White Sox

White Sox impressed with how Chris Sale handled inning that shouldn't have been

White Sox impressed with how Chris Sale handled inning that shouldn't have been

Robin Ventura described it as a “weird” inning for Chris Sale, one in which the amped up four-time All-Star hit himself in the head with a baseball after a wild streak resulted in 36 pitches and two runs allowed.

And it never should have happened.

Pitching coach Don Cooper was still bothered Sunday morning by a ruling from plate umpire Bill Miller on Saturday that resulted in Byung Ho Park being awarded first base when a 2-2 slider from Sale struck his leg. Only problem was, Park also swung at the pitch and appeared to go around for the third strike. But Park instead went to first to load the bases and the inning got real dicey for Sale, who forced in runs with a walk and another hit batsmen. Sale recovered, of course, and caught fire, retiring 19 of the last 20 he faced to become baseball’s first seven-game winner. But Cooper thought Sale never should been in the situation in the first place.

“Chris last night was fine,” Cooper said. “He got the first two guys out. Gave up two hits and struck Park out with a swing and miss. Then everybody said it gets to be an ugly inning. He should have been out of the inning. It cost us two runs, at least an inning worth of pitches and put the game in jeopardy — one small miss.”

It didn’t take Cooper or manager Robin Ventura long to notice something was a little amiss with Sale, who admits he was fired up to face the Minnesota Twins, a team he struggled against last season. Sale intentionally has worked at lower velocities for most of the season. Just about the time the radar gun flashed 97 mph on a fastball to Eduardo Nunez did Ventura realize Sale brought extra intensity to the mound.

“He has been a little more of a hybrid as far as velocity, taking a little off, being in the zone,” Ventura said. “That’s what I mean by weird. He just hasn’t done that in a long time. …

“Maybe his first couple years of starting, if he either got banged up a little bit or if it was an erratic inning, he would just throw it harder. I think that’s what it seemed like last night.”

Cooper and second baseman Brett Lawrie gave Sale some encouragement during a mound visit after the left-hander’s bases-loaded walk of Oswaldo Arcia, which made it a 1-0 game. Not long after, Sale got out of the jam and took over.

Lawrie said his brief speech wasn’t “anything crazy,” but preferred to keep details between him and Sale. But he was very impressed with Sale’s rebound.

“As soon as he finds what he’s looking for, its takes two seconds, boom, as soon as he gets it he’s locked in and he leaves it all out on the field for us,” Lawrie said. “We don’t have worry about Chris.

“I don’t think anybody was that panicked to be honest.”

Ventura said he wasn’t overly concerned in the dugout, either. He intended to give Sale plenty of leeway to work with to get out of the jam. Sale only allowed one more batter to reach base in his final six innings, which gave his offense ample time to rally.

Afterward, Sale credited his teammates for a big emotional assist. Happy with his team’s victory, he still seemed a little disappointed with how he reacted to the situation, what with slamming a baseball off his head.

“When I get mad I feel like hurting myself,” Sale said with a laugh. “I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. That’s another thing, too. That’s something I’ve gotta get over. That’s the immaturity part coming out and that’s when the overthrowing happens and that’s when I dug myself a hole. Just gotta quit being an idiot out there, trust in the process and rely on my guys, because I’ve got some good ones behind me.”

Yoan Moncada is back at the top of the White Sox batting order

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USA TODAY

Yoan Moncada is back at the top of the White Sox batting order

Yoan Moncada’s time down near the bottom of the White Sox batting order came to a quick end this weekend. After just five games, Moncada returned to the top of the lineup for Friday’s game and was there again for Game 2 of the series with the visiting Kansas City Royals on Saturday.

It ended up being the “break” that manager Rick Renteria described it as, and the skipper, for one, believes that short stretch was beneficial to Moncada, who was struggling mightily when Renteria made that move last week.

Through the first 19 games of the second half, Moncada slashed .122/.250/.216 with three extra-base hits, four RBIs and 33 strikeouts. It was as noticeable a period of struggles at the plate as he’s had in his first full season in the majors, a campaign that has to this point failed to meet the big expectations the former No. 1 prospect in baseball carried with him into this season.

Renteria said that bumping Moncada down in the lineup would allow him to watch opposing pitchers face several other batters and remove the need to do certain things that come with batting leadoff.

