White Sox

Jerry Sands homer paces Carlos Rodon, White Sox in win over Twins

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Jerry Sands homer paces Carlos Rodon, White Sox in win over Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Carlos Rodon worked out of a tight spot on Wednesday night and his offense rewarded him in a huge way.

Well, Jerry Sands did anyway.

Shortly after Rodon pitched out of a sixth-inning, bases-loaded jam, Sands, who made his first start of the season, delivered a massive two-run home run off Phil Hughes to catapult the White Sox to a 3-0 victory in front of 21,008 at Target Field. Rodon worked around five walks (one intentional) and a tight strike zone from plate ump Andy Fletcher to deliver six scoreless innings. He struck out six and allowed three hits as the White Sox improved to 6-2, their best start since 2012.

“That’s what you want out of a team, you want a lot of guys chipping in to help you win games,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s not like we’re clubbing people 11-0 and everybody’s getting four hits a night.”

Rodon appeared to get squeezed on occasion Wednesday, but it never impacted him as much as it did in his final inning.

Leading 1-0, the left-hander’s 2-2 offering appeared to go for a strike up and in against Miguel Sano only to be called a ball by Fletcher. Rodon walked Sano on the next pitch and Trevor Plouffe singled on an 0-2 fastball to put the go-ahead run at first. Eduardo Escobar was intentionally walked after Eddie Rosario’s sac bunt moved both men into scoring position.

[MORE: Top White Sox prospect Tim Anderson out with strained left wrist]

But Rodon struck out Max Kepler on three pitches and then won a four-pitch battle against Kurt Suzuki to escape the jam, inducing a foul popout on his 107th pitch.

“That’s baseball, man,” Rodon said. “You’ve just got to step up, do your job. It was a tough outing, but that’s baseball. It’s a part of it. You walk guys like that, you just keep on pitching, keep on going.”

Perseverance by the White Sox offense against Hughes paid off in the seventh. They had also threatened to break through in the previous two innings and settled for one run.

Melky Cabrera lined out hard to first base before Brett Lawrie singled to center, his second hit of the night. Sands, who earlier struck out with two in scoring position, quickly fell behind Hughes in the count 1-2. But Sands ripped into a cut-fastball from Hughes that caught too much of the plate and blasted it out to center for a two-run homer and a 3-0 lead.

“He had been front-hipping some cutters to me all night once he got ahead so I had an idea it was coming,” Sands said. “He had been throwing it pretty good all night and dotting it up pretty good, but luckily he left one out over the plate.

“I knew I got it good, but this park plays big especially at night. (Byron) Buxton runs about anything down out there, you see him turn around and run, hopefully it gets over his head. I was glad it went out.”

Sands started the game in place of Avisail Garcia, who is only 1-for-12 in his career against Hughes. Ventura opted for Sands because Hughes is actually slightly tougher against left-handed hitters than he is righties, who have a .759 OPS versus a .733.

That was enough to support Rodon and the four White Sox relievers who followed.

“That was awesome, man,” Rodon said. “That was a tough pitch, (cutter) away. He saw it was down, he got up and got it, hit it out.”

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Disappointed he allowed a pair of early runs and lost his first start last Wednesday, Rodon nicely rebounded in his second outing with solid fastball command. He threw strikes on 54 of 78 fastballs (69 percent).

Rodon retired six of the first seven he faced and then stranded runners in scoring position in the third and fifth innings of a nice duel with Hughes, who didn’t allow a hit until the fourth.

Rodon threw strikes on 64 of 107 pitches to deliver his 10th consecutive quality start. He has a 1.73 ERA in 67 2/3 innings in that span.

“When he needed to be, he bowed up and got through the sixth and was in tough spot and came through,” Ventura said. “For a young guy, that’s something you can put in your pocket and move on.”

Hughes retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced with five strikeouts. Only Jimmy Rollins reached with an infield hit in the fourth. The fifth inning began with promise as Cabrera singled and raced to third on a Lawrie double. But Hughes struck out Sands on three pitches and then got Alex Avila to strike out. Austin Jackson grounded out to third and the White Sox left two stranded in scoring position.  

Adam Eaton started a sixth-inning rally with a singled and scooted to third on Rollins’ second single. The White Sox went ahead 1-0 when Jose Abreu grounded into a double play.

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

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Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

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Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

"It's a dirty play by a dirty player."

