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White Sox: Beltran's homer costly as Chris Sale nears strikeout record

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White Sox: Beltran's homer costly as Chris Sale nears strikeout record

NEW YORK -- Chris Sale is close to setting a White Sox franchise record for strikeouts in a season. But he’s also on the verge of establishing a personal high for home runs allowed.

Sale struck out eight New York Yankees on Thursday night in a quest to surpass a mark set by Ed Walsh 107 seasons ago. He also left one pitch in the zone and Carlos Beltran made it count with a three-run homer as the White Sox dropped their ninth straight at Yankee Stadium, 3-2. One batter after Beltran homered, Sale earned the 1,000th strikeout of his career.

“Clearly you want to keep the ball in the yard,” Sale said. “I haven’t really done a great job of that this year at all. It happens.

“Clearly that’s not what I wanted to do. But it happens and you move on and you try to keep them rightwhere they are at.”

[SHOP: Buy a Chris Sale jersey]

Sale did shut down the Yankees after Beltran homered to give New York a 3-0 lead in the third inning as he retired 14 of 17. He also moved within two strikeouts of tying Walsh’s record (269), one Walsh established in 1908 in 464 innings pitched.

But a combination of an offense that -- surprise, surprise -- struggled again and a good guess by Beltran led to the sixth straight White Sox loss in a Sale start.

Sale -- who has 267 strikeouts in 2015 and has matched runs produced by Hall of Famers Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez -- began the third inning by hitting Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury stole second base, but was ruled out on runner’s interference on a Chase Headley infield pop up. Sale walked Alex Rodriguez to put two on for Beltran. He got ahead 1-2 in the count with three straight fastballs before he left a 2-2 heater on the inside corner and Beltran ripped it over the left-field fence to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.

“That was a good pitch today, smart hitter,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “If we threw anything else I can’t imagine (Beltran) was gonna have a good swing. It seemed like he really went for it and he was right. Good hitters do that from time and time and he evidently had a good idea we weregoing to try and do that and put a great swing on it. It was a borderline strike, a little in. Unfortunate time to have that happen. “Other than that, (Sale) threw the ball again great as usual.”

Sale allowed three earned runs and seven hits with a walk and eight strikeouts in seven innings and gave the White Sox a chance to rally against Michael Pineda and Co.

[ALSO: Robertson's first trip back to Yankee Stadium 'a little different']

Trayce Thompson got the White Sox on the board in the sixth inning with a solo homer off Pineda. An inning later, Thompson drew a bases loaded walk against Dellin Betances to get the White Sox within a run. But Betances struck out Adam LaRoche to leave the bases loaded. Thompson also struck out with the bases loaded in the third inning and the White Sox left two on in the fifth.

The White Sox left 10 on base and finished 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s all it takes,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s a professional at-bat by Beltran. He’s been a good hitter, clutch hitter. They have a lineup that’s full of those kind of guys. They’re a tough lineup to get through, and it just takes one, and one will get you when there are a couple of guys on. Three-run homers are killers, and this one was.”

The homer was the seventh allowed by Sale in his last four starts and he’s only one shy of the 23 allowed in 2013. While he leads the league with 11.92 strikeouts per nine and began the day with a 2.70 Fielding Independent Pitching, which ranks fourth in the majors, Sale has also seen an increase in homers allowed.

Whereas Sale yielded 0.67 homers per nine innings in 2014, he’s up to a career high 0.98 this season, the 34th most among qualified pitchers, according to fangraphs.com.

Flowers said he doesn’t know why Sale’s homer total has increased before adding, “there was a little something going on before but we’re past that now.” Flowers wouldn’t confirm if he meant Sale previously tipped his pitches.

Sale was also at a loss for why he’s allowed 10 more homers this season compared to 2014.

“It’s a question you’ll have to ask those guys really,” Sale said. “I don’t know. I assume most are on fastballs where I’m trying to go in and don’t really get it. That’s something I really couldn’t give you an exact answer on. It’s something I definitely need to clean up.”

Adjust your White Sox free-agent wish list? Gerrit Cole's teammates predict he'll land in California

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USA TODAY

Adjust your White Sox free-agent wish list? Gerrit Cole's teammates predict he'll land in California

Gerrit Cole is rightfully at the top of many White Sox fans' free-agent wish list. But might those hopes already need adjusting?

Cole looks to be on track to land the richest pitching contract in baseball history when he hits free agency after the Houston Astros' playoff run is over. The White Sox are shopping for starting pitching, and what team wouldn't love to top their rotation with the guy who might be awarded the AL Cy Young?

But whether or not you're part of the Twitter-using faction of White Sox fans that believe the team would never spend such money to land a pitcher the caliber of Cole, it might not matter.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale spoke to a couple of Cole's fellow Astros, and they told him they think Cole will end up playing in California. The South Side, at least in the Astros' clubhouse, it seems, is not a betting favorite.

"It will be west of Nevada," outfielder Josh Reddick said. "We know he wants to be a West Coast guy. He’s a California guy, so he probably wants to be close to home. I know he mentioned Oakland a couple of times because of how he’s pitched there in the past. ... But that probably won’t happen. They’d have to clear the whole roster to afford him."

