White Sox

White Sox: Chris Sale again shows why he's an ace


White Sox: Chris Sale again shows why he's an ace

Chris Sale offered a reminder of why he’s one of baseball’s premier pitchers Sunday afternoon, with Cubs right fielder Jorge Soler the unsuspecting victim of the left-hander’s brilliance.

With the bases loaded and two out in the top of the sixth and the White Sox holding a three-run lead, Sale fired a dominant five-pitch sequence that ended with Soler watching a backdoor slider catch the outside corner for strike three. Sale started the at-bat with a low-80s slider, then fired a trio of 99 mile per hour fastballs before going back to the breaking ball to end the inning.

Sale’s fastball averaged 95.7 miles per hour on Sunday, according to BrooksBaseball.net, but he found an extra gear to retire Soler and keep the Cubs off the board in what turned out to be a 3-1 White Sox win.

“You see that of a lot of ace-type pitchers,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “They seem to have that little extra in situations or against certain guys, certain counts.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox retain Crosstown Cup, avert sweep behind Chris Sale's 15 Ks]

Sale allowed one hit — Dexter Fowler’s one-out single in the sixth — and tied a career high with 15 strikeouts over his seven innings of shutout ball. He shut down a Cubs team that looks like a favorite in the National League Wild Card race and averaged 5.4 runs per game in August before Sunday.

Cubs All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a hit by pitch against Sale, was literally and figuratively blown away by the 26-year-old left-hander.

“He's the best in the biz, so yeah, hats off to him,” Rizzo said. “He made us look silly, but that's what he does. It was a small victory to get him out of there after the seventh, to get his pitch count up by striking out a bunch.”

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Sale’s ERA sits at 3.32, though he’s been hurt by a bad defense behind him (his FIP is 2.41, which would be a career best; the White Sox defense has the second-worst UZR and DRS in baseball). The best workaround for Sale might be to just rack up strikeouts, which he succeeded in doing Sunday.

His 208 strikeouts lead baseball, and in late May and June he tied Pedro Martinez’s record for most consecutive starts with double-digit strikeouts (eight). When he’s on his game, opponents have little chance to hit him — “guess right and (hope) we miss a spot,” Flowers said — which was the case Sunday.

Soler, who homered off David Robertson in the ninth inning, didn’t have much of a chance with Sale spotting his wipeout slider and a near-100 mile per hour fastball in a key situation.

“It’s fun,” Sale said. “The crowd gets into it. People in the K Zone are going crazy for me. It’s a fun, fun time. You have balls leaving the park, guys hitting homers. It’s a fun atmosphere to play in. I wish we could do that more often.”

The biggest pieces of the White Sox rebuild are on absolute fire in September, great news for 2020


The biggest pieces of the White Sox rebuild are on absolute fire in September, great news for 2020

“The 2020 season, it starts in September.”

Jose Abreu said that before August was even over, looking toward the final month of yet another losing season, yet another season without a playoff appearance on the South Side. Of course, everyone involved with this organization is hoping that changes in 2020, and with his sights on that campaign, Abreu talked about using the last month of this one to get ready for next year.

Well, if this month is really the first month of what’s next, the guys who figure to play the biggest roles on that 2020 team — in this rebuild, in general — are off to a heck of a start.

Friday night, it was the quartet of Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez powering a high-scoring win over the Seattle Mariners. The four combined to go 8-for-18 with two home runs, two doubles, a triple, seven RBIs and six runs scored.

It was a nice microcosm of what’s been happening all month.

In the dozen games the White Sox have played in September, Abreu, Anderson, Moncada and Jimenez have combined for a .363 batting average, a .431 on-base percentage, a .687 slugging percentage, 13 home runs, 18 doubles, a triple, 42 RBIs and 40 runs scored. They’ve accounted for more than 58 percent of the runs the team has scored and more than 61 percent of the runs the team has driven in.

Considering Anderson, Moncada and Jimenez are three cornerstones of Rick Hahn’s rebuilding effort and the elder statesman Abreu, with his constant declarations of his desire to remain with the team, seems a safe bet to be back in black for 2020, this is the core of this lineup moving forward playing at an extremely high level.

It’s exactly what the White Sox and their fans want to see.

Anderson is going to be dominating the headlines the rest of the way as he chases a batting title. He woke up Saturday with the best batting average in baseball, a .334 mark for the 2019 season. In September alone, he’s hitting .400.

Moncada has steadily had the best all-around offensive season of anyone on the team, quite the transformation from a year ago, when he struck out 217 times in a disappointing first full campaign as a major leaguer. In September, he’s hitting even better than Anderson, with a .435 batting average to go along with an insane .500 on-base percentage.

Jimenez has had an up-and-down rookie season, but he’s closing in on 30 home runs after smashing No. 27 on Friday night. He’s definitely in the midst of one of his better stretches right now and owns a .694 slugging percentage with five homers in September.

Abreu has been criticized by certain segments of the fan base for the noticeable dip in his on-base percentage this season. Thanks to a hot finish, it is higher than last year’s at the moment, but if the season ended today, it would be lower than the figures he posted during his first four seasons in the big leagues. But what those critics aren’t focusing on is one of the most productive seasons of Abreu’s career. He also homered Friday and is up to 33 bombs on the season, three off the career high he set as a rookie in 2014. And he’s blasted past his career high in RBIs from that same season, up to 116, which leads the American League. He's got five September homers and a .784 slugging percentage on the month.

In a season judged from the outset based on the development and performance of the team’s core players rather than its win-loss record, that’s all spectacular news for the organization moving forward into 2020. Combine all that with the strides made by Lucas Giolito and James McCann, the arrival of Dylan Cease, the expected return of Michael Kopech, the expected arrivals of Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, plus what’s expected to be an active offseason, and this team is shaping up to have a very promising outlook for 2020.

“I’m expecting that this is it,” manager Rick Renteria said after Thursday’s game, asked if he believed the White Sox string of sub-.500 seasons would end next year. “We are trying to win. I think we talk about it, we are going through it. I know there’s still refining to do, but I’ll be honest with you. We are finishing this season, we are talking about coming into next season ready to battle, period, exclamation point. That’s what we are looking to do.”

If these four guys keep swinging the bats like this straight on into next March, that would go a long way toward proving their manager right.

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Tim Anderson now leads all of baseball in batting average


Tim Anderson now leads all of baseball in batting average

Tim Anderson’s quest for the batting title got a boost on Friday, and his quest for the AL batting title is looking more like reality by the day.

Anderson had a 2-for-5 night in Friday’s 9-7 win in Seattle to raise his batting average to .334. He is nine points ahead of Yankees second baseman DJ LaMahieu.

The White Sox have 15 games left in the season so it’s getting down to the wire.

Anderson not only leads in the AL, but also leads all of the majors in batting. He jumped ahead of Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon, who had an 0-for-4 night on Friday to drop to .332.

Anderson’s evolution from .240 hitting in 2018 (and a career .258 hitter entering 2019) to leading the majors in batting average on Sept. 14 is one of the more surprising and relevant developments of the White Sox season. He’s also been fun on the field, and even on social media.

On Friday morning, MLB tweeted out a vote for best bat flip of the year and the only two in contention were Ronald Acuna Jr and Bryce Harper. Anderson (and the White Sox along with plenty of White Sox fans) jumped in the replies to call out the snub.

He then quote tweeted his own notable bat flip for comparison.

Stay fun, Tim.


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