White Sox

Orioles rout White Sox in historic game

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Orioles rout White Sox in historic game

BALTIMORE — Jeff Samardzija and the White Sox defense got off to a rough start and Wednesday afternoon’s historic game was effectively over in quick fashion.

Without a soul in attendance other than scouts and media members, the Baltimore Orioles scored six times in the first inning and rolled to an 8-2 win over the White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

After citywide unrest Monday resulted in the cancellation of the first two games of the series, Samardzija took the loss Wednesday at the first game in Major League Baseball history to be closed to the public. Samardzija allowed eight runs (seven earned) and 10 hits in five innings while Ubaldo Jimenez pitched seven dominant innings for the Orioles.

“This was a weird day,” Samardzija said. “I’m not going to put too much into how we played today. It was an awkward situation where we sat around for a few days so we have to get back into a little rhythm and play some games in a row and keep going, keep working.”

With about 50-75 fans cheering and chanting from beyond the gates in left-center field and another dozen on hotel balconies across the way, the White Sox and Orioles finally played after games on Monday and Tuesday were cancelled in the aftermath of Monday’s riots. In deference to law enforcement efforts, the Orioles and White Sox agreed to play in front of an empty stadium.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox, Orioles have mixed emotions about making MLB history]

After Jimenez struck out two batters in a scoreless first inning, the Orioles offense picked up the energy. Coming off an 18-run outburst on Sunday, the Orioles took advantage of several freebies in the first.

Samardzija issued a leadoff walk to Alejandro De Aza but appeared to get a double play-ball off the bat of Jimmy Paredes only to have Jose Abreu throw high to second base. Chris Davis followed a Delmon Young single and an Adam Jones’ RBI sacrifice fly with a three-run home run on to Eutaw Street — only the 80th ball to ever reach the street beyond right field.

As Davis’ shot traveled out of the park, Orioles’ play-by-play man Gary Thorne could be heard yelling his home run call with no crowd to drown out the noise.

Everth Cabrera later doubled in a run and Caleb Joseph had an RBI single for the Orioles, who grabbed a 6-0 lead.

“Today started off bad and got worse,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It was just right from the beginning. You give them opportunities. They take advantage of it. I don’t think we were all that selective offensively either. It was just a weird day. You move on and get ready for the next one.”

Pitching with a cushion against an aggressive offense, Jimenez was extremely efficient. He faced the minimum in six of seven innings and only got into trouble once after his defense struggled in the fifth inning.

[RELATED: Baltimore unrest puts things in perspective for White Sox]

That’s when the White Sox were able to break through for a pair of runs. Machado, who homered in the fifth inning and finished a triple shy of the cycle, made a throwing error that allowed Adam LaRoche to score. Geovany Soto also had an RBI groundout as the White Sox got within 7-2 in the fifth.

But Samardzija gave up one last run on Machado’s homer in the bottom of the fifth and the White Sox offense only sent 13 batters to the plate over the final four innings.

“I tried to do too much,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “Sometimes you have bad games like this and you have to move on. It was a very awful game for me on offense and defense but that kind of thing happens.

“(The atmosphere) was kind of weird, but you can’t blame that on the crowd.”

Nothing could have truly prepared both teams’ players for what they would face. Each team hit the field in the 30 minutes leading up to first pitch with pregame music blaring over the sound system.

But once the game began, an eerie vibe dominated the scene as the two teams took the field at 2:05 p.m. EST in front of 45,971 empty seats. A prerecorded National Anthem was played and so was the Seventh Inning Stretch. Walkup music accompanied each player to the plate.

[NBC SHOP: Get the latest White Sox gear here]

But in between, players could hear everything on the field from the opposing dugouts to normal chatter to Hawk Harrelson and Thorne calling the game from the broadcast booth above.

Fans outside the stadium did their best to support the Orioles, chanting “Manny, Manny” when Machado homered and a number of “Let’s Go O’s.” Foul balls banged off empty seats and the occasional police and news choppers hovered overhead.

But perhaps it wasn’t what they heard that offered the strangest comparison — the crowd.

Whereas Machado’s fifth-inning homer into the left-center field bullpen normally would have been accompanied by a roar, the only sound was the delayed cheers of fans beyond the gate and a few claps from the Orioles.

“You hear some of the announcing when you got up there,” second baseman Micah Johnson said. “That’s how quiet it was. You hear fans outside the stadium, literally everything. I’m sure you heard me like ‘No!’ on strike three. It’s weird. I said  ‘My bad’ out loud.”

