White Sox

White Sox lose as Royals hit three homers off Carlos Rodon

White Sox lose as Royals hit three homers off Carlos Rodon

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — He has already bounced back from serious adversity once this season. Now Carlos Rodon will look to rebound from a pair of rough starts late in the year.

The White Sox starter yielded three home runs in four-plus innings on Monday afternoon as the Kansas City Royals handed an 8-3 loss to the White Sox in front of 31,502 at Kauffman Stadium. Rodon, who recently won five straight decisions, lost for a second straight start after he allowed six earned runs in a 96-pitch effort. The White Sox, who won Friday’s contest in dramatic fashion, lost their third straight to the Royals and 14th in 19 meetings this season.

Jose Abreu and Carlos Sanchez both homered in the losing effort.

“I’m going to be fresh in these last two starts, just try to finish strong and move on,” Rodon said. “These things happen. I just have to keep on having fun. Sometimes I forget this is a kid’s game and you just have to enjoy it. Sometimes the pressure gets to you, and you take it as a job. It’s not a job, although it is. Kids play this game all over the world. We all started as kids, and we just have to remember this is a kid’s game and have fun with it.”

There were no indications Rodon was in for a difficult day when he retired the side in order in the first inning on only 11 pitches.

He found trouble in the second inning and faced a stressful situation in each frame the rest of the way. He fell behind 2-1 in the second inning when he yielded solo homers to Paulo Orlando and Alcides Escobar on fastballs and had to work around a two-out double to Christian Colon. Rodon managed to strand a runner in scoring position in both the third and fourth innings.

But the stress seemed to catch up to Rodon in the fifth inning, and things got ugly in a hurry. Rodon’s throwing error on Billy Burns’ infield single put him in scoring position. Whit Merrifield then singled to put runners on the corners and stole second base. Eric Hosmer broke a 2-all tie with an RBI single, and Kendrys Morales knocked Rodon from the game with a three-run homer, a 436-foot shot to left center.

Rodon allowed eight hits in four-plus innings and has seen his ERA increase from 3.80 to 4.29 in his last two starts.

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

It’s not the first time Rodon has found himself in a difficult spot this season. He was outwardly frustrated as he headed into the All-Star break injured and with a 2-7 record despite having pitched well enough to win in 10 of his first 16 starts.

But Rodon vowed to treat the second half as if he was starting from zero and expected to rebound. Until his last start, Rodon has done just that. From Aug. 6 to Sept. 9, Rodon went 5-0 with a 1.85 ERA in 43 2/3 innings, which brought his record within a game of .500.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura thinks that Rodon’s turnaround can be extremely valuable from a mental standpoint.

“You’re looking at a kid who went through a rough patch, and he’s been able to see his way out of it, see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Ventura said. “You can get buried in this game and not be able to mentally get your way out of it to where you have the confidence to go out there and commit to a pitch and locate it and be able to get people out. He has been able to do that. He’s turned a new leaf to where the belief is there. He’s showing it in his actions. Just the stuff he’s doing during games. I think that’s the important part for him taking it this far is you’re seeing it.”

The White Sox offense put up a decent fight early on but couldn’t keep pace with the Royals.

They pulled ahead 1-0 in the second inning when Todd Frazier singled in Justin Morneau, who doubled in his first at-bat in six games.

Two innings later, Abreu crushed a 3-1 fastball from Yordano Ventura for a game-tying homer to center that went over the third wall just below the massive scoreboard. But Ventura shut the White Sox down from there. Aside from the 431-foot solo homer by Sanchez in the seventh, the White Sox managed little else against Ventura, who went the distance.

“That (earlier) stretch was good,” Rodon said. “These past two games weren’t my finest. I wish I would have been better for this team, and that’s on me.”

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

When Jose Abreu went to the All-Star Game — voted in as the starting first baseman for the American League squad — he was of course deserving as an incredibly consistent performer through his first four seasons in the big leagues and his role as the face of the White Sox.

But the numbers weren't looking so good in mid July. An extended slump had Abreu looking very un-Abreu-like, perhaps heading toward his worst statistical season since arriving in the majors from Cuba ahead of his 2014 Rookie of the Year campaign.

At the close of the first half, he was slashing .253/.311/.441 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs, a far cry from the .301/.359/.524 slash line he put up through his first four seasons, when he also joined Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only players ever to start their careers with a quartet of 25-homer, 100-RBI campaigns.

But Abreu, who's been a very good second-half hitter during his career, is on a hot streak that's powering his way back to his version of normal. And it's looking like he could again reach the numbers we're so used to seeing from him by season's end.

