White Sox

White Sox beat Indians on Carlos Sanchez's walk-off single

White Sox beat Indians on Carlos Sanchez's walk-off single

Adam Eaton hoped he’d get the chance to rock Thursday afternoon’s hero Carlos Sanchez like a baby just like Sanchez has done so many times before.

But within seconds of his game-winning single falling in, Sanchez, who lifted the White Sox to a 2-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians in front of 14,190 at U.S. Cellular, was mobbed by his teammates on the infield dirt. Sanchez’s blooper to right center easily scored pinch runner Leury Garcia and helped the White Sox secure a series victory over the Indians. Jose Abreu homered and James Shields and four relievers combined on a four-hitter as the White Sox beat the Indians for the third time in four tries.

“I didn’t have a chance to do it,” Eaton said. “I was going to try to do it, but everyone was riding him like a pony because he always wants to pick everybody up.”

Omar Narvaez helped to set up what is the highlight of a nice month for Sanchez when the catcher started the bottom of the ninth inning with a single to center off Bryan Shaw. Garcia ran for Narvaez and stole second base to reach scoring position. Shaw struck out Avisail Garcia and got ahead of Sanchez 1-2 in the count. But Sanchez, who went 2-for-4, fought off the afternoon shadows and got enough of a cut-fastball to dump it into right for the winning hit.

“(It’s) really fun when you help your team win games,” Sanchez said. “I enjoyed that moment a lot.

“I was looking for a fastball away, but it was really hard to see.”

The starting second baseman for much of last season, Sanchez has struggled in a part-time role in his four stints with the White Sox in 2016. Even with an average over .300 in September, Sanchez carried a .173 average and nine RBIs for the season into Thursday’s game.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

With Brett Lawrie starting all season and Tyler Saladino having emerged as a viable utility man, playing time has been limited for Sanchez, who is wildly popular with teammates for a quirky sense of humor that results in moments like rocking Eaton in the dugout like a baby. But with Abreu still a little sore after Monday’s game, Sanchez took advantage of his third consecutive start at third base. He also singled in the seventh inning and is 9-for-26 with six RBIs this month in seven games.

“For him to sit around as much as he has and then be able to come in, he's had a couple days here where he's played,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “So I think the timing of it, getting back to where you're seeing the ball well enough, he just finds a way to do it. He continues to work every day. You try to do as much as you can to get the speed of the game down, but it's not an easy thing to do.”

Neither is tracking down a player mobbed by his teammates, as Eaton can attest. Sanchez said afterward he didn’t expect Eaton to rock him because that’s only an acceptable celebration for home runs. But Eaton wanted to anyway — his teammates’ celebration just happened to prevent it.

“They returned the favor so I didn’t get a chance,” Eaton said. “He does a lot more for us than just being a player. You can tell by the team’s reaction how much we love him.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: What has James McCann meant to the White Sox? Everything

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: What has James McCann meant to the White Sox? Everything

Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber talk about James McCann's breakout season with the White Sox (1:15).

Then Chuck speaks with McCann about all the preparation he does for every game (9:20), why he'll never use a cheat sheet scouting report behind the plate like many catchers do (11:30) and what McCann has been badgering Lucas Giolito about since spring training (14:30).

Plus, why Evan Marshall and Aaron Bummer have been so successful out of the bullpen (16:30), why McCann acts as a karaoke host on the team bus (17:40) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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Buckle up, White Sox, here come the best two teams in baseball

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USA TODAY

Buckle up, White Sox, here come the best two teams in baseball

Things are about to get tougher for the White Sox. Much tougher.

The upcoming road trip features seven straight games against first-place teams, the Houston Astros and the Minnesota Twins. Those two teams are, by their winning percentages as of this writing, the two best teams in baseball.

The much-bemoaned makeup of this season’s American League means seeing top-shelf competition is a rarity for any team playing outside the AL East. The Astros are a mile ahead of the rest of the AL West. The Twins have appeared, so far, as the only team capable of winning an aggressively weak AL Central. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays — three teams the White Sox have already seen one time apiece — will battle it out for the AL East crown all season long, but let’s be honest, they all seem safe bets to make the postseason.