"I got the Angels," pitcher Wade Miley said, "and paying him at least $250 million."

Well then.

Certainly the Los Angeles Angels are not a new suggestion in the "where will Cole sign" discussion. Cole went to high school a 10-minute drive from Angel Stadium and pitched his college ball at UCLA. The Oakland Athletics? That's a new one.

Anyway, a lot of White Sox fans are probably out there thinking "here we go again" as we begin poring over every bit of minutiae in this winter's free-agent market, just like we did last offseason, when Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were both out there for the signing — and both White Sox targets. That months-long reading of the tea leaves, of course, was all kicked off when MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the White Sox interest during the GM Meetings in November.

So far, there's nothing out there connecting the White Sox to Cole besides pure speculation, that and the fact that Rick Hahn has said his front office will be in the market for starting pitching. Cole, being a starting pitcher, fits the minimum requirement as a potential target.

In fact, in listing a boatload of teams that might make a run at Cole this winter, Nightengale left the White Sox out. He mentioned four of the five California-based teams: the Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants and every White Sox fan's favorite, the San Diego Padres, who landed Machado back in February. He also mentioned the Astros, the New York Yankees (who Cole will pitch against in game 3 of the ALCS on Tuesday), the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals and the Texas Rangers.

No White Sox.

There are plenty of other variables in this sweepstakes than just geography, and chief among them figures to be money. The White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility gained as a goal of the ongoing rebuilding process, but Hahn said that's not the most attractive element when it comes to free agents signing up to play on the South Side.

"The biggest advantage we have is the talent base we've accumulated so far and the excitement to come and be part of that," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last month. "We do have some economic flexibility. That was part of the plan from the start. But I think if you're looking at advantages, a lot of teams have money. A lot of teams don't offer the ability to play with some of the players that are joining us here already and joining in the coming years and the opportunity to win a championship in a city like Chicago."

Whether that appeals to Cole or whether the White Sox will set their sights elsewhere remains to be seen. Certainly his fellow Astros' predictions aren't the be all, end all. Remember last winter when it was a foregone conclusion Machado would be a Yankee because he was a fan of that team growing up? Didn't work out that way. (It's here that I'll mention a pretty cool nugget in Nightengale's piece about Cole sitting in the front row cheering on the Yankees during the 2001 World Series. Is he destined to wear pinstripes because of it? No.)

For the White Sox, they certainly should chase Cole, who would count as the biggest free-agent splash in team history and do a heck of a lot to vault the team out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. But Hahn is hoping that whichever players he lands this winter can do that, along with the team's talented young core, and there are plenty of starting-pitching options out there not named Gerrit Cole: Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Wheeler and maybe even Stephen Strasburg. It's an impressive list of possibilities, one that remains impressive for the White Sox even if they fail to meet any imaginary Golden State requirement from Cole.

Even as Cole readies to face off against the Yankees in the ALCS, attempting to go 19-0 since he lost to the White Sox on May 22, his role as the star of the hot stove season is already beginning.

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MLB'ers think Lucas Giolito was one of the comeback-iest players in baseball this year

MLB'ers think Lucas Giolito was one of the comeback-iest players in baseball this year

It isn't "the" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award, but it is "an" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

The MLB Players Association announced Monday that White Sox hurler Lucas Giolito is a finalist for its "Players Choice" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award, voted on by the game's players. He was joined by outfielders Hunter Pence of the Texas Rangers and Jorge Soler of the Kansas City Royals. On the NL side, the three finalists were Atlanta Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Sonny Gray and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The whole "voted on by your peers" element is pretty cool, as certainly they know how different the 2019 version of Giolito was from the one they saw a year earlier. James McCann, who played against Giolito as a Detroit Tiger in 2018 and then caught him as the White Sox backstop in 2019, constantly talked about how transformed Giolito was from one year to the next.

A totally different pitcher.

That's precisely what Giolito seemed like to us non-player types, too, after he went from the worst statistics of any qualified pitcher in 2018 to an All Star and the ace of the South Side staff in 2019.

Giolito gave up more earned runs than any pitcher in the game in 2018, also leading the AL in walks during a season he finished with a 6.13 ERA. Then he went to work in the offseason, making mechanical changes and overhauling his mental approach to the game. It resulted in the kind of breakout season the prognosticators foresaw when they ranked him the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball once upon a time.

In 2019, Giolito posted a 3.41 ERA, went to the All-Star Game, struck out a whopping 228 batters — that particular feat accomplished by only two other pitchers in White Sox history — and will likely place somewhere in the AL Cy Young vote.

His season was highlighted by a pair of complete-game shutouts against two of the best teams in baseball, the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins. Both shutouts came against 100-win teams on their own turf.

Presumably some Astros and Twins threw a few votes Giolito's way.

Giolito's status when it comes to "the" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award will be revealed next month, after the World Series is over. But for now, this is a pretty cool feather in the cap for him, another example of how far he's come.

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