White Sox

Chris Sale sets franchise record but White Sox get shut out by Royals

Chris Sale sets franchise record but White Sox get shut out by Royals

Chris Sale set a new franchise record on Sunday afternoon by becoming the first White Sox pitcher to have 200-plus strikeouts in four consecutive seasons, but the White Sox offense had only two hits in their 2-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 20,107.

The White Sox ace fanned 12 more batters, increasing his strikeout total to 205 this season. Max Scherzer is the only other pitcher with 200-plus strikeouts in each of his last four seasons, according to CSN stats guru Chris Kamka.

Sale enjoys the accomplishment, but his mind is taking him somewhere else.

"I don't want to act like it's not cool or like I'm unappreciative of it, but there's not a single part of me that wouldn't give all that to be in the playoffs four years in a row," he said.

It was Sale’s 34th career game with 10-plus strikeouts, also a team record. He has twice as many than Ed Walsh, who is second on the list with 17, according to Kamka.

Sale believes that this is the strongest he's ever been at this time of year.

"I feel good. There was a lot of work that went into that, not only by myself but people I'm surrounded by," Sale said. "It starts in the offseason and then gets into spring training. I like where we're at right now, the way my body's feeling and how it's reacting. You just try to keep riding it out."

Sale pitched eight solid innings and allowed two runs – both solo homers – on eight hits and one walk. Homers came from Kendrys Morales in the second and Eric Hosmer in the sixth. Hosmer’s home run was the third of his career off Sale, the most the White Sox southpaw has allowed by a left-hander.

The White Sox are 2-8 in Sale’s 10 starts since the All-Star break despite nine being quality starts. Sunday’s outing lowered his overall ERA to 3.03 on the season.

With three or four starts remaining, manager Robin Ventura thinks Sale still has a shot to win the American League Cy Young Award. As for Sale, he's not really thinking about it.

"Like I said before, I let all that stuff work itself out," Sale said. "I go up there and I pitch for this team, and I pitch for my teammates and the fans and myself. Anything other than that, I don't worry about it."

Sale (15-8) pitched himself out of a couple big jams in the fifth and seventh. He allowed the first two batters to get on in the fifth, but struck out the next three to escape the inning unscathed. Again in the seventh, Sale gave up a single and a double to lead off the inning. But he struck out the next batter and forced a double play to end the inning.

"He gets in a jam he can strike people out," Ventura said. "I think that’s where he reaches for a little bit more and goes after. I think his slider is sharper at that point. He’s learned to kind of pace himself and go along but he always has the ability to strike people out. That’s what makes him dangerous, that’s what makes him good.

"For him to wiggle himself out of it, he doesn’t need anybody else to help him with that. He can do it."

The White Sox offense didn’t do him any favors, either.

Their only two hits of the afternoon came from Adam Eaton – in the first and ninth inning. The White Sox bats were shut down for a majority of the game.

"(Royals starter Ian Kennedy) was working the corners really well," Eaton said. "Working the corners, doing what he does. He sinks it, he cuts it and he's got a good curveball. That kept us off-balance today. That's no excuse. Sale goes out and pitches a heck of a game, does what he does, we need to scrap across a few runs.

"We've been swinging the bats well, though. Not to say that one day out of five we can falter. With that being said, we've got to do better for Sale."

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The team's best chance came in the third inning, where the White Sox failed to capitalize with the bases loaded after three batters reached on walks.

The White Sox stand at 68-74 on the season and are on the verge of their fourth consecutive losing season.

With the offseason approaching, it's uncertain what the future holds for Sale and the White Sox. If it were up to him, he'd like to stay here in Chicago.

"That will shake out on its own," Sale said. "I wear this uniform with a lot of pride, and I hope I can continue to do that."

Sale is in the prime of his career and continues to be more dominant as time passes. But even at 27 years old, Sale believes his best days are still ahead of him.

"I'm a very competitive person," Sale said. "I enjoy competing against other people but against myself, as well. Every year, it doesn't matter who you are, you could be the best of the best or the worst of the worst, and you still want to be better.

"You look at a guy over in L.A. with (Clayton) Kershaw, you think you've seen it all, and he just gets better. You take after that and you watch people around you and you just keep working hard and try to be better every time out no matter what the result last time was."

