White Sox

White Sox lose eighth straight despite Chris Sale's 14 strikeouts


White Sox lose eighth straight despite Chris Sale's 14 strikeouts

Chris Sale flirted with a perfect game in another historic performance on Friday night.

But the White Sox didn’t back him and even though Sale retired the first 17 batters and struck out 14, the Texas Rangers rallied in the ninth for a 2-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 22,864.

Sale not only joined Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers in major league history to strike out at least a dozen batters in five straight starts, he had the White Sox in line to snap a seven-game losing streak until David Robertson allowed a bases-loaded, two-run pinch-hit single to Mitch Moreland. The eight-game losing streak is the team’s longest since Aug. 28-Sept 7, 2013.

“Sale did exactly what you want an ace to do in a situation like this,” Robertson said. “I went out there and stunk it up and gave it up tonight. It was a poor performance on me. I should have been there to pick the team up. We needed this one really bad. This one hurt.”

[SHOP: Buy a Chris Sale jersey]

Robertson got the call with the White Sox holding a 1-0 lead because the White Sox want to keep Sale healthy.

Not only had Sale already thrown 111 pitches on Friday, he made 125 in his previous start in Tampa Bay on Sunday. With that in mind, White Sox manager Robin Ventura called upon Robertson, who got into trouble when he walked Shin-Soo Choo walked and Elvis Andrus singled with one out. Both advanced on a wild pitch before Robertson struck out Joey Gallo. The White Sox intentionally walked Prince Fielder and pinch hitter Mitch Moreland ripped a 1-0 fastball to right for a single.

“If this was probably later on and you were in the playoffs, you might send (Sale) back out there,” Ventura said. “But he’s got a long way to go in this season and you’re trying to take care of him, too.

“He’s the crown jewel of our pitching staff and you have to take care of that. Other guys have a job to do.”

Sale did his with aplomb against the sleep-deprived Rangers, who arrived in Chicago at 5 a.m. from Los Angeles. He struck out two batters in four of the first six innings.

Jose Abreu nearly gave away Sale’s shot at perfection in the fourth when he bobbled an Andrus grounder only to recover with a blind, back-handed flip that Sale caught with his bare hand for the out. Sale struck out Joey Gallo to end the inning and motored on until Hanser Alberto broke up Sale’s bid for a perfecto with a soft liner into center for a single. But Sale quickly rebounded with a five-pitch whiff of Shin-Soo Choo, his 10th strikeout. Not only did that extend Sale’s franchise record for double-digit strikeout performances to 25, it makes Sale the first pitcher since Johnson in 2002 to accomplish the feat in six straight starts.

[GIF: Watch Abreu's no look toss to Sale for the out at first]

Sale struck out Gallo again in the seventh inning and returned to strikeout the side in the eighth inning, too. His strikeout of Ryan Rua to start the eighth put him on par with Johnson and Martinez.

Over his last six games, Sale has 71 strikeouts versus seven walks in 45 1/3 innings. He’s allowed seven runs (six earned) and 22 hits.

In the dozen-over-five starts-stretch in which he has matched Martinez and Johnson, Sale has 65 strikeouts and six walks in 38 1/3 innings. Martinez was the last pitcher to have at least 12 strikeouts in five straight starts from Sept. 4-27, 1999 for the Boston Red Sox. Johnson’s run went from June 19-July 11, 1998 while he pitched for the Seattle Mariners.

As good as he was, Sale didn’t flinch at Ventura’s decision, not with Robertson in the bullpen. Robertson has converted 13 of 17 opportunities this season.

[MORE: Ventura: Mistakes always affect the rest of the game]

“You can almost guarantee that’s not gonna happen too many times with him on the mound,” Sale said. “He’s one of the best in the game.

“Given the circumstances and everything, there’s a reason. It’s an easier decision when you got a guy like that coming in, too.”

The White Sox offense continues to make life difficult for the rest of the team. Even though they finished with nine hits, the White Sox were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10. The White Sox stranded two in the first and the ninth, had a runner thrown out at home in the fourth and left ‘em loaded in the seventh.

Tyler Flowers, who reached base all three times, provided the only run with a fifth-inning solo homer.

“We had some opportunities, there were some chances to score some runs, we didn’t do it and that’s -- you start looking at the things that are going on, we need to be able to score some more runs for him,” Ventura said.

G-Elite-O: Lucas Giolito turns in his best outing of the year by silencing Twins

G-Elite-O: Lucas Giolito turns in his best outing of the year by silencing Twins

"Lucas G-Elite-O."

That shirt was visible while Lucas Giolito's younger brother, Casey, was being ... I guess you would call it "interviewed" by Bill Walton last week in Anaheim.

The T-shirt is right. The White Sox most definitely have an elite arm on their hands.

The elder Giolito brother, the All-Star pitcher and ace of the South Side starting staff, has bounced back from his post All-Star break bump in the road and returned to the dominant form that made him a Cy Young candidate in the first half.

Wednesday he turned in what was probably his finest performance of the season to date, silencing a Minnesota Twins team that lit him up for seven runs less than a month ago. This time through the menacing Twins lineup, Giolito tossed nine shutout innings, allowed just three hits, walked no one and struck out 12 batters. It was his third straight start with double-digit strikeouts, and he's got 36 of them in those three outings.