That was Christian Yelich, the all-but-sure-to-be NL MVP, describing Manny Machado, who's about to become one of the best-paid players in baseball history, after Game 4 of the NLCS, a game in which Machado once again grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Machado's Los Angeles Dodgers and Yelich's Milwaukee Brewers have played four games in this NLCS, and after three of them, the focus has been on Machado. Not because of his bat or his glove but because of lack of hustle and certain methods on the base paths that weren't exactly on the up and up.

After Game 2, he was criticized for not hustling on a ground ball to shortstop. In something straight out of a public-relations person's nightmare, he defended himself by saying that hustling really isn't his cup of tea. During Game 3, he twice attempted to break up double plays by interfering at second base and was, upon review, busted for it the second time. In extra innings in Game 4, he appeared to intentionally drag his leg across Jesus Aguilar's at first base. That play cleared the benches, got Machado called "dirty" in the Brewers' clubhouse and earned him the reputation of postseason villain.

And so Machado's impending free agency gets to be discussed in a brand new light. There's now more baggage attached to the 26-year-old superstar with a fantastic bat and a stellar glove.

The question is: Will the White Sox, one of many teams that could be mulling a contract offer worth hundreds of millions of dollars, care?

As much as it’s talked about building a perennial contender of the future by developing the on-field skills of their fleet of highly touted prospects, the White Sox brain trust has discussed developing a culture, a way of doing things, to go along with all that talent and all that skill. Unsurprisingly that conversation has focused on the oft-used phrase of “doing things the right way.”

Does what Machado has been doing count as “doing things the right way”? It seems easy to assess that it doesn't. It's far more difficult to determine whether it will end up making a difference or not.

Not hustling is one of Rick Renteria's biggest bugaboos. He sat down multiple players on multiple occasions throughout the 2018 season — starting with Avisail Garcia in a spring training game and including a veteran like Welington Castillo as well as a young star like Tim Anderson — for not running to first base on pop ups and line outs and ground outs. Would Renteria's tune suddenly change if Machado and his preference for not hustling arrived on the South Side in what would surely be the biggest free-agent deal in club history?

Renteria got fired up over the issue at the end of July, when he benched Anderson for not hustling on what the shortstop believed was a line out.

“We tell these guys, don’t assume anything. ... It’s as simple as that, and he understands it. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. He comes out of the box, he doesn’t stand there. But we just reiterated to make sure that you allow the umpires to make the calls and you allow the other clubs to go ahead and ask for reviews. We run.”

But asked about not running out his ground ball in Game 2, Machado shared pretty much the opposite philosophy.

"Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen," Machado told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am."

What about Machado's interferences at second base? It was that exact play that sent Anderson into an on-field tiff with umpire Joe West during the second Crosstown series of the season just last month. Javy Baez slid into second base, and Anderson thought Baez did something he shouldn't have, raising his arm to interfere with a double-play turn, that sequence of events ending with Anderson screaming at West on the field. Would Anderson be cool with playing alongside — and potentially vacating his position at shortstop for — an infamous interferer?

And what about being a "dirty player," a villain? The White Sox always seemed fine — heck, they loved it — having one of baseball's greatest irritants in A.J. Pierzynski on the roster. Perhaps no player wore the "villain" title as a badge of honor more than the catcher on the 2005 World Series team. But remember that Pierzynski took the punch, he didn't throw it. Being baseball's version of a "villain" and being a guy who makes dangerous plays that could hurt somebody are two different things.

The point being: Do Machado's actions in this postseason series make him anathema to the "Ricky's boys don't quit" mantra? If the White Sox were to turn a blind eye to the events of this NLCS, would it qualify as a betrayal of their quest to establish a high-effort, high-character culture?

Or do they value that culture so much that they stay away from Machado this offseason?

Here's Rick Hahn from September of last year.

"It’s the culture that Ricky and his coaching staff have been able to create in that clubhouse. I cannot tell you how many various fans have stopped me, or emailed me or mentioned to me that they’ve never been this excited over a 60-win team. Or they’ve never been excited about a team that isn’t going to the playoffs. And I think so much of that is based on how Ricky and the coaches have them playing day in and day out. You see them fighting for 27 outs, you see them prepared every night. Sure, we’re going to get out-manned at portions during this process, but the fight and competitiveness and the style of play is the kind of thing that is going to endure year in and year out. And that is extremely important for us to establish at the big league level for all of us."

Machado's talent would make any team he's a part of more competitive. But for the White Sox, who talk an awful lot about hustling and refusing to quit, perhaps all these postseason shenanigans make it so Machado just isn't their cup of tea.