White Sox

White Sox ace Chris Sale finds a new way to dominate in win over Angels

White Sox ace Chris Sale finds a new way to dominate in win over Angels

It seems strange that Chris Sale — who set a White Sox franchise record for strikeouts in 2015 — would enter a game not looking to rack up forwards and backwards K’s. 

But that was the plan on Wednesday, and Sale excelled with it. The lanky left-hander cruised through seven innings of work to push the White Sox to a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels in front of 12,785 at U.S. Cellular Field. 

This wasn’t a typically-dominant Sale start, complete with the deluge of swings and misses that’ve been staples for the ace left-hander last four years. He only struck out three — just the second time he’s had fewer than four strikeouts in at least seven innings of work — but held the Angels to just two hits, both ground ball singles off the bat of 2014 AL MVP outfielder Mike Trout. 

“When I came out, I was like, Trout was 2-3 off me with two singles, and I feel like I beat him,” laughed Sale, nodding to Trout’s mega-superstar status. 

But the Angels entered Wednesday striking out in just 15 percent of their collective plate appearances, the lowest rate in baseball. Sale talked during spring training about trying to be more efficient by letting opponents put the ball in play, but on Wednesday, he was essentially forced into it. 

The result was Angels hitters peppering White Sox infielders and outfielders with soft-hit grounders and fly balls, none of which really seemed to pose much of a threat. 

“With a team like that, to be honest with you, it doesn’t make sense to go out there and try to get strikeouts,” catcher Alex Avila said. “They put the ball in play and tend to have good at-bats. So you have to pick your spots. You can run yourself out of a game real quick. You can still pitch well but it could be a five inning game for him.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Sale tipped his cap to the White Sox defense, which he said helped get him an extra inning by making all the plays behind him. 

At the least, that reliability is an improvement from last year’s group, which ranked at or near the bottom of baseball by just about every defensive evaluation, advanced or otherwise. It’s early in the season, and defensive metrics can be wonky in a small sample size, but the White Sox defense looks better to the eye and rates in the top seven in baseball by DRS and UZR. 

Despite setting a franchise record for strikeouts and not issuing many walks or home runs, Sale had a career-worst 3.41 ERA last year. The additions of Austin Jackson, Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie, as well as Adam Eaton’s move to right field, have already provided a major boost to the defense behind Sale. 

Manager Robin Ventura said opposing teams, too, are bound to be more aggressive early in the count given Sale’s propensity to blow them away with two strikes. 

“We do have a pretty good defense right now of guys being able to go get it as well as the approach of (opponents),” Ventura said, “You don't want to wait around too long because if you get yourself in a two-strike count, the odds go up of him punching you out rather you putting it in play.”

Even if Sale continues to focus on being more efficient and generating weak contact, the strikeouts are bound to come. He had nine in his masterful shutout of the Tampa Bay Rays last Friday. It’ll always be a big part of his game.

But Avila talked about working with Sale to dial things up when he needs a strikeout, but not focusing on getting one every at-bat. There will be games and situations in which Sale needs to reach back and keep the ball out of play; there will also be games like Wednesday in which that’s not entirely necessary.

“He’s going to get his strikeouts,” Avila said. “We’re not worried about that. It’s a matter of him being more efficient.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Ask Us Anything Part 1

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Ask Us Anything Part 1

We asked you to ask us anything about the White Sox and you delivered in a big way. We got so many questions, we had to do two different podcasts! Among the questions here in Part 1: should the White Sox send Yoan Moncada to Triple-A? What players will be traded before the deadline? Who are some sleeper prospects in the minors? Will Jordan Stephens be called up before Michael Kopech? Should Juan Uribe be a team ambassador? What's our all-time White Sox team from 2000 to the present and many more.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Rick Hahn says 'there will be many' promotions for White Sox prospects this week

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USA TODAY

Rick Hahn says 'there will be many' promotions for White Sox prospects this week

The White Sox have a number of highly-rated prospects performing well in the minors and some of them will be on the move within the system in a matter of days.

General manager Rick Hahn talked to reporters ahead of Monday night's White Sox game in Cleveland, a 6-2 loss, and gave the news. Well, sort of.

He didn't include names, but he did say that "there will be many" promotions after the minor league all-star games for Double-A and both Single-A teams take place on Tuesday.

Hahn added that Chris Getz, the White Sox player development director, will address the media before the White Sox host Oakland on Thursday about the moves.

If the all-star games are a reason to wait, it's safe to think some of the players involved will be playing in those games. So who could be on the move?

Double-A Birmingham has six all-stars: Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins, Seby Zavala, Danny Mendick, Dane Dunning and Ian Hamilton. Jimenez is the name everyone wants to see on the move. He has torched the Southern League since getting off to a late start to the season due to injury. Hahn was asked about Jimenez, but didn't tip his hand as to whether he would be one of the promotions.

Dunning has been good in Double-A (2.78 ERA, 65 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings), but was already promoted this season so he may not be on the move again.

Single-A Winston-Salem has five all-stars: Dylan Cease, Luis Alexander Basabe, Joel Booker, Bernardo Flores and Matt Foster. Cease, 22, could be due for a promotion with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings. There's also that outfield logjam the Dash, which won the first-half division title, have had all season.

Other than Basabe and Booker, Blake Rutherford and Alex Call are also noteworthy prospects being forced to split time in the Dash's outfield. If Jimenez is moving up to Triple-A, one or two names from this group could be on the move to take his spot in Birmingham.

This would especially make sense if highly-touted outfield prospect Luis Robert, who was supposed to be in Single-A Kannapolis for a short period before joining the Dash, is ready to move up as planned. Robert is hitting .289/.360/.400 in 13 games with the Intimidators.

Birmingham, Winston-Salem and Kannapolis were all off Monday. The various all-star games will take place Tuesday and the three teams will be off again Wednesday. The promotions could be announced Thursday ahead of Getz's scheduled media availability.