White Sox

Longball, Danks lift Sox past Cubs

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Longball, Danks lift Sox past Cubs

Adam Dunn loves to hit against the Chicago Cubs. He had great success against them during his days in the NL. And he really enjoys Wrigley Field.Good thing for the Chicago White Sox.Dunn had one of the White Sox's three homers Saturday night and also walked four times to back strong pitching from John Danks in a 7-4 victory over the Cubs.Dunn's solo shot in a three-run eighth inning was his 13th of the season and 42nd of his career against the Cubs - only Albert Pujols (53) has more among active players against the team from the North Side of Chicago."I have had it since Day 1. I see the ball pretty well here. The environment makes it pretty fun to play at," Dunn said of Wrigley Field, where he has now homered 26 times.Dunn was selective at the plate as the White Sox - playing without star Paul Konerko - beat the Cubs for a second straight game. Dayan Viciedo and A.J. Pierzynski also homered, back-to-back off Ryan Dempster in the third."I feel good, I'm not chasing too many pitches like I had all year," Dunn said. "That's something I'm continuing to work on."Konerko, who'd been hit near the left eye with a pitch Friday and had to leave the game, had a shiner Saturday, but tests revealed no major damage and he hopes to play again Tuesday.
Viciedo wasn't supposed to start any of the three games at Wrigley Field as manager Robin Ventura planned to play Dunn in left field without the DH in a NL park. But when Konerko had to leave Friday's game in the third inning, Dunn moved to first and Viciedo took over in his familiar left field spot while batting in Konerko's cleanup slot."He's a pretty confident kid," Dunn said. "He never gets down on himself. He knows what he is capable of doing. "Danks (3-4) got his first win since April 22, allowing three hits in 6 1-3 innings. It was his third career start at Wrigley Field, where he has allowed just two earned runs in 19 1-3 innings and is 2-0."This is an exciting game. The energy in the ballpark. This is a game I enjoy throwing in, for sure," said Danks, who was staked to a 4-0 lead after three innings and retired the first 13 batters he faced."We will take all the runs we can get early," Danks said. "That's always a key. That allows us to relax and stay aggressive."Trailing 7-0 going into the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs got two-run homers from Alfonso Soriano and Joe Mather off Zach Stewart.Viciedo connected on his seventh homer in the third inning to give the White Sox a 3-0 lead, right after Dunn drew a two-out walk. The two-run shot just went over leaping center fielder Reed Johnson's glove and was Viciedo's fourth homer in his last six games.Two pitches later, Pierzynski hit a liner to left center that cleared the ivy-covered wall, his sixth of the year."I wish we could duplicate this for every game of the season," Pierzynski said. "It's a special series and it's a special place. Once you get on the field, it's a good atmosphere."Dempster, who hasn't won in a span of 16 starts dating to last Aug. 11, gave up seven hits and four runs with three walks and three strikeouts in six innings as the Cubs dropped to a season-worst 10 games under .500 with their fifth straight loss. This one came before 40,228 fans."Just didn't pitch well enough to win," Dempster said. "A loss is a loss. I don't really care who is watching. I don't like losing anytime. If there was one person in the stands or there was 40,000 people, to me it means the same thing and that's a loss. I don't take any one loss different than the others."Danks was spotless before Alfonso Soriano doubled with one out in the fifth. Danks also walked Joe Mather before Koyie Hill lined out to end the inning. Pinch-hitter Tony Campana and Johnson singled to open the sixth, but the rally died when Starlin Castro hit into a double play."Four innings of perfect ball, so we're making it pretty easy on some pitchers who have been coming in struggling," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We're making them look pretty good. Pitch counts and all that, we're just making quick outs and not really getting good pitches to drive."The White Sox opened the scoring when Alejandro De Aza singled to start the game, stole second and after a walk to Dunn scored on Viciedo's RBI single.Alexei Ramirez had an RBI single in the eighth to make it 6-0 and the White Sox subsequently loaded the bases. Reliever Blake Parker then went to a 3-0 count on De Aza before he had to leave with a tight right hamstring and Michael Bowden threw ball four, forcing in the seventh run.Notes:
The White Sox have won 17 of the last 23 against the Cubs. ... Viciedo now has 10 RBIs in his last six games. ... C Koyie Hill, who had been playing Double-A in the Reds' organization hoping for another shot at the majors, got just that when the Cubs reacquired him and then put him in the lineup Saturday night. Starting catcher Geovany Soto went on the DL after knee surgery and backup Wellington Castillo has a sprained knee ligament. ... The White Sox go for the sweep Sunday sending out Jake Peavy (4-1) to face Paul Maholm (4-2).

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

For the first time in two months, Avisail Garcia is back in the White Sox lineup.

Garcia’s return from his lengthy stay on the disabled list was a refreshing sight for a team that came into the season believing he’d be one of its biggest bats. After all, Garcia was excellent in 2017, an All-Star campaign for him that saw him with some of the best hitting statistics in the American League.

But even with those good numbers, there were plenty of questions about where Garcia stood in the rebuilding White Sox long-term future. After a long wait for that breakout season, was it going to be the new normal or a one-hit wonder? He’s got just two more seasons of team control left, and there are a ton of outfield prospects developing behind him in the minor leagues.

His admittedly slow start this year didn’t help clarify anything: He returned to action with a .233/.250/.315 slash line, a far cry from the .330/.380/.506 line he finished with last season.

So now he’s back, and the “prove it” season resumes. He’s got time left to show the White Sox he can fend off challenges from the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Luis Alexander Basabe, Micker Adolfo and all the rest. Getting back on the field is the first step in doing that.

“Be healthy and play hard like I’ve been playing all my career,” Garcia said Friday. “Just trying stay healthy, do my routine and do my best to help my team win.

“My knee is good. My hamstring is good. I have no pain in my body right now. I feel great, great and focused and trying to compete every single day.”

The injury — injuries, it turns out — certainly didn’t help. After the hamstring strain he suffered turned out to be a tad more significant than originally believed, he suffered a separate knee injury during his recovery that kept him on the shelf a while longer.

But Garcia showed that maybe his bat is ready to come back to life during his rehab at Triple-A Charlotte. He slashed an eye-popping .360/.429/.840 with three home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs in just seven games.

No one’s expecting that kind of production now that he’s back at the major league level. But plenty of fans and observers are expecting a lot who is still young enough to warrant consideration for a spot on the White Sox next contending team. He’s got the advantage of already playing at the big league level to show off for all the decision makers.

But there’s no doubt that it’s a stacked group behind him. Jimenez, the third-ranked prospect in baseball, was just promoted to Triple-A. A trio of high-performing outfielders — Basabe, Alex Call and Joel Booker — just got bumped up to Double-A. And perhaps the most exciting group of all — Robert, Rutherford, Adolfo and Luis Gonzalez — are all playing together at Class A Winston-Salem.

That’s an awful lot of young, inexpensive depth to contend with in the discussion for how the White Sox should align their outfield of the future. But Garcia can still stay in that discussion by doing one thing: hitting. His quest to turn his season around starts now.