White Sox

White Sox bullpen struggles to shut down Plouffe, Twins in loss


White Sox bullpen struggles to shut down Plouffe, Twins in loss

Trevor Plouffe got the scoring started and finished it off as well on Friday night as he hit two home runs and drove in three runs in the Twins 6-2 win over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 15,641 fans. 

Erik Johnson’s command issues arose as he walked five over five innings of work. While his only run of his outing was a solo home run to Plouffe in the fourth, Johnson, who made his second start of the season on Friday, was pulling escape acts seemingly every inning. The right-hander battled his way out of jams thanks to key strikeouts and clutch defensive plays.

In the first, Avisail Garcia made a leaping grab against the wall to rob Eddie Rosario of an extra-base hit with the bases loaded to end the inning. Johnson then stranded runners in scoring position in the third, fourth and fifth innings. The 25-year old threw 113 pitches on the evening but only 62 went for strikes. 

“He battled,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “They got him up to a high pitch count pretty quick. They were pretty patient with him. He got a bit erratic but he worked himself out of some situations. So he looked good. I think for as much traffic as was out there he did well. He responded and got to a point where he turned over the bullpen.”

Johnson, who gave up three solo home runs in his first outing with the White Sox in 2015, said he doesn’t mind giving up the those shots here and there and was more focused on working his way out of jams and keeping the Twins from having big innings.

[MORE: White Sox to skip Carlos Rodon’s next start in upcoming series]

“The first inning was a tough one,” Johnson said. “But just to build off each inning, getting out of there, just grinding one out and throwing up zeros on the board is the most important thing.”

The Sox got on the board when Adam Eaton put a charge into an Ervin Santana offering in the fifth inning, blasting one to dead center field for a two-run home run, his 13th of the season, to give the South Siders a 2-1 lead. 

Just before the game, Ventura said Eaton was finding his stroke at the plate in the second half of the season because he wasn’t trying as hard to knock it out of the park every at-bat. 

“He’s cut down his swing,” Ventura said. “He’s more contact. He was using the other side of the field. Early on, I felt like he was getting a little big, trying to either hit homers but his swing was a little bigger. It’s been more of a shortened down, contact swing, and I think he’s gotten more out of it.” 

Santana, however, silenced the White Sox bats for the rest of the night. The right-hander finished the evening with six strikeouts over seven innings of work, only giving up six hits and two walks. 

“We have to score more than two runs,” Eaton said. “Santana pitched well tonight but at the same time, you have to put some pressure on him and we didn’t. When we got guys in scoring position, we didn’t drive them in. We have to get a big hit and keep an inning going. Story of the year when we struggle. That’s baseball but it sucks when it doesn’t go your way.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!] 

After Daniel Webb gave up an RBI double to Torii Hunter to tie the game in the sixth, Nate Jones fell victim to Plouffe’s second solo shot of the night in the eighth, which gave the Twins a 3-2 lead. 

The Twins added to their advantage in the ninth when Eduardo Escobar hit a solo home run off Zach Putnam, who was just reinstated from the disabled list, to make it 4-2, Twins. Later that frame, a wild pitch from Putnam brought in another runner and Plouffe added an RBI single to make it 6-2. 

Eaton now is second on the White Sox in home runs and while that may be a good personal achievement, Ventura and his center-fielder know that there are other sluggers on the team who should be ahead of the leadoff man in that category. 

“No offense to those guys, but I don’t hit too many of them,” Eaton said. “At the same time, this has been kind of a rough season for a lot of guys. It has been the story of the season, inconsistency here and there.”

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka


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?


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.