The fact that the five teams likely to make the playoffs have already put themselves ahead of the competition and it’s not even Memorial Day is its own discussion topic as the rebuilding trend sweeps through the Junior Circuit. But for the 2019 edition of the Chicago White Sox, specifically, it just means that this week is not likely to be a good one.

In the 10 games they played against the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox, the White Sox went 3-7. They were pasted by the Rays and Red Sox, who combined to outscore them 58-18 in seven games on the South Side, and they took two of three from the Yankees in The Bronx.

Of course, any expectations can be dashed in a small portion of a 162-game season. Cast your mind back to 2017, when the White Sox swept a three-game series from the soon-to-be world-champion Astros. The South Siders finished with 95 losses that season, but for three games in August, they had the champs’ number.

Will this week go similarly? Maybe. But it doesn’t seem likely.

The Astros are on fire, or at least they were before the Red Sox snapped their 10-game winning streak Sunday. That doesn’t change the fact that the Astros boast a plus-92 run differential that counts as the best in the game. Or their 3.43 team ERA (second in the AL). Or their .279 team batting average and jaw-dropping .353 team on-base percentage, both marks the best in baseball.

The Twins, the division rivals the White Sox will see for the first time in 2019 beginning Friday, aren’t far behind. That offense has been sensational, too, through the season’s first two months, owning baseball’s second best run differential (plus-77) and its second best team batting average (.270). No team in either league has hit more homers than the Twins, who have launched 87 of them in 45 games.

The White Sox, meanwhile, have a fragile, injury-affected starting rotation — after Sunday’s game, manager Rick Renteria did not share who’s starting Monday’s game — and a pitching staff with a 5.09 ERA that’s given up 68 homers this season. Sunday, Reynaldo Lopez made it through six innings of one-run ball, only for the White Sox bullpen to cough up a pair of two-run homers to the Toronto Blue Jays (one of baseball’s worst offenses) in the game’s final two innings. It was the sixth time this season the White Sox bullpen has allowed multiple home runs in a single game.

“Gulp” might be an appropriate reaction to hearing the White Sox have to go up against the Houston and Minnesota offenses seven times in the next seven days.

This isn’t to say the White Sox are merely a punching bag for these two giants of the American League right now. Certainly most of the teams the Astros and Twins have faced have suffered less than desirable fates. But the gaps between the rebuilding White Sox and this pair of contenders are not small.

The White Sox are trying to accomplish the same thing the Astros did, spending several frustrating years being patient during a rebuilding process only to come out the other side a perennial contender and World Series champion. These same Astros who are now bullying the rest of the AL lost a total of 416 games in the four seasons prior to their first playoff season in a decade in 2015. By the end of the 2017 campaign, they were world champions. That’s the template the White Sox are trying to follow.

But the White Sox aren’t to the mountaintop yet, and that might end up being painfully clear by the end of the upcoming road trip. It doesn’t mean their climb won’t get them to that same point, but don’t try to compare the 2019 White Sox to the 2019 Astros this week. That’s not the comparison that counts.

The Twins are a little different, having revamped their lineup over the offseason with free-agent acquisitions who have paid huge dividends. C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Marwin Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz (currently on the IL) have combined for 31 homers in 45 games. But homegrown guys like Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler are all playing well, too. That quintet has accounted for 43 of the Twins’ 87 homers this season. That’s a strong core of homegrown young hitters, the kind of thing the White Sox hope to have real soon, the kind of thing that’s taking shape with Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson off to good starts and Eloy Jimenez at the major league level (and likely to come off the injured list Monday).

The White Sox have obviously had their positives this season, and they’re clearly in a better place now than they were at this point last year (a 21-24 record after Sunday’s game compared to 14-31 through the first 45 games of 2018). But their rebuilding process hasn’t yet reached the point where they’re going to be trading blows with the two best teams in baseball.

There could be some surprises on this road trip. But they don’t figure to be easy to come by. Buckle up, here come the two best teams in baseball.

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