White Sox

Chris Sale improves to 8-0 as White Sox top Yankees

Chris Sale improves to 8-0 as White Sox top Yankees

NEW YORK -- With another big cushion courtesy of his offense, Chris Sale cruised to his eighth victory in eight starts on Friday night.

Sale took advantage of two early crooked numbers and the White Sox rebounded from a pair of tough losses with a 7-1 victory over the New York Yankees in front of 34,264 at Yankee Stadium. Jimmy Rollins hit a two-run homer and Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu each drove in two runs for the new-and-improved Sale, who became the fourth White Sox pitcher to ever win his first eight starts. Sale, who at one point retired 15 straight batters, needed only 99 pitches for his second complete game of 2016.

“Any time Chris gets (run support) he’s going to be extremely tough,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Tonight, not gearing it up [unless] he had to. He can go get it, but for him this is a different guy. He can strike people out, but you’re seeing a more effective guy who can go deeper into games. The last couple of years he wouldn’t have been able to do this, finish off games.”

The White Sox haven’t had much of an offense to brag about the past few seasons.

While more proof is needed, and another left-handed bat would be swell, the White Sox have been a tough out the past 17 games. Entering Friday, they scored 94 runs in a 16-game span after only producing 61 in their first 19 contests.

The White Sox broke through in the second inning against Yankees starter Luis Severino (0-6), who needed a nice defensive play with two outs in the first inning to rob Melky Cabrera of an RBI single.

Alex Avila got them going with an RBI double in the second inning and Abreu singled in two more with two outs to make it a 3-0 game.

The White Sox poured it on in the third inning when Eaton, who reached base in four of five trips, doubled in two and Rollins followed with a second-deck homer to right to make it 7-1. It’s the fourth straight start in which the offense has produced at least six runs for Sale, who entered ranked 26th of 147 starting with a per game run support average of 5.47.

“You’re not going to hear me complain,” Sale said. “When the guys go out there and do that, it takes the pressure off you and your main goal after that is just throwing strikes. I was using my defense and I started getting to where I was abusing them a little bit.

“It takes the pressure off of you as a pitcher.”

Sale makes it sound as if he has eased off the accelerator.

He hasn’t.

He continues to attack the strike zone and keep hitters off balance by adding and subtracting fastball velocity to go with a nasty slider and changeup. The combination has produced a lot of weak, early contact and a plethora of quick innings.

Sale allowed a Chase Headley homer in the second inning to make it 3-1, but bounced back fast.

He retired the side in order in the third inning on five pitches and never looked back. Sale needed only nine pitches in the fifth, 11 in the sixth and 11 in the eighth. The low pitch count and an overworked bullpen made it an easy decision for Ventura to send Sale back out for the ninth inning.

“It's something we had talked about in spring training, as far as adding that,” Avila said. “A guy like him, he can strike guys out. You want him to take that next step where he can be that ace, going out for that seventh, eighth, ninth inning is huge. It's huge over the course of a season, being able to give the guys in the bullpen a blow, being that guy that stops a losing streak. There's gonna be times where he's gonna need to just air it out. That's the way it is. But being able to pitch at different speeds gives him another pitch, we're able to get quick outs that way and kind of pick and choose when you need to go get a strikeout.”

After Brett Gardner’s second-inning single, Sale retired 20 of 21 batters into the ninth. He allowed a run and six hits with no walks and six strikeouts.

Sale joins Eddie Cicotte (who won 12 straight in 1919), John Whitehead (eight in 1935) and Jon Garland (eight in 2005) as the only White Sox to win their first eight starts.

“I wouldn’t be here without these guys,” Sale said. “When your team puts you in a position like that, it makes it a little bit less stressful.”

Is Tim Anderson silencing the doubters? 'He wants to prove that he is a shortstop and he's one of the best in the game'

Is Tim Anderson silencing the doubters? 'He wants to prove that he is a shortstop and he's one of the best in the game'

In the top of the 12th inning, he hit a go-ahead home run. In the bottom of the 12th inning, he made a spectacular play to end the game.

It was just one night in Kansas City at the tail end of a losing season. But Tim Anderson’s process of silencing the doubters might have hit a new high-water mark Wednesday.

Anderson has long been considered a key piece of the White Sox rebuilding project, and the team seems to have his name etched in as their shortstop of the future. But that hasn’t stopped a great many fans from projecting otherwise. They’ve guessed his future might be in the outfield after he led the majors with a whopping 28 errors last season. They’ve guessed his future might not be as bright as it’s been suggested after he finished last season with a .276 on-base percentage and 162 strikeouts.

