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.

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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.

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“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.

White Sox can aid crusade to contend by adding some pop this winter

White Sox can aid crusade to contend by adding some pop this winter

The White Sox hit four home runs Tuesday night, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. But the guys who hit those round trippers have combined for just 31 of them this season.

Meanwhile, when Miguel Sano obliterated a baseball 482 feet in the third inning, he became the Minnesota Twins’ fifth player to reach 30 bombs this season. That’s the first time that’s happened in a single season in baseball history.

While you were sleeping, the high-powered Twins defeated the White Sox on a walk-off hit by pitch, one of the least powerful ways you can win a ballgame. But the team from the Land of 10,000 Lakes has won far more games this season by smashing baseballs into the stratosphere.

They’ll likely win an AL Central title on that premise, and while it’s not the only way to set yourself up as a World Series contender, in 2019 it’s one of the better ways. The top eight teams in the game in home runs are either going to the postseason or remain in a pennant race: the Twins, the New York Yankees, the Houston Astros, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland Athletics, the Cubs, the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers.

So let’s bring this around to the White Sox, whose winter shopping list is beginning to take shape as they prepare to set their sights on the offseason.

We all know Rick Hahn and his front office will be targeting starting pitching, the general manager has said as much after the organization’s major league ready depth in that area was worn bare in 2019. We’ll have to wait to find out whether Hahn inks a top-of-the-rotation star or provides depth behind All-Star hurler Lucas Giolito. But that shouldn’t — nay, can’t — be the only area that gets a facelift.

The White Sox also need an everyday right fielder, the internal options whittled from bountiful to non-existent thanks to injuries and under-performance in the minor leagues this season. The White Sox could probably also use a designated hitter. While Zack Collins — one of the home-run hitters Tuesday night — is getting a lot of reps there right now, if this team has eyes on contending next season, they might not have the luxury of playing “let’s see what he can do” with Collins.

Those two positions would figure to provide opportunities for Hahn’s front office to add some desperately needed pop to this lineup.

The White Sox are in the middle of their final up-close-and-personal demonstration of what an influx of offseason power can do, playing against baseball’s home-run leaders in the Twins. No team in baseball has launched more homers than the Twins this season, which is by design after they spent last offseason adding Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez, a quartet that combined for 104 home runs in 2018. This year, they’ve blasted a combined 95 with a week and a half worth of games left.

The power numbers are remarkable in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and in an era where the home-run ball is dominating, they’re doing it better than anyone. White Sox fans surely don’t need to be reminded of that fact. The Twins have hit 39 home runs against the South Siders this season, including 27 of them at Guaranteed Rate Field. Cruz, who is the only player in the bigs to hit at least 35 homers in each of the last six seasons, has hit eight of his 37 dingers off White Sox pitching.

While the White Sox likely won’t deviate from their rebuilding efforts just to copy the Twins, there’s no doubt they could use some additional power. They came into Tuesday night with the sixth fewest home runs in baseball, some of the game’s worst teams the only ones behind them. With the Twins using the longball to win a division crown and make themselves one of the best teams in the game, surely the White Sox could benefit from mixing some outside pop in with their cavalcade of young players.

They’ll likely get some help from Luis Robert, who belted 32 home runs in the minors this season a year after hitting none while battling thumb injuries in 2018. Nick Madrigal probably won’t do much for the White Sox home-run total, but a full, healthy season of Eloy Jimenez should. He’s en route to a 30-homer rookie season despite missing nearly 40 games. Jose Abreu certainly hasn’t been the problem, flirting with a career high in homers while blasting past his career high in RBIs. James McCann, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson all had terrific seasons, but is a significant jump in home runs expected for 2020? Probably not.

So added power will have to come from the two holes that need plugging in the everyday lineup.

Who’s out there? Fans will jump right to J.D. Martinez, who’s expected to opt out of his deal with the Boston Red Sox and become a highly pursued free agent. Martinez would fit the bill, all right, with 35 more homers this season to bring his total since the start of the 2015 season to a whopping 183.

Martinez will have his fair share of pursuers, and it’ll cost some big bucks to make his opt-out worth it (even though the Red Sox would probably be happy to see his salary come off the books given their supposed financial pickle). But the White Sox have that much-discussed money to spend, and Martinez would solve their power deficiency as their everyday DH.

Corner outfield free agents to-be include Nicholas Castellanos, Yasiel Puig and Marcell Ozuna. If the disastrous Pittsburgh Pirates decide to let Starling Marte walk, he could add a career-high 23 homers to the lineup. Kole Calhoun could hit the market, and he’s past the 30-homer mark this season. He’s also the only lefty in that group, something that could matter considering the White Sox projected lineup for 2020 and beyond is heavily right handed.

And then there’s the trade market. But remember that the depth of the White Sox farm system doesn’t look much like it did a year ago, and it could be rather difficult for Hahn to create an appealing package of prospects that could fetch the kind of impact bat (or arm, for that matter) the team would like to add to the roster.

The opportunities are there for the White Sox to make some Twins-esque additions and ratchet up the power numbers in 2020. It won’t mean they’ll be mashing at a Twins-esque level — considering that no team in baseball has, even the ones also hitting homers in bunches — but it’s a trait that’s helping teams across the game win on a nightly basis.

The White Sox could help their crusade to contend in 2020 — to join that group of baseball’s best teams — by improving themselves in that area this winter.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: What we've learned about the White Sox in 2019

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: What we've learned about the White Sox in 2019

A lot has happened with the White Sox this season. Chuck Garfien, Ryan McGuffey and Vinnie Duber cover it all. They discuss the great (3:00), the good (14:40), the bad (20:10) and the ugly (26:20). They also rate the moves the White Sox made last offseason (32:30)

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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