White Sox

Chris Sale strikes out 10 as White Sox rally past Royals

Chris Sale strikes out 10 as White Sox rally past Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chris Sale always has a strong desire to finish his starts, but Carlos Sanchez delivered even more momentum late on Friday night.

Sanchez blasted a go-ahead, three-run homer off Kelvin Herrera in the eighth inning to put Sale in front and he did the rest as the White Sox topped the Kansas City Royals 7-4 in front of 29,218 at Kauffman Stadium. Sale --- who retired the first 13 men he faced -- struck out 10 in a 119-pitch effort for his sixth complete game of the season and earned his first victory since Aug. 20 and only second since June.

“I threw my arms up in the air,” Sale said of the Sanchez homer. “I was just, it was crazy. That’s your team fighting for you right there. It’s your team fighting back against one of the best (Herrera).

“It changes the complete landscape of the game honestly. You are looking at, we were down two and then we scored one, and then we hit a three-run homer. All you have to do is go out there and not mess up too bad.”

Sanchez’s second straight game-winner arrived three batters after Todd Frazier jump-started the stunning rally. Frazier had taken umbrage to an inside fastball near his head with one out in the eighth from Herrera and the Royals ahead 4-2. Frazier barked at Herrera before catcher Salvador Perez played the role of peacemaker.

After play resumed, Frazier doubled to left field and instantly scored on a one-out RBI single by Alex Avila. Avisail Garcia walked in front of Sanchez, who sat on a fastball and skied a 3-2 heater out to right to put the White Sox ahead 6-4.

Melky Cabrera blasted a solo homer in the ninth off Peter Moylan to stretch the lead to three runs.

“It’s really good when your pitcher pitches a really good game, to get the win,” Sanchez said. “I just tried to get the ball good and bring one run in and I feel really good.”

White Sox manager Robin Ventura had no qualms bringing Sale back for the bottom of the eighth inning. Working efficiently, Sale had thrown 90 pitches through seven innings and rebounded nicely after he allowed four runs (three earned) between the fifth and sixth. Sale needed only 11 pitches to get through the eighth after a leadoff single and convinced Ventura with a quick chat to bring him back for the ninth. Though he walked one, Sale ended the game with a strikeout of Paulo Orlando on a 95-mph fastball. His six complete games are the most by a White Sox pitcher since Bartolo Colon had nine in 2003.

“He was going back out,” Ventura said. “It was nice for him to finish it off. Early on he was real sharp. They got to him in the middle there. Even at the end, talking to him, he felt great. We had been talking about how strong he is, his endurance, and this is another example of that.”

Sale looked like he had the stuff perfect games are made of in the early going.

He had pinpoint command of his fastball and buckled knees with sliders. Sale had no close calls in the first 13 hitters and was efficient. He struck out one batter in each of the first four innings and only needed 43 pitches to set down the first 12.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

But Salvador Perez fouled off an 0-2 slider in the fifth inning and singled to start a barrage of Royals hits. By the time it was over, Kansas City had gone 7-for-10 and went from trailing by two to leading 4-2. Sale escaped the sixth inning with a double play and set down the side in order in the seventh inning. HIs 11-pitch eighth meant Sale has pitched at least eight innings in six straight starts, the most by a White Sox pitcher since Jack McDowell had seven from July 10-August 8, 1994. He recently attributed the run to a plan he and pitching coach Don Cooper devised in spring training to work more efficiently. Sale also credited his catchers and his manager for trusting him.

“You got to give credit to my team, my catchers and not only that, but to Robin,” Sale said. “He’s letting me get extended a little bit. A lot of people are afraid to let guys get over the 110-pitch mark. We go based on feel -- if I’m feeling good. He came up and asked me after the eighth. I know how I felt and we went from there.”

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


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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