White Sox

White Sox offense powers past Yankees

White Sox offense powers past Yankees

They’re not thought to be a high-powered-offense like the Baltimore Orioles or the Toronto Blue Jays.

But the White Sox offense still possesses a little pop.

The offense continued its most potent stretch of 2016 on Monday afternoon with two more round-trippers and James Shields took advantage as the White Sox downed the New York Yankees 8-2 in front of 30,955 at U.S. Cellular Field. Tim Anderson and Dioner Navarro each homered for the White Sox, who have hit 23 of their 85 home runs in the last 13 games. The White Sox have won 10 of 14 overall and improved to 43-40.  

“It's somewhat what you expect,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We're swinging it better, it's warmer, a lot of factors go into it. You like the way the guys have battled through it.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox hoped to add the long ball to their repertoire when they acquired Todd Frazier from the Cincinnati Reds in a three-team deal in December.

Last season, the White Sox produced a paltry 136 home runs, their lowest total in a full season since they hit 110 in 1992. But even with Frazier on pace for more than 40 round-trippers, the White Sox weren’t dialing long distance much until two weeks ago. Through 70 games, the team was on pace for 143 homers, which would rank 27th in the 49 White Sox seasons since the mound was lowered.

But with warmer weather and Tim Anderson providing a spark the White Sox offense has begun to experience a growth spurt.

Anderson continued his torrid start Monday and helped the White Sox finally break through against Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia. After Jason Coats singled to start the third inning, Anderson drilled a first-pitch sinker from Sabathia 426 feet out to center field to tie the score at 2.

Anderson’s two-run shot snapped a franchise-record tying streak of 15 consecutive solo home runs hit by the White Sox, a stretch that dated back to June 23. It also gave the rookie 12 multi-hit contests in his first 23 games as he also singled in the first inning.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Chris Sale has 'earned the right' to appear in All-Star Game]

The White Sox didn’t pull ahead until the fifth though as they left the bases loaded in the third and stranded a man at third in the fourth.

But Lawrie’s sac fly to center in the fifth scored Frazier to make it a one-run game. Navarro, who had five RBIs in the Houston series, then continued his hot streak with a two-run homer off Sabathia to make it a 5-2 game.

The homer-spurt now has the White Sox on pace for 166. They’ve also scored 68 runs in the 13-game stretch. But Navarro said home runs are only part of the equation for the club’s recent offensive success.

“The most important thing, everybody knows their role,” Navarro said. “Everybody’s doing the little things. Anderson getting on, (Adam) Eaton doing his thing, and everybody one through nine.”

The White Sox continued to add on without any homers as Lawrie singled in Frazier in the seventh to increase the lead to four. Jose Abreu and Frazier each singled in runs in the eighth to make it 8-2. Frazier reached base five times, including two doubles and two walks.

The way the White Sox have been swinging had Shields confident his team would rally even when he put them in a 2-0 hole. Chase Headley’s second-inning homer gave the Yankees an early advantage.

But Shields pitched out of tight spots in the fourth and sixth innings to give the White Sox a third consecutive strong start. The right-hander, who had a 21.81 ERA in his first three White Sox starts, allowed two earned and five hits with two walks in six innings. He has a 3.06 ERA in 17 2/3 innings in his last three starts.

“This team is a good hitting team,” Shields said. “I knew we were going to get a good shot to come back.

“Obviously the home runs are good, but for me it’s playing the game the right way. We’re getting guys on, we’re moving guys over and we’re getting guys in and that’s the name of the game. Home runs are going to come and it's summer time now so the ball flies a little more here in Chicago. But for me, what I’m looking at is guys moving guys over and getting guys in and we’re executing that really well.”

A favorite White Sox stat of 2019

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USA Today

A favorite White Sox stat of 2019

The 162-game grind of a season leaves a lot in its wake. Including pages upon pages of statistics on the internet. It’s always fun to revisit the season that was, going through all the fun facts and stats that I completely forgot about as well as discovering new ones that slipped by me at the time.

Some of these are meaningful. Many of them are completely useless… but FUN!

This one below might just be my favorite.

On May 3, the White Sox trailed 6-1 heading into the top of the ninth inning. With only a five-run deficit, Ricky Renteria turned to infielder José Rondón to pitch the final inning. That was seen as a rather unconventional choice, as position player pitchers are very uncommon in games that close. But that’s not why we’re here. When he entered the game, he started throwing pitches that didn’t even register on the speed gun. The four pitches that DID register ranged from 50.7 to  59.0 mph. But that’s also not why we’re here.

What José Rondón did was retire the first batter he faced by getting him to fly out to center field. That batter was Mookie Betts, who was the AL MVP the season prior.

But wait, there’s more!

You may recall that on August 6, 2018, Matt Davidson entered a game in the ninth inning where the White Sox trailed 7-0 to the Yankees. It was his third pitching appearance of the season (which in itself deserves to be remembered). He got Brett Gardner out on a grounder in front of the plate. It’s what he did next that is particularly notable. He struck out Giancarlo Stanton, who just so happened to be the NL MVP the season prior.

So in two consecutive seasons a White Sox positon player got the previous season’s MVP out. Amazing!

And to go even further, prior to Davidson, the last position player to get the previous season’s MVP out was ANOTHER White Sox player. J.B. Shuck on June 8, 2016, got 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper to ground out.

So I started wondering, who else from the position player ranks managed to strike out somebody who won an MVP the previous season? So went through and made me a list. I went back to 1970.

Position player pitchers who got the previous season’s MVP out from 1970 to present:

July 22, 2019 Mike Brosseau Rays Mookie Betts lineout
July 20, 2019 Stevie Wilkerson Orioles Mookie Betts groundout
May 3, 2019 Jose Rondon White Sox Mookie Betts flyout
Aug. 6, 2018 Matt Davidson White Sox Giancarlo Stanton strikeout swinging
July 8, 2016 J.B. Shuck White Sox Bryce Harper groundout
May 25, 2011 Wilson Valdez Phillies Joey Votto flyout
June 13, 2008 Aaron Miles Cardinals Jimmy Rollins flyout
Aug. 22, 2000 Brent Mayne Rockies Chipper Jones groundout
July 2, 1991 Doug Dascenzo Cubs Barry Bonds flyout

Sometimes you look for one thing and find something else equally amazing. How about THREE DIFFERENT position players getting Mookie Betts out this season? He was 0 for 3 against position player pitchers only one year removed from an MVP season, which is just plain weird. But how about the White Sox with three consecutive entries on this list? They have had a position player get the previous season’s MVP out three of the last four seasons. And the two guys who did it before Shuck, Davidson & Rondón were also former Sox. Wilson Valdéz played 19 games for the 2004 White Sox and Aaron Miles played 8 games for the 2003 Sox.

It's tough to deny that the recent flurry of entries on this list is due to the fact that position player pitchers have been much more prevalent lately. And sure, having a position player pitcher isn’t fun since the usual reason they’re even used is because the team is being blown out. And sure, maybe a batter doesn’t bear down as much when his team is up 12-1. But still, hey position player pitchers getting MVPs out? That’s always cool no matter what. 

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Adjust your White Sox free-agent wish list? Gerrit Cole's teammates predict he'll land in California

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USA TODAY

Adjust your White Sox free-agent wish list? Gerrit Cole's teammates predict he'll land in California

Gerrit Cole is rightfully at the top of many White Sox fans' free-agent wish list. But might those hopes already need adjusting?

Cole looks to be on track to land the richest pitching contract in baseball history when he hits free agency after the Houston Astros' playoff run is over. The White Sox are shopping for starting pitching, and what team wouldn't love to top their rotation with the guy who might be awarded the AL Cy Young?

But whether or not you're part of the Twitter-using faction of White Sox fans that believe the team would never spend such money to land a pitcher the caliber of Cole, it might not matter.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale spoke to a couple of Cole's fellow Astros, and they told him they think Cole will end up playing in California. The South Side, at least in the Astros' clubhouse, it seems, is not a betting favorite.

"It will be west of Nevada," outfielder Josh Reddick said. "We know he wants to be a West Coast guy. He’s a California guy, so he probably wants to be close to home. I know he mentioned Oakland a couple of times because of how he’s pitched there in the past. ... But that probably won’t happen. They’d have to clear the whole roster to afford him."

"I got the Angels," pitcher Wade Miley said, "and paying him at least $250 million."

Well then.

Certainly the Los Angeles Angels are not a new suggestion in the "where will Cole sign" discussion. Cole went to high school a 10-minute drive from Angel Stadium and pitched his college ball at UCLA. The Oakland Athletics? That's a new one.

Anyway, a lot of White Sox fans are probably out there thinking "here we go again" as we begin poring over every bit of minutiae in this winter's free-agent market, just like we did last offseason, when Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were both out there for the signing — and both White Sox targets. That months-long reading of the tea leaves, of course, was all kicked off when MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the White Sox interest during the GM Meetings in November.

So far, there's nothing out there connecting the White Sox to Cole besides pure speculation, that and the fact that Rick Hahn has said his front office will be in the market for starting pitching. Cole, being a starting pitcher, fits the minimum requirement as a potential target.

In fact, in listing a boatload of teams that might make a run at Cole this winter, Nightengale left the White Sox out. He mentioned four of the five California-based teams: the Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants and every White Sox fan's favorite, the San Diego Padres, who landed Machado back in February. He also mentioned the Astros, the New York Yankees (who Cole will pitch against in game 3 of the ALCS on Tuesday), the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals and the Texas Rangers.

No White Sox.

There are plenty of other variables in this sweepstakes than just geography, and chief among them figures to be money. The White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility gained as a goal of the ongoing rebuilding process, but Hahn said that's not the most attractive element when it comes to free agents signing up to play on the South Side.

"The biggest advantage we have is the talent base we've accumulated so far and the excitement to come and be part of that," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last month. "We do have some economic flexibility. That was part of the plan from the start. But I think if you're looking at advantages, a lot of teams have money. A lot of teams don't offer the ability to play with some of the players that are joining us here already and joining in the coming years and the opportunity to win a championship in a city like Chicago."

Whether that appeals to Cole or whether the White Sox will set their sights elsewhere remains to be seen. Certainly his fellow Astros' predictions aren't the be all, end all. Remember last winter when it was a foregone conclusion Machado would be a Yankee because he was a fan of that team growing up? Didn't work out that way. (It's here that I'll mention a pretty cool nugget in Nightengale's piece about Cole sitting in the front row cheering on the Yankees during the 2001 World Series. Is he destined to wear pinstripes because of it? No.)

For the White Sox, they certainly should chase Cole, who would count as the biggest free-agent splash in team history and do a heck of a lot to vault the team out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. But Hahn is hoping that whichever players he lands this winter can do that, along with the team's talented young core, and there are plenty of starting-pitching options out there not named Gerrit Cole: Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Wheeler and maybe even Stephen Strasburg. It's an impressive list of possibilities, one that remains impressive for the White Sox even if they fail to meet any imaginary Golden State requirement from Cole.

Even as Cole readies to face off against the Yankees in the ALCS, attempting to go 19-0 since he lost to the White Sox on May 22, his role as the star of the hot stove season is already beginning.

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