White Sox

Chris Sale strikes out 11 as White Sox top Brewers

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Chris Sale strikes out 11 as White Sox top Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Chris Sale delivered his best performance of the season Tuesday night when the White Sox needed it most.

With the bullpen fried because of poor team starting pitching and a series on the line, Sale struck out 11 batters as the White Sox edged the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2 in front of 26,935 at Miller Park.

The left-hander allowed three hits over eight innings and Alexei Ramirez made it count with a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth as the White Sox improved to 3-12 on the road. The victory -- the team’s fifth in eight games -- snapped a seven-game road-losing streak that dated back to April 18 in Detroit.

“It’s nice to get some normalcy and see some guys falling into place and we are playing well,” Sale said. “We are scoring runs and we are scoring runs late coming back on teams. Bullpen has been nails. So it’s on the starters basically to get it to them and keep less runs on the board than the other team.”

[MORE SOX: White Sox officially announce Carlos Rodon is part of rotation]

White Sox starting pitchers entered Tuesday with an average of 5.53 innings per start this season. While their 160 1/3 innings can partly be attributed to fewer games played, the rotation’s struggles haven’t been exaggerated. The team’s 5.16 ERA from its starters ranked 26th among 30 teams and Sale has contributed, lasting a career low three innings against the Minnesota Twins on April 30 -- his second consecutive non-quality start.

But fresh off a five-game suspension, Sale looked like a new man. Perhaps heeding the advice of pitching coach Don Cooper, who thought Sale had been trying to do too much, the left-hander reduced his velocity and painted the strike zone.

Sale hit his spots much more frequently, throwing strikes on 77 of 110 pitches. With the bullpen taxed, Sale was economical in the late innings, throwing 10 pitches in the seventh.

“It’s good for Chris in particular coming off a couple tough starts not really feeling that well to even have an opportunity to go that deep in a game against a team that’s swinging the bats pretty well right now,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “That does a lot for him and helps out the bullpen, too.”

Sale wasn’t without his mistakes as Elian Herrera crushed a 2-2 changeup in the fifth for a game-tying solo homer. But from there, Sale retired 12 of 13, including striking out the side in the sixth. He issued his only walk with two outs in the eighth inning, but struck out Jean Segura, who tripled in the first inning and scored. Sale extended his franchise-record to 19 games with double-digit strikeout performances.

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The White Sox were slow to start against Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers, who was perfect through four innings. But Ramirez and Flowers had back-to-back doubles to start the fifth inning to tie the game and Micah Johnson’s RBI single gave the White Sox a 2-1 lead.

Avisail Garcia singled in between walks of Jose Abreu and Conor Gillaspie to set up Ramirez in the go-ahead rally in the eighth. Abreu singled in an insurance run in the ninth.

David Robertson struck out two to convert his sixth save in seven tries. But aside from Robertson, a bullpen largely overused of late got a night off courtesy of Sale.

“It was big,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s been trying to find it and get a groove going. It didn't start off that well. They got the triple there and got on the board first but we clawed back and after that I thought he really settled down and had command of a lot of stuff. He was throwing strikes, getting them to swing early.

“This is just a little more vintage of what you would expect out of him.”

 

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

With Jose Abreu playing in the All-Star Game, we asked some of his American League teammates about the White Sox first baseman. Justin Verlander, Craig Kimbrel and Michael Brantley rave about Abreu, explaining why he’s such a great hitter and a tough out for pitchers. 

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While the White Sox wait for their All Stars of the future to develop, Jose Abreu is representing the club at the All-Star Game in the nation’s capital.

Abreu, elected by the fans to be the American League’s starting first baseman Tuesday night, might represent the White Sox present, but he’s a key part of their future, as well. While his contract situation remains a mystery — the team would need to extend him in order to keep around past the 2019 season — he’s helping to develop the players who are planned to make up the next contending group on the South Side.

No player is more under Abreu’s guiding hand than Yoan Moncada, his fellow Cuban who just a season ago was the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Moncada’s development from top prospect into star of the future is the biggest storyline of the season for the White Sox. And Abreu, the role model in this clubhouse, is in part tasked with helping Moncada do just that.

“Our friendship is special,” Moncada said through a team translator last week. “We’re always talking about everything, having fun. He gives me advice, and I always try to make fun of him. Our relationship has been for a long time. We were friends in Cuba. And now we are rejoined here. It’s just a very good relationship. I’m blessed having him here.”

“He’s a Cuban, and it’s always special to play with a fellow Cuban countryman. He’s a great kid,” Abreu said through a team translator Monday. “I think that it’s a blessing. The White Sox did all that they could do for us to play together. I’m just enjoying the moment and every day with him. It’s special. It’s definitely a very special feeling.”

Abreu is often lauded by White Sox brass as the perfect example of what they want their young players to become. His incredible production makes that an easy comparison: He put up at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first four major league seasons. But it’s what he does outside the lines that gets the highest praise. Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and all of Abreu’s teammates constantly talk about his work ethic, his routine, his dedication to getting better and the way he goes about his business.

Moncada’s noticed. And he sees Abreu’s latest accomplishment — getting picked as an All-Star starter — as vindication that, yes, Abreu’s methods certainly work.

“Knowing him, knowing all the effort that he puts into his preparation, his work ethic, all that work that he puts into his preparation is paying off and he’s recognized with this election,” Moncada said. “That’s something that motivates you, something that lets you know that if you do things the right way, you’re going to get rewarded. For me, it’s a motivation, and I feel really honored to share this team with him.”

Moncada’s first full season in the bigs hasn’t gone smoothly. He’s had his hot stretches — including the last couple weeks; he’s slashing .356/.453/.644 since July 2 — but he’s also had long periods of struggles. Certain aspects, such as a propensity for striking out and making errors at second base, have been constants throughout the campaign.

Renteria refers to the mistakes and the poor results as teachable moments. Does he have a proxy teacher in Abreu?

“I tell him to enjoy the game,” Abreu said. “Enjoy the game, have fun, be a little more focused on the situation of the game. But I think the key is to have fun.”

Mostly, though, Abreu is convinced that Moncada will blossom into the kind of player White Sox fans hoped he would when he brought that top-prospect track record to the organization in the Chris Sale trade. The expectations are undoubtedly high, but Abreu’s been seeing Moncada meet them for some time. The two have known each other since the younger Moncada was 17 years old.

“I think that he was born with special abilities to play this sport,” Abreu said. “Before I met him, there were a lot of people talking about him in Cuba because of his abilities, the talent that he has. And when I met him, it was a very special moment. As soon as I met him, I realized, ‘Wow, what people say about him is true.’ His body type, his ability to play the game. He’s special.”

So will the All Star of today and the All Star of tomorrow one day share the All-Star stage?

“I would like to have that opportunity. Let’s pray to God to have that opportunity,” Abreu said. “If that happens, that would be really special for us.”