White Sox

Five ejected in White Sox, Royals brawl in seventh inning

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Five ejected in White Sox, Royals brawl in seventh inning

A testy start to the 2015 season resulted in a bench-clearing brawl between the White Sox and Kansas City Royals on Thursday night.

Both benches emptied at the end of the seventh inning after Yordano Ventura fielded Adam Eaton’s comebacker, took several steps off the mound, stared at the White Sox leadoff hitter and shouted an obscenity at him before he threw to first for the out.

Eaton then quickly turned to confront the pitcher, sparking the chaos. Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Lorenzo Cain were ejected for Kansas City, but it didn’t stop the Royals from winning 3-2 in 13 innings. White Sox starting pitchers Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija got tossed as well.

“I think everyone knows,” Sale said. “I’m not going to sit here and put my foot in my mouth or spill the beans. The proof is in what you guys saw and that was about it.

“Yeah, we’re competitive, we’re athletes, we’re guys. You put us in the heat of the moment and we do some crazy things sometimes. That’s about it.

“It was a big mess.”

[MORE: Adam Eaton on KC: "I respect the hell out of that team"]

The drama started long before Thursday and was rooted in a season-opening series in which six batters were hit and Royals starter Danny Duffy threw behind the head of White Sox slugger Adam LaRoche.

Both Ventura and Sale each hit a batter Thursday to reignite those tensions. Ventura hit Jose Abreu in the elbow to start the fourth inning and Sale drilled Mike Moustakas in the shoulder in the fifth with a 0-2 changeup. Before the pitch even reached the plate, Sale reacted as if he lost control of the pitch and was upset with himself. After the game, Royals manager Ned Yost said he was surprised when umpires warned both benches after Sale hit Moustakas because he didn’t believe there was intent.

“There’s been some heated games to open the season,” catcher Tyler Flowers said.

But none could match the intensity of Thursday’s affair and Eaton said the incident kept him warm for the rest of a contest in which the wind chill was at 32 degrees by the late innings.

With two outs in the seventh and an 0-1 count, Ventura appeared to quick pitch Eaton, who may have said something -- though it’s hard to tell from television replays. Eaton, who made a one-minute statement afterward in which he said he respects the Royals and believes the incident is over, said he didn’t say anything until after he neared first base.

“When he came at me with the two-step that he did, and then he said something, I was a little thrown back by it,” Eaton said. “And then I had some words for him.

“(The quick pitch) is part of the game. I wouldn't say I was irritated by it. I put a pretty good swing on the ball and if it gets past him it's probably a hit. He made a great play and when make a great play sometimes you get a little excited and that's kind of what happened.”

[MORE: After brawl, White Sox fall to Royals in 13 innings]

Ventura, who also hit Brett Lawrie during a series of incidents with the Oakland A’s last weekend, was quickly ushered away from the crowd and into foul territory by teammates. Cain, who has already been hit four times, including twice by the White Sox, was in the middle of the brouhaha as was Samardzija, who appeared to twice pursue Kansas City players. In one instance, Samardzija -- who hit Cain on Opening Day after he surrendered homer to Moustakas -- charged into a crowd of players, resulting in him running over Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele. Samardzija, who was not available for comment after the game, appeared to attempt to fight Cain, who also had to be restrained several times.

Sale, who was done after 99 pitches anyway, didn’t know he had been ejected until close to an inning later. During the scrum, he was face to face with Yost in a heated discussion. Somewhere in the middle was Volquez, who threw several punches in the direction of Flowers that didn’t appear to land.

“When anybody starts staring everybody reacts to it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think for us, once you get out there, when somebody starts saying something, guys are emotional. I couldn’t even tell you what happened. There was people everywhere.”

James McCann leads charge for White Sox in running for starting spots in MLB All-Star Game

James McCann leads charge for White Sox in running for starting spots in MLB All-Star Game

Major League Baseball released a second voting update for All-Star Game starters and three White Sox players are still in the mix.

The top three spots at each position (and top nine in the outfield) are all that matter for now, with those players advancing to MLB’s new Starters Election. James McCann is the only member of the White Sox to sit in one of those spots for now.

McCann is second at catcher behind Gary Sanchez of the Yankees. He is nearly 800,000 votes behind the Yankees backstop.

Jose Abreu was in third in the last update at first base, but has fallen behind Carlos Santana of the Indians. Luke Volt, another Yankee, leads with C.J. Cron of the Twins in second. Santana is just under 43,000 votes ahead of Abreu.

Tim Anderson is still in fourth at shortstop. Jorge Polanco of the Twins and Carlos Correa of the Astros are comfortably in the top two spots. Gleyber Torres, yet another Yankee, is just over 45,000 votes ahead of Anderson for third.

There aren’t any other White Sox within striking distance of the top three. Yoan Moncada remains in eighth among third basemen.

Polls close Friday at 3 p.m. CT.

 

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Breaking down Eloy Jimenez's improvement

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USA TODAY

Breaking down Eloy Jimenez's improvement

When Eloy Jiménez returned from the Injured List in late May and rejoined the White Sox lineup, he went on the road to Houston and Minnesota and he struggled to the tune of a .148 batting average and .148 on-base percentage, with four hits (three went over the fence), 11 strikeouts and no walks.

For the season, his slashline was .217/.259/.406 with five walks and 36 strikeouts. He was swinging at 49.8 percent of all the pitches he saw (a bit above the 46.7 percent league average); he was swinging at 38.8 percent of pitches outside the zone (quite a bit above the 30.9 percent league average).

He returned to the comfort of Guaranteed Rate Field on May 27 and took a pair of walks. From that point forward, things started to look a lot better… and the results were in line with that observation.

Eloy Jiménez this season:

  PA AVG OBP SLG BB K Swing % Outside zone swing %
Through May 26 112 ,217 .259 .406 5 36 49.8 38.8
Since May 27 71 .297 .366 .594 7 18 45.9 30.8

Not only has he improved quite a bit, but that 30.8 outside the zone swing percentage is second only to Yonder Alonso’s 29.9 percent mark among White Sox with at least 40 plate appearances since May 27. Jiménez hasn’t been chasing nearly as many bad pitches lately.

Those pitches he has been laying off of have for the most part been the low and away stuff, as indicated by his swing charts below. First, his swing rates before getting hurt and then since he came back from injury.

These charts are from the catcher’s perspective, and from what you can see, he has done a much better job of laying off the low and away pitches. Look at the three zones furthest low and away. There’s a big difference.

Start of the year through May 26:

Since May 27:

Through May 26 he swung at 33.8 percent of pitches (51 of 151)  low and away and out of the zone. Since May 27 he has swung at 14.5 percent of those pitches (10 of 69).

It’s only an 18-game sample, so there will certainly be more adjustments made to combat Jiménez, but I believe we’re watching Eloy begin to mature into the middle of the order force as he was advertised.

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