He was downright filthy Wednesday, keeping quiet a lineup that leads baseball in home runs and torched White Sox pitching for 14 runs just hours earlier on Tuesday night.

Wednesday's performance went hand in hand with his other shutout of the season, when he kept the Houston Astros from crossing home plate back in May. That night he was also excellent, but with fewer hits and walks allowed and more strikeouts against the Twins, I'll give the title of best outing of the year to Wednesday's.

Perhaps more impressive than anything, though, has been Giolito adding to the theme of this resurgent season, bouncing back when trouble has struck. It's the general transformation that's taken him from the highest ERA among qualified starters in 2018 to an All Star this season. Both Giolito and catcher James McCann have noticed one of the biggest differences being that early damage in games doesn't rattle him like it did last season. And now we have Giolito erasing a less-than-ideal stretch to return to dominant form.

Giolito's ERA was down to 2.22 after six innings of one-run ball against the New York Yankees on June 14. In the seven starts that followed, his ERA exploded to 3.52 thanks to a 6.38 ERA in those seven outings. He gave up 26 runs and 39 hits in those 36.2 innings. He's responded phenomenally, with a 2.12 ERA in his last six starts, a stretch that's featured 53 strikeouts and just nine walks in 34 innings. His season ERA stands at 3.20.

For any who might be skeptical that this is the pitcher Giolito will be for years to come, that's a pretty good sign.

In general, there seems to be a good deal of skepticism surrounding how the White Sox rotation will fare in 2020, and much of it is plenty warranted. Michael Kopech will be coming off Tommy John surgery with just four major league starts under his belt. Reynaldo Lopez has been mostly excellent since the All-Star break but had a miserable first half. Dylan Cease has struggled from a results standpoint in his brief big league tenure, with a 5.93 ERA in eight starts. And until the White Sox start making moves this winter, we don't even know who will occupy that fifth spot.

But Giolito is doing his best to show that he can be relied on to be a force at the top of that rotation. Performances against two of the best teams in baseball, the Astros and Twins, have been the biggest exclamation points on that statement to date.

It wouldn't be surprising, though, to hear that "reliable" isn't enough for him. It's not "G-Reliable-O," after all.

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In interview, Jose Abreu says Jerry Reinsdorf told him he'll never play for another team

In interview, Jose Abreu says Jerry Reinsdorf told him he'll never play for another team

The evidence that Jose Abreu will be back with the White Sox after his contract ends at the end of this season has been ample throughout 2019.

Here's some more.

In an interview with the Sun-Times' Daryl Van Schouwen, the slugging first baseman said that White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has told him that he will play for the White Sox for the remainder of his major league career.

"Jerry, several times, has told me and my family that I am not going to wear a jersey other than a White Sox jersey," Abreu told Van Schouwen. "I believe him. I believe in his word. And like I said, I’m very happy with and loyal to this organization. Hopefully everything is going to pan out."

That's the latest example of the mutual admiration between Abreu and the White Sox. Abreu has spent much of 2019 talking about his love for the organization and his desire to stay with the team as it makes the transition from rebuilding mode to contention mode. Likewise, White Sox brass continuously talks about how much Abreu means to the team, not only as a productive hitter but as a mentor for the team's growing group of young players.

“The impact that I don’t think he really knows that he has is how hard of a worker he is,” James McCann said last month at the All-Star Game in Cleveland. “He’s a superstar. He’s a three-time All Star, he puts up unreal numbers, he’s setting organizational records. But you wouldn’t know that based on the way that he acts, the way that he goes about his business, the way that he works. He’s the first one in the cage, he’s in the weight room every day, he leads by example.

“So for me, the impact that he has is when a young kid shows up there and thinks he’s made it and then looks at this guy over here who’s busting his tail day in and day out. That’s only a good thing. It helps the culture. It helps the clubhouse realize, ‘Hey, we’ve still got to work.’”

While general manager Rick Hahn has made it clear that it's unlikely Abreu would get a new deal before the end of the season, with the White Sox preferring to take care of such business in the offseason, he's also said that it's "very likely" Abreu will be around for the good times after experiencing nothing but losing records in his six big league seasons with the White Sox since coming over from Cuba ahead of the 2014 campaign.

Abreu's resume is undeniably terrific, a three-time All Star with consistent levels of production that made him just the third player in major league history — along with Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols — to start his big league career with four straight seasons of at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs.

He's also red hot at the moment, with a .325/.382/.613 slash line to go along with six home runs and 20 RBIs in 20 games this month. And that's before he started Wednesday's game with three hits. He's on pace to smash his career high for RBIs, up to 96 of them on the campaign as of this writing. After a pair of freak injuries last season that limited his production in 2018, Abreu has played in every White Sox game but one this season.

The White Sox have repeatedly mentioned their love for Abreu as a mentor and role model for all the organization's young players, and it's clear that they hold him in the same esteem as players who have their numbers retired and have statues built at Guaranteed Rate Field. Reinsdorf presented Abreu with a specially made ring when Abreu hit for the cycle in 2017.

Abreu has returned that love over and over again in his comments, and it seems like a new contract between the two parties is inevitable.

"I’m telling you guys that if the White Sox don’t sign me, I’m going to sign here anyway. I’m going to sign myself here," he said last month. "I’m going to be here, believe me. I’m going to be here.

"I don’t want to miss this, I don’t want to miss what is coming, and I’m going to be here."

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