“There’s no comparison.”

 

White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals

Age: 29

2019 salary: $12,250,000

2019 stats: .241 BA, .328 OBP, .472 SLG, .800 OPS, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 80 R, 12/14 SB 

What Ozuna would bring to the White Sox

Ozuna appeared on the verge of becoming an elite star like Anthony Rendon after a breakout season in 2017 with the Marlins. Ozuna came up at 22 and had decent years early in his career. He improved upon his first few years with 37 home runs, 124 RBIs and a .924 OPS as a 26-year-old.

Unlike Rendon, who broke through in 2017 and has sustained that for three seasons now, Ozuna's breakout year appears to be more of a flash in the pan. Ozuna was traded to the Cardinals before the 2018 season and saw a dropoff in his production.

His power and walk rate took big dips in 2018, although he bounced back in both last season. However, he hit .241, which was the lowest batting average of his career.

Ozuna had a career-high walk rate (11.3%) and had the second-best extra-base hit and home run rates of his career (he was only better in those areas in 2017). His strikeout rate (20.8%) was in line with his career average. So what went wrong? His batting average of balls in play was a career-worst .257, which suggests that maybe he's due for some form of bounce back in 2020 as far as batting average.

To simplify all that, Ozuna was good in some areas and inexplicably poor (and maybe unlucky) in others. Does that mean he will return to his big 2017 year wherever he signs? Probably not, but it does help to alleviate some of the feeling of risk for a player who has been inconsistent in his career.

Defensively, Ozuna has a Gold Glove on his resume from 2017, but the stats say he's just an average fielder. Not to mention, he's become infamous for this fielding gaffe.


What it would take to get him

He's young with a mostly positive track record offensively and if he can recreate his 2017 season offensively, he's an all-star outfielder. He won't be cheap, but he has enough question marks to come up just short of $20 million per year.

Ozuna should be able to get four or five years in the mid-to-upper teens per year, similar to fellow outfield free agent Nicholas Castellanos.

Why it's a fit for the White Sox

The White Sox need a corner outfielder. He fills a position of need, adds depth, patience and power to the lineup and won't be a liability in the field.

Ozuna isn't the splashiest signing the White Sox could make, but it makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.

Latest rumors

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

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USA TODAY

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

The White Sox added a flamethrower to their bullpen.

Tayron Guerrero is the newest member of the White Sox relief corps, the team claiming the 28-year-old right-hander off waivers from the Miami Marlins on Friday.

Guerrero's most eye-catching attribute is his triple-digit fastball. He averaged 98.9 mph on his four-seam fastball in 2019 and threw the second most 100-mph pitches (178) of any pitcher in baseball. He posted a 10.6 K/9 in 2018.

But throwing hard and giving up runs are two different things. In 2019, Guerrero had a 6.26 ERA, a number that jumped up from the already less-than-ideal 5.43 ERA he turned in a year prior. He also had some trouble locating said fireball, walking 36 batters in 46 relief innings in 2019 for a ridiculously high 7.0 BB/9.

Still, this type of addition was signaled as perhaps the primary way the White Sox would add to their bullpen this offseason. With so many other items on Rick Hahn's offseason to-do list and the back end of the bullpen being a pretty stable part of the roster, the general manager said that small signings and waiver claims would continue to be part of the strategy when it comes to making additions to the relief corps.

Hahn referenced the team's acquisitions of Evan Marshall, who was signed to a minor league contract last winter, and Jimmy Cordero, who was claimed off waivers in the middle of the 2019 season, as moves to emulate going forward.

"All 30 teams will tell you ... that adding more bullpen pieces is an offseason priority, and we're no exception," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference in September. "Cordero's been a nice find, as has been Marshall, but that's not going to stop us from continuing to potentially take guys off waivers like Cordero or (sign) minor league free agents like Marshall.

"It's going to go into this offseason continuing to be a place we want to add because relievers are tricky. You see it every year, guys go from the top of the list to the bottom and back."

As Hahn frequently says, you can never have too much pitching, and while this might be a low-risk move, it could end up proving fruitful, as those Cordero and Marshall moves did.

Spending on money on more proven guys has also been a part of the White Sox strategy in this department in the recent past. Hahn's front office gave Kelvin Herrera a two-year deal just last winter. But as Herrera showed during a rough first year of that contract, even guys with good track records can lead to easy second-guessing on those kinds of deals. So building up depth through less splashy means figures to be a good idea, regardless of the results.

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