White Sox

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Felix Hernandez has proven for years that he doesn’t need much help.

But the White Sox provided him with three free outs on the bases anyway on Friday night.

Those mistakes allowed Hernandez to hold the White Sox in check as they wasted a 14-strikeout performance from Chris Sale in a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners in front of 25,651 at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale retired 16 in a row to end it, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox dropped back to five games below .500.

“We didn’t run the bases very well tonight,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That ends up costing you. You’re getting something going against them, and it just takes the wind out of your sails. Both guys pitched great.

“They just executed better than we did when they got the chance. Both guys were going strong. The way we ran the bases, we didn’t deserve to win that game.”

Sale (15-7) deserved much better than to lose for the fifth time in his last six decisions.

[MORE: White Sox trade catcher Dioner Navarro to Blue Jays]

Though he allowed a run in the second, third and fourth innings, Sale got on a roll late.

After Adam Lind’s two-out RBI double in the fourth, Sale found an extra gear and retired the last 16 Mariners to hit, including 10 strikeouts. He struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings and afforded his teammates a chance to rally.

“Thank God we did it early because as everybody saw, when he gets on a roll it’s like lights out,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He’s obviously one of the best pitchers in the league for a reason. We had no chance, really, after the fourth and fifth inning. He got into a groove and got all his pitches working.”

Two of Seattle’s three runs off Sale came on opposite-field drives as Lind doubled to left in the fourth and Franklin Gutierrez homered to right in the second inning. Sale walked none and only allowed five hits and three runs in nine innings. He threw strikes on 88 of 120 pitches.

It was the 13th complete game of Sale’s career and his fifth this season.

“I wanted to find a groove and I felt like after the fourth inning I got into a pretty good groove, that cruising speed I was talking about,” Sale said. “I just tried to lengthen it as much as I could, just fill up as many innings as I could. Just give us a chance to win, keep us in the game.”

While Sale kept his team in the game, they repeatedly took themselves out of it.

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The White Sox had plenty of chances against Hernandez, none better than the bottom of the eighth inning. Trailing by two runs, Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino singled on both sides of a J.B. Shuck fielder’s choice. Adam Eaton’s one-out walk knocked Hernandez out of the game after 104 pitches.

But closer Edwin Diaz got Tim Anderson to hit into a fielder’s choice as third baseman Shawn O’Malley made a perfect throw home on the slow roller for a force out. Jose Abreu then fouled out to leave the bases loaded. Diaz retired the side in order in the ninth for his 11th save.

Todd Frazier homered in the seventh inning of Hernandez for the team’s only run, but they should have had more. The White Sox had the leadoff man reach base in five of eight innings started by Hernandez, who allowed a run and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. Hernandez erased two of those five as he picked off Frazier and Shuck in the second and third innings. He also got out of a first-and-third jam in the fifth inning when Shuck lined into a double play and Omar Narvaez was caught leaning.

“That’s the frustrating part,” Ventura said. “You know you’re not really going to have too many opportunities (against Hernandez). You might be able to hit and run or all of a sudden you’re first and third. But if you just take it out of your own hands, that’s where you scratch your head.”

Bryce Harper 'warming up to the White Sox'? Is the future-focused pitch working?

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Bryce Harper 'warming up to the White Sox'? Is the future-focused pitch working?

LAS VEGAS — The White Sox remain in the hunt for Bryce Harper, according to one report after another, and as they jetted off to his hometown for their own kind of warm up at the Winter Meetings here in Sin City, maybe Harper's starting to warm up to the idea of playing on the South Side.

WBBM's George Ofman tweeted just that Monday morning, the latest Twitter link between the White Sox and the biggest fish in this winter's free-agent pond.

In pro sports, it's easy to say that it all comes down to money, and while that kind of blanket statement is not exactly true, money plays an obviously enormous role. The White Sox, simply by being in the mix, would have to be willing to hand out a contract that is expected to be the biggest the sport has ever seen.

There's a perception among certain White Sox fans that they will not do that. Well, consider it another preconceived notion that Hahn will be happy to shatter. He's talked often about how the team has flown in the face of those preconceptions over the past two years: that they wouldn't undergo a full-scale rebuild, that they wouldn't make a blockbuster deal with the Crosstown-rival Cubs. He's held the door open for more of that kind of behavior, and making a gargantuan contract offer would fall into that category.

And a gargantuan contract offer is what it would figure to take to get Harper, as high-spending clubs like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies are also reportedly in the hunt. The Phillies have even promised to "spend stupid," which could price just about anybody out of a bidding war.