White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals

Age: 29

2019 salary: $12,250,000

2019 stats: .241 BA, .328 OBP, .472 SLG, .800 OPS, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 80 R, 12/14 SB 

What Ozuna would bring to the White Sox

Ozuna appeared on the verge of becoming an elite star like Anthony Rendon after a breakout season in 2017 with the Marlins. Ozuna came up at 22 and had decent years early in his career. He improved upon his first few years with 37 home runs, 124 RBIs and a .924 OPS as a 26-year-old.

Unlike Rendon, who broke through in 2017 and has sustained that for three seasons now, Ozuna's breakout year appears to be more of a flash in the pan. Ozuna was traded to the Cardinals before the 2018 season and saw a dropoff in his production.

His power and walk rate took big dips in 2018, although he bounced back in both last season. However, he hit .241, which was the lowest batting average of his career.

Ozuna had a career-high walk rate (11.3%) and had the second-best extra-base hit and home run rates of his career (he was only better in those areas in 2017). His strikeout rate (20.8%) was in line with his career average. So what went wrong? His batting average of balls in play was a career-worst .257, which suggests that maybe he's due for some form of bounce back in 2020 as far as batting average.

To simplify all that, Ozuna was good in some areas and inexplicably poor (and maybe unlucky) in others. Does that mean he will return to his big 2017 year wherever he signs? Probably not, but it does help to alleviate some of the feeling of risk for a player who has been inconsistent in his career.

Defensively, Ozuna has a Gold Glove on his resume from 2017, but the stats say he's just an average fielder. Not to mention, he's become infamous for this fielding gaffe.


What it would take to get him

He's young with a mostly positive track record offensively and if he can recreate his 2017 season offensively, he's an all-star outfielder. He won't be cheap, but he has enough question marks to come up just short of $20 million per year.

Ozuna should be able to get four or five years in the mid-to-upper teens per year, similar to fellow outfield free agent Nicholas Castellanos.

Why it's a fit for the White Sox

The White Sox need a corner outfielder. He fills a position of need, adds depth, patience and power to the lineup and won't be a liability in the field.

Ozuna isn't the splashiest signing the White Sox could make, but it makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.

Latest rumors

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

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USA TODAY

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

The White Sox added a flamethrower to their bullpen.

Tayron Guerrero is the newest member of the White Sox relief corps, the team claiming the 28-year-old right-hander off waivers from the Miami Marlins on Friday.

Guerrero's most eye-catching attribute is his triple-digit fastball. He averaged 98.9 mph on his four-seam fastball in 2019 and threw the second most 100-mph pitches (178) of any pitcher in baseball. He posted a 10.6 K/9 in 2018.

But throwing hard and giving up runs are two different things. In 2019, Guerrero had a 6.26 ERA, a number that jumped up from the already less-than-ideal 5.43 ERA he turned in a year prior. He also had some trouble locating said fireball, walking 36 batters in 46 relief innings in 2019 for a ridiculously high 7.0 BB/9.

Still, this type of addition was signaled as perhaps the primary way the White Sox would add to their bullpen this offseason. With so many other items on Rick Hahn's offseason to-do list and the back end of the bullpen being a pretty stable part of the roster, the general manager said that small signings and waiver claims would continue to be part of the strategy when it comes to making additions to the relief corps.

Hahn referenced the team's acquisitions of Evan Marshall, who was signed to a minor league contract last winter, and Jimmy Cordero, who was claimed off waivers in the middle of the 2019 season, as moves to emulate going forward.

"All 30 teams will tell you ... that adding more bullpen pieces is an offseason priority, and we're no exception," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference in September. "Cordero's been a nice find, as has been Marshall, but that's not going to stop us from continuing to potentially take guys off waivers like Cordero or (sign) minor league free agents like Marshall.

"It's going to go into this offseason continuing to be a place we want to add because relievers are tricky. You see it every year, guys go from the top of the list to the bottom and back."

As Hahn frequently says, you can never have too much pitching, and while this might be a low-risk move, it could end up proving fruitful, as those Cordero and Marshall moves did.

Spending on money on more proven guys has also been a part of the White Sox strategy in this department in the recent past. Hahn's front office gave Kelvin Herrera a two-year deal just last winter. But as Herrera showed during a rough first year of that contract, even guys with good track records can lead to easy second-guessing on those kinds of deals. So building up depth through less splashy means figures to be a good idea, regardless of the results.

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