 69 at-bats while Gilmore hit .316 in 79 at-bats. Short also had three homers but he struck out 20 times in 72 at-bats. Jason Bour appeared in five games and hit .412. Kyle Bellamy, Nevin Griffith and Charlie Leesman each won a pair of games. Dylan Axelrod was 0-1 with a 2.01 ERA in six games two starts, striking out 23 in 22 13 innings.

Kinston
Kyle Bellows hit .286 with a homer and 14 RBIs. He had 20 hits and drew seven walks. Lucas Montero hit .259 in 18 games but he also drew 13 walks and had a .412 on-base percentage. Karexon Sanchez had an active 16 games against the Dash. He hit only .214 with seven RBIs but draw 12 walks, steal two bases and strike out 19 times.

ON THE MOUND
Winston-Salem
Despite leading the league with 81 victories, the Dash hurlers were sixth in the league with a 4.04 ERA. The 64 homers allowed, however, were a league low. Terry Doyle finished sixth in the league with a 3.71 ERA while Nate Jones finished 10th at 4.08 and second in the league with 11 victories. He was tops in the league in games started 28 and innings pitched 152 13. The bullpen was largely nondescript though Tyson Corley did post a 1.79 ERA and collect 10 saves, doing most of that after an unsuccessful stint with Birmingham. Greg Infante had been the clubs first-half closer but was promoted mid-year to the Barons.

Kinston
While the Tribe didnt make many dents in the league leaders when came to offense they certainly didnt have that problem in the pitching department. Kinston led the league in ERA 3.31, shutouts 13 and saves 48. They were also the only team to allow fewer than 600 runs 535. Joseph Gardner led the league with 12 wins and batting average against .199 and finished second with a 2.65 ERA. He was third with a 1.11 WHIP, third with 7.65 strikeouts per nine innings and was tied for second with fewest base runners allowed per nine innings 11.33. TJ McFarland was second in the league with 11 victories and fourth with a 3.13 ERA. Though TJ House was 6-10, he was eighth with a 3.91 ERA. His undoing was his control he finished second with 61 walks. Cory Burns topped the league with 30 saves. Matthew Longwell led all Carolina League relievers in strikeoutsnine innings 9.32, fewest walksnine innings 2.25 and fewest base runners allowed 9.48 per nine innings.

PITCHING MATCHUPS
Game One: RHP Terry Doyle 8-8, 3.71 vs. LHP T.J. McFarland 11-5, 3.13
Game Two: RHP Dylan Axelrod (8-3, 1.99) vs. RHP Austin Adams 6-1, 1.53
Game Three: RHP Nate Jones (11-6, 4.08) @ RHP Joe Gardner (12-6, 2.65)
Game Four: RHP Stephen Sauer 8-10, 4.89 vs. TBD
Game Five: LHP Joe Serafin 3-4, 5.63 vs. TBD
If necessary

AT THE PLATE
Winston-Salem
The Dash led the league with a .288 batting average this season. It was the sixth-best average among all the full-season minor league clubs. So, it only makes sense that Winston-Salem placed five players among the top 10 in batting. Currently, Brandon Short is listed as the league leader at .316 but will likely be bumped down to second. Eric Hosmer played half most of the season at Wilmington and hit .354 but finished shy of qualifying for the batting title by three at-bats. The league will likely add on the three at-bats and hed still win the title by plenty. Short, meanwhile, remains on the disabled list with an oblique injury. He hasnt played since Aug. 17 and may return for a finals appearance if the Dash get that far but even that is doubtful. Jon Gilmore hit .312, was tops with 177 hits and was third with 80 RBIs. Ozzie Lewis hit .300 but batted only .200 in his last 10 games. Seth Loman hit .292 eighth and was second in the league in homers 25, RBIs 88, total bases 264 and slugging percentage .514. He also got hit by a pitch a league-record 30 times and was tops on the circuit with 88 runs scored. Eduardo Escobar, who has since moved on to Birmingham of the Southern League, was 10th in the league in hitting at .285.

Kinston
The Tribe received a healthy influx of talent throughout the season from Lake County, which earned a playoff berth in the first half of the Midwest League season. Among those who made the move were catcher Chun-Hsiu Chen, who hit .320 in 52 games for Kinston after hitting .312 in 58 Midwest League games. He had six homers and 30 RBIs and hit .327 over his final 33 games. Bo Greenwell, son of former big leaguer Mike Greenwell, also made jumped from Lake County to Kinston, hitting .292 with 21 RBIs after the move. He hit .310 with 36 RBIs prior. Rounding out that group is Jeremie Tice, who hit .283 with five homers and 28 RBIs after hitting .282 with nine homers and 51 RBIs in the Midwest League. Kyle Bellows grounded into a league-leading 22 double plays to go along with his 10 homers and 66 RBIs. Karexon Sanchez also had 10 homers and drove in 51 runs but whiffed 114 times. Abner Abreu struck out 130 in 409 at-bats once every 3.15 ABs.

NOTES
Frederick Baltimore and Potomac Washington will square off in the other opening-round series. Winston-Salems Joe McEwing has been named as the Carolina League manager of the year each of the last two seasons. He led the Dash to the playoffs last year as well but Winston-Salem was eliminated in the opening round. The Dash are 47-21 at BB&T Ballpark, including going 9-1 against Kinston there this season. When the Tribe won their lone game at Winston-Salem this year, it snapped a 17-game losing streak on Dash home turf. This is Kinstons first appearance in the playoff since 2007. Kinston has won seven Carolina League titles, the last of which came in 2004. The Tribe has been a Cleveland affiliate since 1987 and last year marked the first time that they failed to reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Outfielder Trayce Thompson was promoted from Kannapolis on Tuesday and added to the Dash roster.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

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

0622-lucas-giolito.jpg
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.