White Sox

White Sox preach accountability as losing streak comes to an end

white-sox-snap-losing-streak-5-05-15.png

White Sox preach accountability as losing streak comes to an end

Though they didn’t completely rid themselves of the horrendous play that plagued their road trip, the White Sox made progress on Tuesday night.

Two days removed from a five-game trip Rick Hahn said was full of “stupid” and “poor” decisions, the White Sox brought forth some of the missing elements in a 5-2 win over the Detroit Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field. Jeff Samardzija delivered the goods and Conor Gillaspie capped a four-run rally with a two-run triple as the White Sox snapped a five-game losing streak. For at least one game the White Sox — who have preached accountability across the board amid calls for the firing of manager Robin Ventura — showed they’re capable of playing as well as everyone within the walls at 35th and Shields thinks they can.

“This team is far, far better than what we’ve seen the last few days,” Hahn said. “Obviously we shot ourselves in the foot with some stupid base running decisions, there was some poor defensive decisions.

“Our problems right now are amplified by the fact that we’re not scoring runs. This is a lineup that is able to score runs over the long haul. This is a starting rotation that is going to not have however many starters we have with ERAs over 5 over the long haul.”

Though it’s not likely to restore the faith of fans who have continued to call for Ventura’s head, Samardzija at least provided the White Sox with a breather.

[MORE: Source: Samardzija to begin serving suspension Wednesday]

Samardzija did what four starters couldn’t in the last turn through the rotation — keep the White Sox in the game.

Tuesday’s effort looked to be headed in that direction, too.

With the help of a first-inning error and a solo homer that bounced off Melky Cabrera’s glove over the fence (it would have been a stunning catch), Samardzija gave up two runs.

But Samardzija didn’t give up any more runs and pitched out of critical jams in the fifth and seventh innings. He allowed two earned runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings.

In his previous start, Samardzija allowed eight earned runs as he and White Sox starters went 0-5 with a 10.39 ERA in 21 2/3 innings on the road trip.

[RELATED: White Sox RHP Matt Albers has surgery, out 6-8 weeks]

“Everybody’s frustrated,” Ventura said. “We’re frustrated too. You understand that, but in the end we gotta focus on what we’re doing right here, and I get it. I’m frustrated. You understand where people lash out and why they do it. Again, that doesn’t stop what we’re trying to do here and the focus on playing the Tigers.

I’m not sitting here thinking of my own situation with that. We’re trying to win a game tonight. That becomes the focus.”

An offense that was outscored 39-10 in Baltimore and Minneapolis also showed a pulse. The White Sox displayed patience at the plate against Detroit’s Shane Greene, drawing four walks and knocking him out after 2 2/3 innings.

Trailing by one, Jose Abreu singled in a first-inning run to tie the score. Two innings later, Adam LaRoche tied it with a bases-loaded walk, Avisail Garcia had an RBI fielder’s choice and Gillaspie had a two-run triple to give the White Sox a 5-2 lead. Adam Eaton, who doubled to start the game, said Ventura’s steady presence is critical if the White Sox are to rebound.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“He's the type of manager you need in the clubhouse, a cool-headed manager that doesn't come in here after every loss and preach to us about how we should have done stuff,” Eaton said. “But when something needs to be said he says it. It sucks that he gets heat from wherever it may come from, but realistically it's us. We need to perform and perform for him. It's going to come sooner or later.”

The White Sox aren’t naïve enough to think one game is the elixir for their issues. They’ve been far too sloppy on the bases — Eaton probably should have tripled in the first — and they made three more errors. Aside from a bullpen that delivered two more scoreless innings, the White Sox clearly have been pressing throughout the roster. But Hahn and Ventura believe as long as the team is accountable, the ship can be righted. After all, prior to their hellish trip, the White Sox were coming off their best games of the season.

“I certainly am pleased with how our team has responded,” Hahn said. “To hear our players stand up over the last few days and say ‘Look, this is on us, we need to start performing better’ I think is a great first step to getting this thing right. … In times of adversity I think it’s more important for us to pull together and reinforce what we’re doing as a unit than to say anything specific about any individual.

“We’re in this together and the accountability is shared by all of us.”

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

0622-lucas-giolito.jpg
USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

0622-avisail-garcia.jpg
USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

For the first time in two months, Avisail Garcia is back in the White Sox lineup.

Garcia’s return from his lengthy stay on the disabled list was a refreshing sight for a team that came into the season believing he’d be one of its biggest bats. After all, Garcia was excellent in 2017, an All-Star campaign for him that saw him with some of the best hitting statistics in the American League.

But even with those good numbers, there were plenty of questions about where Garcia stood in the rebuilding White Sox long-term future. After a long wait for that breakout season, was it going to be the new normal or a one-hit wonder? He’s got just two more seasons of team control left, and there are a ton of outfield prospects developing behind him in the minor leagues.

His admittedly slow start this year didn’t help clarify anything: He returned to action with a .233/.250/.315 slash line, a far cry from the .330/.380/.506 line he finished with last season.

So now he’s back, and the “prove it” season resumes. He’s got time left to show the White Sox he can fend off challenges from the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Luis Alexander Basabe, Micker Adolfo and all the rest. Getting back on the field is the first step in doing that.

“Be healthy and play hard like I’ve been playing all my career,” Garcia said Friday. “Just trying stay healthy, do my routine and do my best to help my team win.

“My knee is good. My hamstring is good. I have no pain in my body right now. I feel great, great and focused and trying to compete every single day.”

The injury — injuries, it turns out — certainly didn’t help. After the hamstring strain he suffered turned out to be a tad more significant than originally believed, he suffered a separate knee injury during his recovery that kept him on the shelf a while longer.

But Garcia showed that maybe his bat is ready to come back to life during his rehab at Triple-A Charlotte. He slashed an eye-popping .360/.429/.840 with three home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs in just seven games.

No one’s expecting that kind of production now that he’s back at the major league level. But plenty of fans and observers are expecting a lot who is still young enough to warrant consideration for a spot on the White Sox next contending team. He’s got the advantage of already playing at the big league level to show off for all the decision makers.

But there’s no doubt that it’s a stacked group behind him. Jimenez, the third-ranked prospect in baseball, was just promoted to Triple-A. A trio of high-performing outfielders — Basabe, Alex Call and Joel Booker — just got bumped up to Double-A. And perhaps the most exciting group of all — Robert, Rutherford, Adolfo and Luis Gonzalez — are all playing together at Class A Winston-Salem.

That’s an awful lot of young, inexpensive depth to contend with in the discussion for how the White Sox should align their outfield of the future. But Garcia can still stay in that discussion by doing one thing: hitting. His quest to turn his season around starts now.