White Sox

Sonny Gray leads Athletics past Carlos Rodon, White Sox

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Sonny Gray leads Athletics past Carlos Rodon, White Sox

OAKLAND, Calif. — The White Sox offense still hasn’t worked out all the kinks.

Even though he wasn’t at full strength, Sonny Gray didn’t help matters, either.

The All-Star pitcher and two relievers did enough Wednesday night to send the White Sox to a 2-1 loss in front of 16,468 at the Oakland Coliseum.

Rescheduled after a bout with food poisoning, Gray combined with John Axford and Ryan Madson on a six-hitter to outduel Carlos Rodon. Rodon took the loss even though he only allowed two earned runs and six hits in seven innings and struck out six.

“He’s a damn good pitcher,” White Sox catcher Alex Avila said of Gray. “I asked him, ‘How are you feeling?’ and he said, ‘Not too good.’ It didn’t seem that way.”

[BOX SCORE: Athletics 2, White Sox 1]

The White Sox only had one inning with multiple baserunners and three legitimate chances overall against Gray, who originally was scheduled to pitch Monday’s opener against Chris Sale.

Austin Jackson doubled to start the third inning, advanced on an Adam Eaton grounder and scored on a Jimmy Rollins sac fly that got the White Sox within 2-1.

Jackson also put together a nice at-bat in the fifth inning against Gray with Avila on second. But Jackson lined out to second base on the 10th pitch and Avila was caught leaning for an inning-ending double play.

An inning later, Gray walked Todd Frazier with two outs to put two on for Melky Cabrera. But Gray won again as Cabrera hit a short chopper in front of the mound for the final out.

Gray allowed a run and three hits with four walks in seven innings. He struck out five only two days after he required three bags of fluids during a trip to the emergency room.

The White Sox, who snapped a 10-inning scoreless stretch on Tuesday night, also stranded the tying run in the eighth and ninth innings against Axford and Madson. Through three games, the team has a .297 on-base percentage.

“We were chasing some stuff away,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He had good movement on that when he needed to. Caught us being aggressive and wasn’t throwing strikes when we were looking for strikes. He probably wasn’t feeling that great, but he’s still a very talented pitcher and he has great stuff.”

Rodon settled down after a shaky start.

He allowed runs in the first and second inning before he retired 17 of the last 22 he faced.

“He looked great,” Avila said. “He was effectively wild today. At times he didn’t have the best command, but was able to make enough pitches and get enough strikes to where they were still swinging.”

Oakland swung early against Rodon with first-inning singles by Billy Burns and Khris Davis to put runners on the corners. Jed Lowrie’s sac fly only three batters in made it a 1-0 game.

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Then in the second, Mark Canha drove a 91-mph fastball from Rodon on the outer half out to right field for an opposite-field home run and a 2-0 lead.

But Rodon — who allowed 13 earned runs in his final 7 2/3 innings this spring — found a rhythm. He ended the second inning with strikeouts of Yonder Alonso and Marcus Semien and gained steam. Only two more runners reached scoring position in Rodon’s final five innings.

Whereas Rodon walked six batters in his last start in Oakland (last May 15), free passes weren’t an issue on Tuesday. The left-hander continued a trend he began last August of limiting his walks, issuing only one in seven innings. He threw strikes on 61 of 99 pitches.

Still, Rodon desire more from his first start.

“(Canha) hit that ball good,” Rodon said. “I didn’t think it was going to get out. It surprised me. There was some power in it. Then I settled in there and threw well.”

“I like winning. That’s part of it when sometimes things don’t go your way, and that’s baseball. They put the bat on the ball and made things happen early. They made it happen early. I just wish they wouldn’t have.”

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.