White Sox

New faces rally White Sox to first win of season

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New faces rally White Sox to first win of season

All the new additions to the White Sox roster this offseason had expectations pretty high.

So when the team opened the season with four consecutive losses, frustration set in among fans in pretty rapid fashion. You could tell that when the boos started raining down on Jeff Samardzija in the second inning of Saturday’s game against the Twins.

But by the time it was all said and done on the South Side, it was all those new additions that made the big plays en route to the White Sox first win of the season, a 5-4 comeback victory over the division-rival Twins.

Samardzija — arguably the biggest of those offseason acquisitions — struggled early, surrendering four runs in a nightmarish second inning to put his team in an early four-run hole. He gave up five hits in the frame, run-scoring knocks coming off the bats of Chris Herrmann, Shane Robinson, Danny Santana and Brian Dozier.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Kenny Williams, Ozzie Guillen's troubles a thing of the past]

But then came the response, triggered by a solo home run from Adam LaRoche in the bottom of the inning. And two batters after Avisail Garcia’s ground-rule double, Conor Gillaspie drove in another run with a base hit.

“I think it gave everybody a little deep breath,” Samardzija said of LaRoche’s home run. “I think the fans, the coaches, the players ... when he hit that pitch out everyone got a little excited and then shoulders relaxed a little bit and we went from there.

An inning later, Melky Cabrera scored on an RBI infield single off Garcia’s bat. And the comeback was completed with Geovany Soto’s solo shot to lead off the bottom of the fourth.

Samardzija settled down and kept the Twins silent for the rest of the day following his ugly second inning, retiring 14 of the last 17 hitters he faced en route to a seven-inning performance in his second start in a White Sox uniform.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Micah Johnson settling into life in the majors]

“He kind of got a little bit away from the strike zone, he was leaving a couple pitches up. But after that, we saw how he settled down,” Soto said. “His fastball’s there, his off-speed was sharp again. It was a blast after that.

“I feel like early (in his career) when he was trying to be a starter, he’d get to a rough patch and really didn’t know how to compose himself and make some pitches. But I think now after a couple years, he’s grown into a great starting pitcher. He knows what he’s doing out there. He has a great feel for all his pitches. And like you saw today in the second inning, he got rocked a little bit and he went out and he pitched seven innings.”

In the bottom of the eighth, with the game still knotted at four, pinch-hitter J.B. Shuck dumped a single into left field to score Alexei Ramirez and give the White Sox the lead.

“We were really excited,” Soto said. “It was really an exiting time. ... Gave us the lead into the ninth. I’m not going to lie, it was an awesome feeling to get that run into the ninth and see our closer close a game and get a ‘W.’ That was pretty cool.”

And David Robertson finished things off with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, earning his first save by striking out all three hitters he faced.

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Though they would have liked the first win of the season to come earlier in the week, the White Sox got exactly what they wanted when this new-look version of the team was constructed during the winter. The new guys came through: LaRoche, Soto, Samardzija, Robertson, Shuck. Even Zach Duke pitched a scoreless eighth and picked up his first win in a White Sox uniform.

“It’s nice,” manager Robin Ventura said. “These guys, it’s been tough for four games, but especially J.B. coming in there. Duke had the eight, Robertson the ninth. There are a lot of new faces for our fans to see, guys that really competed today. It’s tough when you are down 4-0 to be able to fight back and grind it through like that.”

That’s Rick Hahn’s offseason work paying off in a big way, albeit for the first time in this young season.

“Obviously, everybody knows it hasn’t been the start that we wanted,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes, you’re that hyped and you’re so excited you press a little too much and everybody wants to come out and have a great showing for the fans and show them what we’re all about. We’ll get there eventually. We need to come out and show what we can do. I think we saw all facets of the game today. We saw some great defense — obviously with Melky and Alexei there in the fifth for me and throughout the game. The bullpen pitched great, and we put a bunch of hits on the board and scored some runs. It was a great game for the team, and (I’m) just happy to be part of it.”

So the panic can cease. The White Sox won’t be going 0-162.

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

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GOOGLE IMAGES

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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USA TODAY

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.