Plus, those teams can offer what the White Sox cannot: the ability to start winning championships, plural, right now.

The White Sox have big plans and a bright future, but they remain just plans. Meanwhile, the Yankees won 100 games last season, the Dodgers have been to each of the last two World Series and the Phillies made a big jump in their rebuilding effort last season and would figure to be a contender if Harper signed on.

But Hahn thinks that bright future is as big a selling point as any, and he's confident there's an allure to buying into such plans and seeing them through to a championship.

“You have to understand these guys are professionals and they understand deep nuances about each individual franchise,” the White Sox general manager said on a conference call last week. “And from a macro standpoint, the idea of potentially being part of a winner in Chicago has very broad appeal. From a nuanced standpoint, the chance to be part of the White Sox organization based upon what our future looks like, futures that these players are familiar with and understand having either seen personally some of these young players play or video or talked to other players about them, it’s something that they buy into.

“There’s an allure not just to winning in this city. But there’s an allure of being part of building something that’s potentially sustainable and potentially great. Where we were in Year 2 of a rebuild I don’t think really plays a huge role in the decision-making process of what a player is buying into in terms of the long term future.”

So is that what this whole "warming up" business is about? Is the White Sox pitch — which was reportedly aided by the presence of Hall of Famer Jim Thome — making an impact? Or is the contract offer simply the biggest out there?

Those questions remain unanswered. But, you would figure, it's going to take more than just money, and you would figure, it's going to take more than just the ability to win championships. So maybe the White Sox long-term focused pitch is working, maybe it's the right blend of money and winning and the ability to do something special that makes Harper "warm up" to the South Side.

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Another World Series contender with a bunch of highly ranked prospects has reportedly asked White Sox about Jose Abreu

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Another World Series contender with a bunch of highly ranked prospects has reportedly asked White Sox about Jose Abreu

LAS VEGAS — There's no knowing whether the White Sox actually want to trade Jose Abreu, but another report's out saying a World Series contender has asked about acquiring him.

First it was the Los Angeles Dodgers, who could offer quite a bit in young talent to further Rick Hahn's rebuilding effort. Ditto for the new team, the Houston Astros, the 2017 World Series champs, 2018 American League runners up, as good a pick for the 2019 championship as there is and a team with a bevy of highly rated prospects.

The latest info comes from the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, who simply writes that the Astros have "inquired about Abreu." That's it. So much like last week's report out of Southern California, there's no indication of any interest in a deal on the White Sox part.

Last week, Hahn was asked about Abreu, who has one year remaining on his current contract, and had this to say:

"It’s still an ongoing process," he said of the decision-making on the team's best hitter. "We’ve made no secret about our affection for Jose and not only from a standpoint of what he contributes between the white lines but what he does in the clubhouse and the role he plays in not only a leadership role but the role he plays in being sort of the centerpiece of the franchise from a mature-player standpoint. In terms of how he fits going forward, this is the last year of contractual control."

It's appropriately vague as the White Sox have several different avenues they can travel down and no rush in which to make a decision.

As Hahn said, the White Sox do love Abreu, constantly praising the incredible production he's had since coming over from Cuba before the 2014 season as well as what he does in the clubhouse as a model for young players. He's taken an active role in the rebuilding process by taking the likes of Yoan Moncada under his wing. And that production is of course valuable in the middle of any lineup. Thanks to an unusual prolonged slump and a pair of freak injuries, Abreu was not able to make it five straight seasons with at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs to start his career, but despite his worst statistical season as a big leaguer, he was the AL's starting first baseman in the All-Star Game and a Silver Slugger winner.

The White Sox might look at all that production — and the off-the-field contributions — and see no reason why it would stop, making Abreu a logical piece of the long-term puzzle as things shift from rebuilding to contending and a perfect candidate for a contract extension.

But Abreu's age is advancing (he'll be 32 next month), and though they know why it happened, 2018's statistical dropoff was a big one, with Abreu posting career lows in batting average, on-base percentage, home runs, RBIs, hits, total bases and games played. Not to mention, the White Sox only have one more year of control, and with a potentially appealing return package, they could opt to cash in via trade, be it now or at the trade deadline next summer.

What can the Astros offer? Quite a bit, potentially. They, like the Dodgers, boast four prospects ranked in MLB Pipeline's top 100, including two of the top eight in the game: outfielder Kyle Tucker is just two spots behind White Sox top prospect Eloy Jimenez, and pitcher Forrest Whitley is only three spots behind Tucker.

Again, who knows if the White Sox would want to part with a player and a person they value so highly. But there's no doubting that the organization's collection of minor league talent could get better if they do.

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