After a one-homer, three-hit, three-RBI day in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers, Abreu is up to .268/.327/.484 on the campaign with 21 homers and 73 RBIs. That puts him nine homers and 27 RBIs away from the mark he's hit in each of his first four seasons with 42 games left in the season. It's not at all unreasonable to suggest he'll be able to do that, as he's hit eight homers and driven in 21 runs in his last 22 games.

He'd have to be some kind of dialed-in for the remainder of 2018 to bump the averages back to where they've been in recent seasons. But here's the kind of hot streak he's on now: Since the start of the second half, Abreu is slashing .323/.385/.646. And that's not too crazy when you realize how good he's been in the second half in his career. Coming into Wednesday's game, his career second-half stat line looked like this: a .314/.381/.540 slash line with 61 homers and 199 RBIs in 303 games.

For the White Sox, the confidence was always there that Abreu was going to snap out of the extended slump that saw him slash .180/.230/.308 from May 27 to the end of the first half, and he's done exactly that. Now, he's hot enough that he's inspiring confidence he could return to some of his regular numbers by season's end. It's that kind of consistency, coupled with his off-the-field value, that makes the team think so highly of him and could keep him around long enough for the rebuilding process to yield a perennial contender on the South Side.

A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

0815_carlos_rodon.jpg
USA TODAY

A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

The White Sox seem to be a couple years away from shifting from rebuilding mode to contention mode. There's plenty of development that still needs to occur at both the major league and minor league levels before the roster of the future comes fully into focus.

But with some excellent performances happening right now, is the White Sox rotation of the future falling into place? At least a little?

Look at this:

— Carlos Rodon, last seven starts: 1.60 ERA, 42 strikeouts
— Michael Kopech, last six starts: 1.89 ERA, 50 strikeouts
— Dylan Cease, last seven starts: 1.08 ERA, 57 strikeouts
— Dane Dunning, last five starts (back in June): 2.08 ERA, 38 strikeouts

Kind of looks like four-fifths of a starting rotation, doesn't it?

As has often been discussed, the White Sox have a good deal of starting pitching depth, and there are plenty of possibilities to fill that starting staff down the line. Heretofore unmentioned are pitching prospects Alec Hansen, Jordan Stephens, Jimmy Lambert and Bernardo Flores, all ranked among the organization's top 25 prospects, as well as current big leaguers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have each had their flashes of brilliance this season on the major league stage.

But the four guys listed above have been very, very good this season, especially recently, making it easy to envision them making up 80 percent of the starting rotation the next time the White Sox are competing for a championship.

Let's start with Rodon, who extended his streak of great starts to seven in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers. He went eight innings for the second outing in a row, and he's now pitched into the eighth inning in five of his last six starts. He's got a 1.60 ERA in his last seven starts, with 42 strikeouts in that span. Wednesday, he bounced back from a rocky three-run third inning and finished with just three runs allowed on five hits and a walk, adding six strikeouts. Quite simply, he's been ace-like and done well to answer the health-related questions he brought into the season, when shoulder surgery prevented him from debuting until June for the second straight campaign.

Then there are the two guys putting up monster numbers in the minor leagues: Kopech and Cease.

The 22-year-old Kopech has moved past some midseason struggles and has been downright electric of late at Triple-A Charlotte. In his last six starts, Kopech has a 1.89 ERA with 50 strikeouts and a jaw-droppingly low four walks in 38 innings. It's quite the turnaround for a guy who was having difficulty keeping the walk numbers low earlier this season. But he's come out the other side pitching as well as he has since joining the White Sox organization prior to last season, which is saying a lot considering he struck out 172 hitters in 2017. He's just 11 strikeouts away from matching that total this year. He could make his major league debut before the 2018 season is over.

And then there's Cease, also 22, who wasn't even the most talked-about player in his own trade, coming over from the Cubs along with Eloy Jimenez in last summer's crosstown swap. Cease has been a tremendous surprise for the White Sox this season, not because they didn't think he'd be great but because he's been the organization's best pitcher. And he's continued that trend in his seven most recent starts at Double-A Birmingham, too, with a razor-thin 1.08 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. He deservedly represented the White Sox at the Futures Game during All-Star week in Washington, D.C., last month and appears to be well on his way to earning the team's minor league pitcher of the year honors.

And for a fourth, how about a guy who hasn't pitched in a month and a half? Dunning has an elbow injury that's kept him out since late June, but prior to that, he was putting up terrific numbers at Double-A Birmingham. In his last five starts before hitting the DL, he had a 2.08 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. And he might be making some progress, if a recent tweet is any indication.

Now, as mentioned, there's a lot that can and will happen before the starting staff is set on the next White Sox team that will contend for a championship. But this kind of positive production from these four guys stokes the idea of a potentially dominant rotation of the future.

At the very least, this quartet seems to be making life easy for the legion of 2020 lineup projectors out there.