White Sox

Chris Sale not at his best as White Sox fall to AL's best

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Chris Sale not at his best as White Sox fall to AL's best

Chris Sale knows the Royals are the best team in the American League, and he knows you’re not supposed to serve up home runs to the best team in the American League.

“This is not a good team to leave fastballs over the plate to and also not a good team to let the ball travel over the fence,” Sale said. “They take advantage of every opportunity you give them, and that’s what happens.”

Yes, that’s exactly what happened Sunday, as Sale allowed a trio of runs on a pair of homers against the reigning AL champs, the critical blows in a 4-1 White Sox loss at U.S. Cellular Field.

Sale wasn’t his usually dominant self Sunday, and it showed from the very beginning. He allowed three of the first four batters he faced to collect singles, and one of them turned into a run.

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Later on, the left-handed ace served up a pitch that Lorenzo Cain turned into his second solo homer in as many days. The following inning, Paulo Orlando cranked a two-run shot into the seats to put the Royals ahead by four.

Meanwhile, the Royals showed what’s made them one of baseball’s best teams. They got great pitching, as Danny Duffy blanked the White Sox over eight innings. Tyler Saladino’s solo homer to lead off the ninth ended Duffy’s shutout bid, but eight-plus innings of one-run ball allowing just six hits is still stellar. To boot, the Royals’ defense was sensational, with Alcides Escobar — who last week started the All-Star Game at shortstop — making what seemed like one dazzling play per inning.

Pitching and defense. And a couple long balls off one of baseball’s best pitchers. That’s what keeps you atop the standings. And that’s what kept the White Sox out of the win column three out of four times in this weekend series.

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“They limit everything,” Robin Ventura said. “They have a really fast outfield. They limit things in the outfield. It's spread out pretty good. Cain covers a lot of ground, he's done it the last few days. Escobar just seemed to be everywhere today. Even when it's tipping off somebody's glove he's there to pick it up and throw it, and the play at the end of the game. We just couldn't get anything going.”

“Yeah, pitching and defense and doing the little things,” Sale said. “That’s what wins you ballgames and gets you on rolls. We’re having a little bit of bad luck on our side right now. Just try to shake that and just get on a streak.”

Sale’s "off" day has to be put in perspective, of course. Sure, he surrendered a season-high 11 hits. But an ace pitcher should be able to give up only four runs — just the fourth time that’s happened in Sale's 18 starts this season — and not completely sink his team. But the White Sox are the lowest-scoring team in the AL, and that means those four runs were just too many to overcome.

A struggling offense couldn’t muster a thing against Duffy outside of Saladino’s late homer. The White Sox collected just six hits and squandered the chances they did get. Three times in the first three innings they had a runner at second, but no runs came of it. And the most glaring missed opportunity came in the sixth, when after the first two hitters reached, a sacrifice bunt and a pair of strikeouts followed, stranding a pair of runners in scoring position.

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The White Sox dropped three games during this four-game weekend set and are now 3-7 on the season against the Royals. There’ll be no reprieve, either, following Monday’s off day, as the team with the best record in the National League, the Cardinals, visits the South Side for two games.

It could all add up to a real rough way to start the second half after the first half ended with the White Sox winners of nine of 12.

But you know what started that good stretch? A two-game sweep of the Cardinals.

“It’s just frustrating all the way around,” Sale said. “You come out, and you’re playing hard. We’re grinding it out. We’re playing as hard as you can, and that’s all you can really ask. We got some bad luck along the way, too. We’re squaring some balls up and doing some things. Balls hitting off guys’ gloves and going to the other guy. It’s just sometimes you have to shake the bad luck before you get on a roll.”

Daily White Sox prospects update: Zack Collins hits a pair of homers

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Zack Collins hits a pair of homers

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Double-A Birmingham

Zack Collins hit two home runs as part of a three-hit day. He drove in two runs, scored two runs and walked once in a 10-4 loss. Collins now has seven homers on the campaign with an ungodly .421 on-base percentage. He's batting .326 over his last 25 games. Eloy Jimenez had two hits and a walk, and Jordan Guerrero gave up four runs and walked five in four innings.

Class A Winston-Salem

The Dash lost both games of a doubleheader, 10-5 and 7-0. Luis Alexander Basabe, Alex Call and Gavin Sheets each picked up two hits on the day.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had a hit and scored a run in a 2-1 loss.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez had a hit in a 2-1 win.

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.