White Sox

Chris Sale does it again as White Sox outlast Cardinals

chris-sale-sox-0630.png

Chris Sale does it again as White Sox outlast Cardinals

ST. LOUIS — According to his catcher, Chris Sale didn’t have his best command on a muggy evening in St. Louis.

But that didn’t stop the White Sox ace from putting together a 12-strikeout masterpiece as the White Sox outlasted the first-place Cardinals in a 2-1 extra-inning win in front of a sellout crowd of 45,626 on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. Tyler Flowers’ 11th-inning solo home run — which rocketed 431 feet into the left field bleachers — broke the tie and wound up being the game-winner.

Sale tied Pedro Martinez’s major league record with his eighth consecutive start with 10 or more strikeouts and finished his evening having allowed only one run. That lone blemish came when Randal Grichuk led off the fourth with a long home run into the second deck of the left field stands, but outside of that he scattered five other hits and one walk.

And Sale did all of it, history included, without being able to command half of the plate.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Chris Sale equals Pedro Martinez’s record for consecutive 10-K games]

“It wasn’t his best command day,” Flowers said. “We were having a hard time getting in on righties consistently. A lot of those led to elevated pitches up out over the plate, which is effective too. So we kind of had to change the gameplan a little bit just because he was having a hard time getting opposite arm side.

“So we threw a lot more arm-side sinkers, fastballs there to kind of save anything going in until later in the counts. We mixed in a few more sliders too to keep them honest, not dive out there. It was a little out of the ordinary for him to not have a good feel for that side of the plate, but we changed it up a little bit and made it work.”

Sale’s impact wasn’t limited to the mound, though. He led off the third by flipping a broken-bat single to left, his first career hit, and raced around to score from second on Jose Abreu’s single later in the inning. The 26-year-old awkwardly slid into home plate — “It’s my first one in like nine years, what do you expect?” he laughed — and came back to the dugout beaming about getting his uniform dirty.

“Yeah, the slide was a little much,” manager Robin Ventura said, dryly. “I don’t know if he’s done it — he’s real proud of it, that he got dirty.”

“It was cool,” Sale said. “I tell these guys I had two accidents today: the homer and the hit. I found it really. I got lucky.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Ventura sees Chris Sale growing into veteran role for White Sox]

Sale was all smiles after the game, but for a good portion of the evening it looked like the White Sox might waste another dominant outing from their ace.

The White Sox didn’t get a hit between Flowers’ one-out single in the fourth and Abreu’s leadoff single in the eighth. After loading the bases with nobody out in the second, Flowers struck out and Carlos Sanchez hit into an inning-ending double play. Adam Eaton meekly struck out with the go-ahead run on second in the top of the ninth.

Sale, though, was up to the challenge, most notably in pitching out of an eighth-inning jam to keep the score level at 1. After allowing back-to-back singles to Peter Bourjos and Grichuk, Sale struck out Jhonny Peralta — his 12th and final strikeout of the evening, all swinging — and got Mark Reynolds to fly out to strand the go-ahead run on second.

“In the end, I don’t have a better guy in the bullpen than him,” Ventura said. “So he’s going to go ahead and finish that and he deserves that."

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get a Chris Sale jersey right here]

The win pushed the White Sox to 4-4 during Sale’s frenzied stretch of strikeouts, one that included back-to-back 2-1 losses. His win-loss record might not impress the old-school crowd, but he has a 2.87 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 103 1/3 innings. He’s put together a run of dominance only seen twice in baseball history and should be named to his fourth consecutive All-Star team this month.

While his team might not be winning games he starts at the pace it could be, Sale has kept his focus on what he can control. On Tuesday, it was fighting back baseball’s best team and, for one night only, contributing with his bat and legs, too.

“I don’t watch ESPN or anything like that, I don’t read too much in the newspapers and stuff,” Sale said. “You have a packed house tonight and the best team in baseball, if I’m not mistaken. That will get your focus on what you need to focus on.”

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

1017_dan_pasqua.jpg
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?

1017_manny_machado.jpg
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.