White Sox

White Sox finding ways to win as offensive struggles persist

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White Sox finding ways to win as offensive struggles persist

The White Sox offense is still sputtering, but that didn’t keep the team from winning a three-game series against Texas over the weekend.

Gordon Beckham’s 11th-inning walk-off home run earned the White Sox a 3-2 win against the Rangers in front of the Stanley Cup and 33,668 fans at U.S. Cellular Field Sunday. During an afternoon in which the offense went 2-9 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base, the White Sox managed to find a way to win their second straight game as last week’s losing streak moves into the rear view mirror.

“Anything helps, any win helps,” Beckham said. “If it looks ugly, if we blow somebody out, I don’t really care. I don’t think we care. I just think we need to show up every day and put in the work and try to get some wins here.”

The White Sox know they have a steep climb ahead of them after an eight-game losing streak sent them plummeting toward the bottom of the American League. An offense that has performed below expectations all year continues to struggle — in Saturday’s win, the White Sox went 1-8 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base — but at this point, this is a team that just needs wins no matter how they come.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“Winning those tight games finally is huge,” reliever Jake Petricka said. “We’ve always been on the wrong side the last week and half or so. Now it’s going to go our way.”

Petricka and Zach Putnam deserve plenty of praise for their roles in keeping Texas off the board in extra innings to set up Beckham’s walk-off blast.

In the 10th, Putnam bounced a splitter off the plate for a wild pitch that allowed Texas’ Rougned Odor to advance from first to third. After intentionally walking Prince Fielder, Putnam got Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland — who entered the game hitting .303 — to bounce into an inning-ending double play brilliantly turned by Carlos Sanchez and Alexei Ramirez.

An inning later, Petricka intentionally walked Leonys Martin to load the bases for Hanser Alberto with one out. Texas’ No. 9 hitter bounced a chopper to Beckham at third, who fired home to Tyler Flowers to start an inning-ending 5-2-3 double play.

On the first pitch of the 11th inning, Beckham lifted an Alex Claudio changeup into the left field bullpen to end the game.

[ALSO: White Sox welcome Stanley Cup to U.S. Cellular Field]

“Especially when you get the situation where the ball (bounces) off the plate (in the 10th), you can let you mind go into bad places but these guys stuck with it,” manager Robin Ventura said. “The effort level’s there. That’s something that hasn’t changed and these guys, I’m proud of them today of what they did because there were some tough spots and the pitching did great.”

Jose Quintana allowed two runs — both on solo home runs — over his seven innings of work, scattering five hits, two walks and five strikeouts. He took a narrow 2-1 lead into the seventh but quickly was saddled with a no-decision after allowing a leadoff home run to Martin in that frame.

The White Sox got on the board in the sixth when Ramirez blooped a single over Moreland’s head to score Jose Abreu — the team’s first RBI hit with a runner in scoring position since Wednesday. Conor Gillaspie added an RBI on a sacrifice fly immediately after.

Ventura admitted the offense still has a ways to go, though Melky Cabrera’s five-hit game — a career-high for the 11-year veteran — could be an encouraging sign. But until the lineup can start consistently supporting its pitching staff, the White Sox may need to continue to find different ways to win games and stay afloat as the halfway point of the season approaches.

“It’s a great win for these guys,” Ventura said. “The way it’s been going, you finally break through and get some momentum going.” 

Michael Kopech's arrival shows White Sox and a rebuild-loving fan base what progress looks like

Michael Kopech's arrival shows White Sox and a rebuild-loving fan base what progress looks like

Tangible, visible, hit-you-over-the-head obvious signs of progress have at times seemed hard to come by for the rebuild-loving legions watching the White Sox on a nightly basis during this developmental 2018 campaign.

That’s not to say there haven’t been tons of positives throughout the organization. Those who sprung for the MiLB.TV package have been able to see every Eloy Jimenez home run, and people around the baseball world found out just how fantastic Dylan Cease has been when he represented the organization at the Futures Game.

But the inconsistencies of Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, the strikeout-heavy first full major league season from Yoan Moncada and the early season demotion of Carson Fulmer have left those watching the big league team praying for some sign that things are improving.

Enter Michael Kopech.

The news that the team’s top-ranked pitching prospect, one of the top 15 prospects in baseball, will make his major league debut Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field must have seemed like an oasis in a 31-games-below-.500 desert when it was announced Sunday afternoon.