This season, however, has looked quite different. He hasn’t exactly pulled a 180 from a statistical perspective. He's slashing just .248/.290/.420 and ranking near the top of the league with 17 fielding errors with 16 games left on the schedule. Those are obvious improvements from last year — during which Anderson spent much of the season battling the effects of the death of his best friend — even if they aren’t dramatic ones. But the main difference has been in Anderson’s play of late, particularly defensively, where he’s making plays (and impressive ones, at that) at a much greater rate than before and making fewer of the mistakes that defined the outlook many had on his future.

“I’d say (there’s been a growth) within the last two to three months,” said White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing, who works with Anderson every day. “He’s gone through a stage where he understands and he’s accountable for the mistakes he was making on the field. And now he’s able to sit back and learn from them and adjust, and he’s just running with it now.

“I believe he’s playing free. There’s not a weight on his shoulders. He wants to prove everybody wrong. (People say,) ‘He’s not a shortstop.’ He wants to prove that he is a shortstop and he’s one of the best in the game.”

General manager Rick Hahn has said multiple times that the young players on the White Sox major league roster aren’t finished products just because they’re on the major league roster. Anderson, along with the likes of Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and others, are still developing, still becoming the players they are projected to become when the franchise shifts from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

What we’re seeing now from Anderson could be another benchmark in his development. A guy who’s worked extremely hard in his three seasons in the big leagues could finally be seeing that work catching up.

“I kind of feel like the work finally caught up. I’m figuring out the glove and learning the position, figuring out how to play the position. It’s working, man,” Anderson said. “A lot of credit to Joe, he works with me every day and we get out there. It’s been good. Just honored and blessed to be in the position I’m in.”

There’s an obvious difference in the way Anderson is playing defensively right now, and it’s been pointed out by everyone in the organization. Pitchers have lauded how great he’s playing behind them, and in the midst of this losing campaign described by Hahn as “the toughest part of the rebuild,” both the general manager and manager Rick Renteria have pointed to Anderson’s defensive improvement as one of the big positives to come out of this campaign.

How has it happened? Again, work. The daily grind of the developmental process isn’t something that jumps out at any observer when a team plays every single day. But Anderson’s defensive development over the course of this season is perhaps as good an example as any of what the team’s big league staff is doing and how important their work is in crafting the planned perennial contenders of the White Sox future.

“I kind of challenged him and said, ‘I’m extremely proud of the progress you’ve made, let’s not stop, let’s not stop here, let’s take it to another level,’” McEwing said. “‘You say you want to be the best. What does that entail, as far as work-wise, maturity-wise, leadership-wise?’ I challenge him every day to be that leader, take over the infield, make sure everybody’s in the right spot, communicate constantly with each other. And he’s taken it to that level.

“I think he’s starting to understand his body more on the baseball field as far as what he can and cannot do. Before, it was almost, he was afraid to make that mistake. Now he’s just playing to where he’s not worried about making that mistake because he’s playing free.

“As far as understanding his body, he’s throwing from so many different angles now without fear. He’s confident in each throw, he’s confident where his feet are, he’s coming to get hops, he’s seeing hops better now to where (it’s either), ‘I’m going to get eaten up by that’ or ‘I’m going to go get it.’ I think he’s just understanding a lot more of who he is, and I could not be happier or prouder of him. He’s putting in the work every single day.”

There will surely still be plenty of questions heading into the 2019 season. Anderson will finish with new career bests in home runs, doubles, RBIs (he ranks second on the team in that category), stolen bases and walks, but he could finish with a career-low batting average and his second consecutive sub-.300 on-base percentage. He has more walks this season than in his first two seasons combined, but he also ranks in the top 25 in the majors in strikeouts.

But everyone you talk to in the White Sox organization sees improvement, and even from the outside it’s not difficult to notice, especially defensively. So when Hahn says that these young players aren’t finished products, he can point to Anderson as an example of the growth that can occur at the major league level.

And that ought to make fans far more bullish on Anderson's future — and the future of this entire rebuilding effort.

“Last year was a tough season overall, off the field. This year, it’s been great,” Anderson said. “I feel like I’ve been playing with that same energy all season and nothing changes. But I’m getting better.

“When I step over those lines, I feel like I’m the best player on the field, and that’s how I go about it. Nobody can beat me. I want to compete and be dominant every day, try to just go out and play hard and see what happens.

“Hopefully we can bring a championship to the South Side. We’ve got the pieces and got the players and got the guys down in the farm system. It’s going to be fun.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Inside the making of the new documentary "Hawk"

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Inside the making of the new documentary "Hawk"

Chuck Garfien speaks with Ryan McGuffey and Matt Dahl, executive producers of the documentary "Hawk" which looks back at the life and career of Ken "Hawk" Harrelson.

They talk about how they made the documentary, Harrelson's emotional return to his childhood home in Savannah, Georgia, going back to Fenway Park with Harrelson, how he met his wife at a Putt-Putt golf championship, what Mark Buehrle's perfect game meant to Harrelson's career and much more.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: