White Sox

White Sox offense pours it on in win over Indians

White Sox offense pours it on in win over Indians

CLEVELAND — The White Sox offense started a two-out hit parade early on Thursday night and didn't slow down.

Tim Anderson and Matt Davidson powered a five-run first inning with home runs and the White Sox added on late in a 10-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians in front of 15,060 at Progressive Field. Davidson and Avisail Garcia each drove in three runs for the White Sox, who produced nine two-out runs to improve to 4-4 and claim their first series victory of the season.

"When you get that hit with two outs it keeps it going and puts the pressure on the bullpen and pitchers extending their pitch counts and stuff," Davidson said. "I can't remember, there's a stat that somebody brought up about after a certain amount of pitches in an inning, the OPS skyrockets, like after 14 or 15. It was a pretty interesting stat, so extending those innings is huge for us."

The White Sox offense emerged for the first time since Saturday and they did so early.

Anderson ripped Josh Tomlin's first pitch out to left for a solo shot -- the team’s only run with less than two outs — and the White Sox continued to add on.

Garcia singled with two outs and a man on to extend the first inning for Davidson, who blasted a Tomlin pitch 401 feet the opposite way for a 4-0 lead. Davidson has driven in eight runs in 19 plate appearances.

Yolmer Sanchez then doubled and scored on an RBI single by Omar Narvaez to put the White Sox ahead by five.

The White Sox scored twice more in the second inning on a two-run single by Garcia that knocked Tomlin out of the game and made it a 7-1 contest. The two-out trend in the eighth inning when Jose Abreu, Cody Asche and Garcia all singled in runs.

It was a much-needed outburst from an offense that has struggled to score in all but two previous contests. While the team is averaging 4.4 runs per game through their first eight contests, 27 of the 35 have come in three games. The team has scored two or fewer runs four times already and produced three in their other contest.

"It's big," said Garcia, who is hitting .452 with eight RBIs. "They have a really good team. It's a strong team with strong pitching and hitting. It's good when you win a game like that. You just have to keep working and playing the game the right way."

Starter Miguel Gonzalez couldn't take advantage of the outburst, but the big cushion helped the White Sox manage a potentially precarious situation. Gonzalez ran a high pitch count early with four walks and five strikeouts in the first four frames and a two-run Cleveland rally chased him in the fifth. He allowed three earned runs, eight hits, four walks and struck out five in 4 2/3 innings.

The White Sox preferred to stay away from Zach Putnam, Nate Jones and David Robertson, all of whom had heavy use the previous few days.

Anthony Swarzak gave the White Sox a big lift with 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Dan Jennings went another 1 2/3 innings himself and Tommy Kahnle pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the victory.

"Everybody that came in and gave the innings they did and gave us the outs, they did a spectacular job," Renteria said. "All of them kind of rose to the occasion and stifled anything that the Indians were trying to do.

"The guys just came in and played. We had some good at-bats, we had some breaks, we had some things go our way and fortunately for us we walked away with this series and we're happy about that."

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

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AP

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

It wasn’t long ago that the question was: “Why isn’t Michael Kopech pitching in the major leagues?”

The question is now firmly: “What’s wrong with Michael Kopech?”

The new script is of course a reflection of how quickly opinions change during a baseball season, when “what have you done for me lately?” tends to drive the conversation more than looking at the entire body of work.

But the body of work doesn’t look too awesome for the White Sox top-ranked pitching prospect these days. He carries a 5.08 ERA through 14 starts with Triple-A Charlotte. But it’s the recent struggles that have folks second guessing whether he’s ready for the big leagues.

The month of June hasn’t gone well for Kopech, who has a 9.00 ERA in four starts this month. That features two especially ugly outings, when he allowed seven runs in two innings and five runs in three outings. But for a guy who’s got blow-em-away stuff, it’s the walks that are of the utmost concern to box-score readers: He’s got 21 of them in 16 innings over his last four starts. That’s compared to 20 strikeouts.

More walks than strikeouts is never a good thing, and it’s been a glaring bugaboo for White Sox pitchers at the major league level all season. Kopech wasn’t having that problem when this season started out. He struck out 68 batters and walked only 25 over his first 10 starts. But things have changed.

With director of player development Chris Getz on the horn Thursday to talk about all of the promotions throughout the minor league system, he was asked about Kopech and pointed to Wednesday’s outing, which lasted only five innings and featured four more walks. But Kopech only allowed two earned runs, and Getz called it a good outing.

“Last night I was really happy with what he was able to do, and that’s really in comparison looking at his last probably four outings or so,” Getz said. “He did have a little bit of a hiccup, getting a little erratic. He was getting a little quick in his delivery, his lower half wasn’t picking up with his upper half. The command of his pitches was not there.

“But last night, although the line is not the best line that we’ve seen of Michael this year, it was still a very good outing. He was in the zone, commanding the fastball. His body was under control. He threw some good breaking pitches, a couple of good changeups. He was back to being the competitor we are accustomed to. We are hoping to build off of this outing. I know he’s feeling good about where he’s at from last night and we’ll just kind of go from there.”

It’s important to note, of course, that the White Sox are often looking for things that can’t be read in a box score. So when we see a lot of walks or a lot of hits or a small amount of strikeouts, that doesn’t tell the whole story nor does it count as everything the decision makers in the organization are looking at.

Still, this is development and growth in action — and perhaps a sign that the White Sox have been right in not yet deeming Kopech ready for the majors. Kopech perhaps needs the time at Triple-A to work through these issues rather than be thrown into a big league fire.

As for how these struggles will affect his timeline, that remains to be seen. The White Sox aren’t ruling anything out, not promising that he’ll be on the South Side before the end of this season but certainly not ruling it out either.

“If he builds off of what he did last night, commanding his fastball, his breaking pitches continue to kind of define themselves, I think we’ve got a chance to see him,” Getz said. “He’s going to find his way to the big leagues. He’s going to be an impact frontline type starter. I’m very confident in that.

“Now just like a lot of great players, sometimes it’s a meandering path. And to say that he’s gone off track is not fair because it’s only been a couple of outings. I think he’s in a really good spot. If he builds off of this, I don’t think it’s unfair to think he’ll be up here at some point.”

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Rick Hahn’s been saying it all year: The good ones have a way of forcing the issue.

Consider Dylan Cease one of the good ones.

The pitcher acquired alongside top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs was one of the more than a dozen players promoted within the White Sox farm system Thursday. He put up stellar numbers during the first half with Class A Winston-Salem and because of it is on his way to Double-A Birmingham.

While many rebuild-loving fans could’ve forecasted Jimenez’s rapid journey through the organization, Cease’s acceleration is one that even the White Sox are considering a “pleasant surprise.”

“There’s definitely been some pleasant surprises,” Chris Getz, the White Sox director of player development, said Thursday. “For one, I think Dylan Cease was a guy, heading into the season, his first full year with us, the focus was: every fifth day, a full season’s worth of innings. He’s more or less forced our hand.

“He's really come on, he’s pitching with four pitches, four plus pitches, he’s commanding the ball, very mature kid. And he’s certainly ready for the next challenge at Double-A.”

Cease turned in a 2.89 ERA in his 13 starts with Winston-Salem, striking out 82 batters in 71.2 innings. Considering he made just 25 starts above Rookie ball during his time in the Cubs’ organization, the dominance in his first taste of High A is quite the positive for the White Sox.

The team’s starting rotation of the future is a mighty crowded one, with roughly a dozen different guys competing for those spots: current big leaguers Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito; Triple-A arms Michael Kopech, Carson Fulmer, Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams; Double-A hurlers Cease, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning; and Class A pitchers Lincoln Henzman and Blake Battenfield, both of whom earned their own promotions Thursday.

There’s a lot of time before the White Sox have to settle on which five will make up that future starting staff. But Cease could be doing the work of making a name for himself, something that hasn’t been easy to do. With all the love he’s getting, he’s still the organization’s fourth-ranked pitching prospect. Heck, thanks to Jimenez, he wasn’t the top-ranked guy in his own trade.

But Cease is getting attention now, and if he keeps pitching like this, he could keep forcing the White Sox hand.