White Sox

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

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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.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Tyler Saladino's defense at third improves with experience]

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.”

Padres might have just topped everyone — including White Sox — with reported offer to Manny Machado north of $250 million

Padres might have just topped everyone — including White Sox — with reported offer to Manny Machado north of $250 million

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Enter the San Diego Padres as potential party-crashers in the Manny Machado sweepstakes.

Aside from an offhand mention of an offer from the New York Yankees, the only widely reported contract offer for the 26-year-old superstar free agent with numbers attached to it was the one from the White Sox. Depending on who you believe, it was for seven years and between $175 million and $250 million, though the high number was shot down by a flurry of counter-reports.

Well, the Padres have joined the club now, with multiple reports Sunday night indicating they've gone near or over $250 million — and gone to an eighth year — with their bid for Machado's services. One reported number was $280 million, which could potentially be as much as $100 million above the previously reported White Sox offer.

If those numbers are accurate, that's big news and could spur the need for a new offer from the White Sox, if they are in fact willing to do so.

General manager Rick Hahn has talked about his team's seriousness in acquiring a "premium talent" like Machado and has vowed that the White Sox will spend the kind of money that it takes to bring in a player of this caliber.

Asked during SoxFest about what he called the "false narrative" that the White Sox aren't willing to spend, Hahn said: "We’d love to disprove that during the coming weeks. We certainly have extended offers that would ruin that narrative, if accepted, but we're not there yet."

A new high offer out of San Diego could force the White Sox to make a new decision.

The Padres offer much of the same things that the White Sox have pitched to these big-name free agents. They have even more prospects ranked in the MLB Pipeline top 100 (10 of them, to be exact) than the White Sox and can pitch an equally bright future over the better part of the next decade. They have shown recent willingness to spend, handing out a six-figure contract to Eric Hosmer just last winter. Hosmer and Machado would make two pretty attractive centerpieces as Padres prospects, such as Fernando Tatis Jr. — the No. 2 prospect in the game who the White Sox traded for James Shields in 2016 — arrive in the big leagues.

And so with similar pitches being made, money would figure to make the difference. This isn't the Yankees, supposedly Machado's preferred destination, and so there could be fewer, if any, non-financial factors in a choice between these two teams.

Also of interest were a couple of reports from earlier Sunday describing talks between Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies as "intensifying." The Phillies have been the White Sox most prominent competition for Machado (and Harper, for that matter) this winter, but if they were able to land Harper, they would presumably be done chasing Machado. That would be good news for the White Sox. But if the late-arriving Padres are as serious as they're being reported to be, there's a possibility the White Sox walk away from this offseason without landing a monster free agent.

That wouldn't be the end of the world, with the franchise's rebuilding plans still firmly on track. But fans with raised expectations after hearing the White Sox tied to Harper and Machado for months would certainly feel disappointment. Hahn would, too. He said as much during SoxFest.

It's important to remember, of course, that there will be other opportunities to land premium talent. And it's also important to remember that news of an offer from the Padres doesn't mean Machado has accepted. The White Sox are in it until they aren't.

But things just got a little more interesting. Stay tuned.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez talks about winning a World Series

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez talks about winning a World Series

Eloy Jimenez sits down with Chuck Garfien at spring training. Jimenez talks about:

-Getting hit in the head in his very first at-bat when he was nine years old and later his first home run (06:05)

-Why he has long believed that he was meant to play in Chicago (08:00)

-Meeting Jim Thome for the first time (10:40)

-Why he thought about quitting baseball in his first season in the Cubs organization (12:15)

-Not getting called up to the majors last season (15:40)

-Michael Kopech calling him "the Babe Ruth of our generation (18:10)

-How he, Micker Adolfo and Luis Basabe talk everyday about winning a World Series (19:40)

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

White Sox Talk Podcast

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