White Sox

Chris Sale knocked out early as White Sox fall to Phillies

Chris Sale knocked out early as White Sox fall to Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- Chris Sale’s Cy Young chances took a hit on Wednesday night.

A slight favorite to win the award for the American League’s top pitcher according to one oddsmaker, Sale had his worst start in two months and second shortest of the season as the Philadelphia Phillies pounded the White Sox 8-3 in front of 21,703 at Citizens Bank Park. Sale’s six earned runs allowed in four innings were the most he has yielded since the Atlanta Braves tagged him for eight on July 8. The effort caused Sale’s earned-run average to rise from 3.03 to 3.23.

“I don’t know where it started, but I just never got rolling tonight,” Sale said. “Couldn’t find a groove.

“Bad night. Frustrating. Wish I could have been better. I wasn’t. It would have been nice to sneak out with a win, but I didn’t give them a chance from the first pitch.”

Courtesy of a fantastic 11-run start since the All-Star break, Sale was listed as the favorite among the AL Cy Young candidates at 8-to-5 when Bovada released odds on Wednesday. Sale, who had a 2.52 ERA in that span, held a slight edge over Cleveland’s Corey Kluber and Boston’s Rick Porcello, both of whom were listed at 2-to-1. Toronto’s J.A. Happ (10-to-1) and Detroit’s Justin Verlander (20-to-1) rounded out the candidates.

But even with an early 1-0 lead provided by an Adam Eaton solo home run to start the game, Sale didn’t look like much of a top nominee on Wednesday. The five-time All-Star allowed four of the first five batters he faced to reach base, including consecutive doubles to Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp to fall behind 3-1.

The damage continued against Sale, who entered Wednesday in the top five in Wins Above Replacement (5.2, first), ERA (second), Fielding Independent Pitching (3.32, third), wins (16, fourth), innings (210 2/3, second) and strikeouts (215, fourth).

Joseph tagged him again in the third inning, this time for a two-run homer and a 5-1 Phillies lead. Roman Quinn, one of three batters Sale hit on Wednesday, scored on Joseph’s homer. Cesar Hernandez also tripled in a run in the fourth inning as Sale fell behind 6-1.

“I don’t play for stuff like (the award),” Sale said. “I’m here to win games. Not to win any trophies or whatever else. I want to win games and I wanted to win tonight.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]​

Sale received an endorsement from manager Robin Ventura before the contest. Ventura doesn’t think his team’s 72-80 record should be a factor in the vote, which will be revealed in early November.

“He comes to mind,” Ventura said. “You start looking around the league, especially in our division, you can look at some guys in Cleveland. You can look at maybe somebody in Texas. There are enough guys that go around that have numbers. Porcello in Boston comes to mind.

“I’m partial (to Sale) because I see him all the time. I see what he does. I see how important he is. Regardless of where we’re at record-wise, I realize how important he is.”

Perhaps the most surprising part of Sale’s start on Wednesday was its brevity.

Sale, who has four top-six Cy Young finishes in his career, had pitched at least eight innings in his last six starts, the longest such streak by a White Sox pitcher since Jack McDowell did it seven straight games in 1994.

He leads the majors with six complete games this season.

While Wednesday’s effort is his shortest of the season since May 24, when he went 3 1/3 innings at home against the Cleveland Indians, Sale has already established a career high for innings pitched. Sale has thrown 214 2/3 innings this season, surpassing his previous high of 214 1/3 (2013).

“He’s better this year for me in a lot of ways than he has been in the past,” Ventura said.

As long as he feels up to it, Sale could receive two more starts before the season is done. Earlier this week, Ventura said he would let his pitchers make their turns as long as they physically felt up to the task. Sale’s next turn unofficially comes on Tuesday at home against the Tampa Bay Rays. He also could start on the final day of the season at home against the Minnesota Twins.

Kluber also started on Wednesday, allowing two earned runs and striking out nine in 6 1/3 innings.

“Whatever they got for me,” Sale said. “I go when my name is called. However many that is I’ll show up for them.”

Todd Frazier and Alex Avila also homered for the White Sox in the loss. 

White Sox promote catcher Seby Zavala from Triple-A Charlotte as Welington Castillo lands on IL

White Sox promote catcher Seby Zavala from Triple-A Charlotte as Welington Castillo lands on IL

The White Sox catching depth will soon be put to the test.