For what it’s worth, Moncada got four hits — two of them for extra bases and one a home run — and walked twice in 18 plate appearances over the five games against the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers. He struck out nine times. Friday, he returned to the leadoff spot and went 1-for-4 with a walk and a run scored (and no strikeouts).

“When we put him down in the bottom of the lineup, it’s because I wanted to have him see other players have multiple at-bats over the course of a couple of games,” Renteria said Saturday. “When you’re leading off, you have a chance of either working very well, working on base, getting your hits, whatever the case might be. But if it’s not working out, you start to get a little frustrated. You’re still grinding through it.

“The perspective that I’m giving him is, ‘Hey, listen, no matter who I put in there, they also make outs. Sometimes they don’t get on. Understand it’s just not you. It’s a difficult position in which you lead off the ballgame.’ I just wanted him to take a breath, take a step back, look at it, and then make an adjustment, allow him to get back into that situation.”

While the numbers from that five-game stretch aren’t enough to determine whether this is the start of a second-half turnaround for Moncada, Renteria said he did believe the experience to be a beneficial one for his second baseman.

“I thought it was beneficial,” he said. “I didn’t necessarily have this conversation to say, ‘Hey, did it work out for you for the last few days?’ Nothing like that. But as you’re talking to him, just in passing, as you go through conversations and you see where they’re at, hopefully we’re making the right decision and the right adjustments for them.”

Moncada still owns a .149 batting average in the second half. He’s on pace to strike out 235 times this season, which would be a new single-season major league record.

But this rebuilding season was always going to be about developmental growing pains. And the idea is that the experiences he’s going through now will pay dividends down the road, when the White Sox shift from rebuilding to contending and Moncada, the hope is, shifts from the developmental stage to the superstar stage.

As White Sox continue to pile up the strikeouts, Rick Renteria is taking the broad view

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USA TODAY

As White Sox continue to pile up the strikeouts, Rick Renteria is taking the broad view

White Sox third baseman Matt Davidson has in his mind an ideal number of times he’d strike out in a season.

“If I had it my way I’d probably strike out 20 times a year but I don’t know how you do that, really,” Davidson said before the Sox defeated the Royals 9-3 on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

It’s not realistic for an everyday player to go through the season with that few strikeouts, especially on a Sox team that entered Friday’s game with 1,163 of them, the second-highest total in the major-leagues behind the Rangers’ 1,168. The Sox were on pace to strike out 1,570 times, which would break the franchise record of 1,397 set last season.

Against the Royals, the Sox struck out seven times, but made more than enough contact—including three-run home runs from Jose Abreu and Nicky Delmonico—to win for the eighth time in their last 14 games.

With the Sox going through the trials and tribulations that come along with a radical rebuild, perhaps it’s not a surprise the team strikes out as much as it has the past two seasons. They are young, aggressive at the plate and still learning at the major-league level.

“It’s just some of the experience and learning your swing and trying to improve on it every single year,” said Davidson, who went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts Friday night. “I don’t think coming up (in the minors) everybody was striking out as much as we do here so that just shows that the competition is better and we’re just also trying to learn.

“The MLB (web site) has a section just showing how nasty pitches are,” Davidson added. “Guys are really good here. It’s just a part of learning. It’s about seeing the ball, learning the zone, learning counts and understanding when they’re going to throw stirkes and when they’re going to throw balls and also just putting the bat on the ball.”

The Sox were particularly susceptible to the strikeout when they fanned 10-plus times during an eight-game stretch from Aug. 5-13, a franchise record. They fell one game short of matching the dubious major-league record of nine consecutive games with 10-plus Ks set by the Brewers in 2017.

Sox manager Rick Renteria said the cause of all the strikeouts “depends on who you want to look at. You could look at it collectively (or) you can look at it individually. We have one of the young men (Yoan Moncada) who has quite a few under his belt, both looking and swinging (for a major-league leading 172 this season). Two-strike approach obviously is something we talk about a lot and still has to be implemented in practical terms so that it's useful. We don't want our guys swinging out of the zone. We do want them to be able to defend themselves and keep a ball in play possibly when need be.

“But I'm not thinking in regards of how (strikeouts) continue to mount and what that indicates or doesn't indicate,” Renteria added. “We look at all of our guys individually and figure out what it is we can help them with in terms of attacking that strike zone and being ready to hit.”