White Sox

Miguel Gonzalez sharp in return as White Sox shut out Tigers

Miguel Gonzalez sharp in return as White Sox shut out Tigers

You wouldn’t have known Miguel Gonzalez missed nearly a month the way he pitched on Tuesday night.

Activated off the disabled list prior to the game, the right-hander kept the Detroit Tigers under wraps as the White Sox evened a three-game series with a 2-0 victory in front of 15,155 at U.S. Cellular Field. Jose Abreu continued his onslaught with two more hits, including a solo home run and Gonzalez allowed six hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings for the White Sox.

“I don’t know if you could expect much more out of him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Coming off the DL and against a lineup like this, he was sharp and breaking stuff getting enough of the plate to get guys swinging.”

Similar to Tuesday, the White Sox didn’t really know what to expect when Gonzalez joined them for the first time in April. Waived late in spring by the Baltimore Orioles, Gonzalez signed a minor league deal the day before the season began. He didn’t first pitch for the White Sox until later in April and didn’t become a full-time member of the starting rotation until May.

But with one year of team control to go, Gonzalez has almost assured himself a spot in next season’s rotation.

Prior to Tuesday, Gonzalez had only made a Thursday start at Triple-A Charlotte and several bullpen sessions since his went on the DL.

Yet the rust from a groin strain that sidelined him since Aug. 11 didn’t show against the Tigers, a team that had scored 30 earned runs off Gonzalez in 30 innings in his career.

He quickly got through the top of Detroit’s lineup with three grounders in the first and retired the first five men he faced. After pitching around jams in the third and fourth inning — he put two men on base in each — Gonzalez retired nine in a row. He struck out J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton with two aboard in the fourth and got Casey McGehee to fly out to end the inning. Gonzalez then retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings.

The White Sox brought Gonzalez back in the seventh inning, but pulled him after McGehee hit the second single of the inning. Dan Jennings recorded one out and walked another before Nate Jones struck out Cameron Maybin to strand the bases loaded.

Gonzalez allowed six hits and struck out four. In his last nine games, Gonzalez has a 2.38 ERA in 53 innings pitched with eight quality starts.

“The most important thing is trying not to do too much when you’re out there,” Gonzalez said. “It’s been a while since I’ve gotten off the mound and pitched a real game. Being able to control that and make my pitches was the biggest thing tonight.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Jones pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings. David Robertson pitched around a single and a walk in the ninth to convert the save.

Abreu gave Gonzalez a little breathing room in the second inning when he crushed a 2-2 slider from Matt Boyd — the ninth pitch of the at-bat — for a solo homer. The drive traveled an estimated 419 feet.

Boyd kept Detroit within striking distance with seven strong innings. The White Sox’ only other run came in the fifth inning when Omar Narvaez followed Jason Coats’ one-out double with an RBI single to make it a two-run game. Narvaez also walked.

It was enough to make a winner of Gonzalez, who improved to 3-6.

“You didn’t really know what to expect, but this was pretty indicative of how he pitches,” Ventura said. “He pitches to contact, moves it around the plate. I thought his poise and everything was outstanding.”

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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