Saturday, the White Sox placed catcher Welington Castillo on seven-day concussion list. In a corresponding move, the team promoted catcher Seby Zavala from Triple-A Charlotte, 

In 26 games this season, Castillo holds a .176/.286/.318 slashline with three home runs in 85 at-bats. He exited Friday's game against the Twins in the eighth inning after taking two foul tips off of his catcher's mask. 

While White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Friday that Castillo didn't go into concussion protocol, the team is likely being precautious due to the nature of the injury. 

Zavala, 25, has yet to appear in the big leagues, though he's played in 360 minor league games since the White Sox selected him in the 12th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. He holds a career slashline of .267/.335/.457 across all minor league levels, reaching Triple-A for the first time last season. 

Zavala's slashline this season is currently below his career averages (.218/.253/.506 in 21 games), but he's hit six home runs in 87 at-bats. Last season, he hit 13 in a combined 380 at-bats between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.

Although the circumstances of his promotion are not ideal, Zavala is leaving Charlotte on a high-note. In last night's game against the Durham Bulls, he went 1-for-3 with a two-run home run.

With Castillo out, the White Sox will likely lean on James McCann more. In 31 games this season, McCann holds a stellar .333/.373/.523 slashline

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White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

When the White Sox drafted Nick Madrigal with the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft he was known as an elite contact hitter who could play good defense on the infield.

In nearly a year in the minors, that has mostly held true, but not exactly according to plan. Madrigal raced through three levels of the minors in 2018 and hit .303 in 43 games between those three stops. He only had five strikeouts.

This season has not gone as smoothly. Madrigal is hitting .261 for Single-A Winston-Salem, but he still isn’t striking out much at all. In fact, according to a write-up on Milb.com, Madrigal leads of all minor league baseball with a 3.3 percent strikeout rate.

“Madrigal has plus speed, and that should lead to more hits as his sample increases, but he'll have to hit a lot more to provide value from his specific profile,” Sam Dykstra wrote.

So what’s with Madrigal not hitting for higher average? How can a batter strikeout so rarely and not find more hits?

White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler, one of the key decision makers in drafting Madrigal, talked about Madrigal’s progress on an episode of the White Sox Talk podcast earlier this week.

“The one thing he’s still doing is making contact,” Hostetler said. “So that is what we expected. We expected that out of him. I’m not sure he was probably expecting the streaks. I think he’s dealt with a lot of streaks in his offensive game this year. I think he had one stretch that was 0-for-16 or 17 and he came back with a couple hits. So he’s been a little streaky this year. But I think he’s starting to learn. He’s starting to develop. He’s had one home run. He’s starting to hit some doubles, but he’s starting to learn to get the ball in the air a little bit. He’s learning how teams are shifting him, how they’re playing him.”

The shifts Hostetler referred to are another interesting part of Madrigal’s unusual profile. He is actually going to opposite field more than pulling the ball down left field and opposing defenses are playing him accordingly. That could be one reason to explain why Madrigal isn’t getting more hits out of all the balls he is putting in play.

He is showing a bit more power this year as opposed to last year (11 extra base hits vs. 7 in only 10 more plate appearances). His spray charts for 2018 and 2019 show he is pulling the ball more than he used to, a sign that he is adjusting.

2018 spray chart:

2019 spray chart:

Note that Madrigal has more balls resulting in hits getting pulled down the left field side than he had last year. As defenses are shifting him to hit the ball to opposite field, as Hostetler noted, this will be a key part of his development.

He is showing progress in other areas. He is drawing more walks (14 this season vs. 7 last year) and is showing off his speed with 12 stolen bases.

Hostetler isn’t pushing the panic button on Madrigal.

“This is part of development,” Hostetler said. “Unfortunately the new wave we’re in everybody thinks ‘well, they’re a college guy and he’s drafted so high he needs to hit like this and go right away and be there in a year.’ Some guys just take a little bit.

“The one thing I’ll say is the defense has been exactly what we thought it would be. It’s Gold Glove caliber defense and he’s making contact. As long as he keeps making contact, keep fielding those balls like he is, he’ll figure out the rest.”

 

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