It’s sure to make for an even more hyped atmosphere than the one that greeted Yoan Moncada last July, when the No. 1 prospect in the game made his debut in a White Sox uniform. And while the architects of this rebuilding effort know the inner workings of the organization like no outsider ever could, they’re going to be part of that atmosphere Tuesday, too, part of a celebration of progress coming to the South Side.

“As focused as we have been, the front office and even White Sox fans, on the future and progress we feel we’re making, we’ve also been tested,” general manager Rick Hahn said on a conference call Monday morning. “We’ve talked about, going back to last offseason, this would very likely be the most difficult year of the rebuild and the patience this year would require would be a challenge for all of us. So I do think it’s important to try and enjoy these moments along the way where you do see that progress.

“We can talk all we want about how we’re only in Year 2 and that it is going to take time and there is a bright future ahead of us, but we’re all human, we’re all sports fans, we all want to see progress along the way. That has nothing to do with the timing of making a move like this, but when a move like this does occur and when the developmental reasons line up accordingly, we all should take a moment to enjoy the progress and excitement that comes.”

Those paying close enough attention knew what Hahn cautioned prior to the beginning of the season, that this was going to be the hardest part of the rebuild. Tom Petty said it first, to be fair, that the waiting is the hardest part, and that’s what 2018 was always going to be for the White Sox, a waiting game. The incredible amount of talent Hahn brought into the system needed time to develop, and in many cases it still does.

And so during that waiting came what fans and observers have seen on a nightly basis at the major league level. For the young players who are still slated to be key pieces of the team’s long-term plans, we’ve seen growing pains and the continued development that comes in the bigs. In certain cases, we’ve seen players who are fighting to make themselves a part of the long-term plans and players who simply won’t end up being a part of those long-term plans.

But few players are expected to have as a big a starring role as Kopech, hence the excitement surrounding his promotion. He’s tantalized with his last seven starts at Triple-A Charlotte, posting a 1.84 ERA with a ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio — 59 punch outs and only four free passes — over his last 44 innings.

While fans have been clamoring for promotions — be it of Kopech or top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez — for months, it’s taken this long into the season for a big one to come to the major league team. That, too, has all been part of the plan. Hahn mentioned multiple times throughout the year that how the team handled Giolito and Lopez a season ago could be a kind of template for how they handled Kopech this season. And while all three are different pitchers dealing with their own developments, Kopech will make his debut one day away from the one-year anniversary of Giolito’s White Sox debut.

In the end, though, Kopech’s promotion is the manifestation of the patience Hahn said everyone involved with this organization — him and his own front office included — had to practice this season. The White Sox waited until they knew Kopech was absolutely ready. They didn’t make a promotion to better a team that wasn’t contending for a playoff spot or to please an antsy fan base hungry to see progress happen as soon as possible. Baseball players constantly say that it’s all about execution. Well, Hahn and the White Sox executed their plan exactly how they wanted.

“Outside noise or emotion or even passion or excitement for seeing the rebuild progress has nothing to do with our decisions in terms of the timing of promotions,” Hahn said. “Each of these decisions are motivated by what’s best in terms of putting both the organization and the individual player in the best long-term position to reach their potential.

“We knew the 2018 season would be a challenging one and one in which we were going to have to not fall prey to outside influences or the influence of outside factors beyond what’s best for the organization and what’s best for our players’ long-term development. It’s going to require patience. I think you’ve seen that we’ve exhibited that this season, and we’re going to have to continue to do that throughout the coming weeks and months.

“The short-term gratification that would come from eliminating white noise or promoting a high-profile player just isn’t worth it when you consider the long-term benefits that come from us just showing the requisite patience that is required to put these guys in the best long-term position to succeed.”

Now it’s time for Kopech to execute his own plan and meet the huge expectations he has for himself and that Chicago has for him.

But for those watching the big league team, this is the hit-you-over-the-head sign of progress you’ve been waiting for, a tangible sign that the rebuild is moving forward.

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

With the big news that Michael Kopech is coming to the majors, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber talk about the decision by the Sox to bring up their top pitching prospect and the excitement that Kopech will bring to the team and the 2018 season.

Kevan Smith discusses what kind of stuff Kopech has and what it was like catching him in the minor leagues. Plus, they talk about Paul Konerko’s unforgettable day in the booth with Hawk Harrelson.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: