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White Sox rally comes up short in loss to Red Sox

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White Sox rally comes up short in loss to Red Sox

Jeff Samardzija’s August struggles continued on Monday night.

The White Sox offense, which wasn’t much better until it was too late, hurt itself again in the middle innings.

Jose Abreu’s solo home run aside, the White Sox missed out on several key opportunities against Joe Kelly and the Boston Red Sox in a 5-4 loss at U.S. Cellular Field. Rusney Castillo’s career-high five RBIs all came against Samardzija, who was knocked out after 5 2/3 innings.

The White Sox lost for the 25th time in 47 one-run games as they did nothing with a leadoff double in the fifth inning and ran into an out to end the sixth.

“Those always seem to stick in your head at the end of a game you are losing by one and you had some opportunities,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It adds up at the end.”

[MORE: Kenny Williams remains committed to White Sox amid more rumors on future]

Even though Samardzija continued a hittable August, the White Sox nearly overcame a 5-1 deficit.

They got one back in the sixth on Melky Cabrera’s RBI groundout. Then Abreu, who homered in the first, his 10th in 33 games (he has 31 RBIs in that period), doubled off Jean Machi to start the ninth. Avisail Garcia singled Abreu in one out later and Adam LaRoche singled to put runners on the corners. Alexei Ramirez’s RBI groundout made it a one-run game but Carlos Sanchez popped out.

The late rally only magnified a pair of missed opportunities in the fifth and sixth innings. Ramirez started the fifth inning with a double but the White Sox didn’t score. Right after Cabrera made it a 5-2 game in the sixth, Garcia singled to right but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double as he slid past the base.

It was the 56th out on the bases this season for the White Sox, who entered play with a .305 on-base percentage, good for 23rd in the majors. The 56 outs on the bases is the third-most in the majors, 12 more than the league average, according to baseball-reference.com.

“You get frustrated because sometimes you try to fight back and you’re getting close to tying the score but you can’t take that next step to get ahead,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “That kind of game is where you feel more frustrated.”

Castillo frustrated Samardzija, who felt good despite dropping his fifth straight start, all in August.

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Staked the early 1-0 lead, Samardzija was one strike away from a perfect second inning when he hit Hanley Ramirez in the back with a 2-2 fastball. All-Star Brock Holt -- who reached three times in four trips -- singled with two outs and Castillo crushed a 2-0 slider out to dead center to give the Red Sox a 3-1 advantage. Castillo’s homer was the 23rd this season allowed by Samardzija, who allowed a career-high 25 in 2013 for the Cubs.

After he put the first two runners on in the third, courtesy of a single and another hit batsmen, Samardzija seemed to turn a corner. The right-hander retired 10 of the next 11 batters he faced, including six on strikeouts.

But after Samardzija struck out Travis Shaw to start the sixth inning things quickly fell apart. Hanley Ramirez doubled to left center, Holt walked and Castillo connected on a 1-1 slider, driving it to deep right center for a two-run double and a 5-1 Boston lead.

In August, Samardzija has a 9.00 ERA as he has allowed 39 hits and 28 earned runs in 28 innings with 10 walks and 23 strikeouts. Samardzija has allowed seven homers in that span, too.

“The last few times when I give up runs we score runs and when I don’t we don’t,” Samardzija said. “That kind of sums it up the way it’s been here a while. We play every day and we play to win those close games, personally I have to pitch better to keep the game where it needs to be.”

Kelly did just that in a stunning turnaround from last month when the White Sox knocked him out in the fourth inning.

With improved command of his offspeed pitches -- and those missed opportunities by the White Sox -- Kelly was too much. He induced eight straight ground balls starting in the second inning and retired 14 of 22 on the grounders. Kelly limited the White Sox to two runs and five hits in 7 1/3 innings.

“They all count at the end,” Ventura said. “They are always important. There’s never a time that you sit there and don’t think that you wasted one.”

Wanting the White Sox to upgrade via trade? James Paxton swap between Yankees, Mariners shows the high cost

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USA TODAY

Wanting the White Sox to upgrade via trade? James Paxton swap between Yankees, Mariners shows the high cost

The White Sox, with all their financial flexibility, have been tied to some of the biggest names on this winter’s free-agent market. Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Nathan Eovaldi are all apparently drawing interest from the South Siders.

Landing a big fish via free agency might be the opportunity Rick Hahn’s front office has been looking for, adding a so-called “finishing piece” now, even though the ongoing rebuilding effort has yet to yield a full roster of homegrown talent.

But because there is such a vast reserve of minor league talent in the farm system, some folks getting a little impatient might prefer Hahn looked for his big fish via trade. And it’s not a crazy suggestion, really, with franchise players being acquired in that fashion across the league. Just last winter, the Milwaukee Brewers sent their top-rated prospect to the Miami Marlins to bring in Christian Yelich. And in 2018, Yelich won the NL MVP and helped the Brew Crew get within a win of the World Series.

But this winter’s first big move showed just how steep the price will be for an All-Star type major leaguer.

The Seattle Mariners — who appear to be standing somewhere along the sell-off spectrum — sent starting pitcher James Paxton to the New York Yankees on Monday, a big-time upgrade for the 100-win Bronx Bombers, who figure to be spending the winter jockeying with the division-rival Boston Red Sox for the title of 2019 preseason World Series favorite. As was mentioned here when reports of the Mariners’ supposed willingness to deal star players first popped up, Paxton is very good. Over the past two seasons, he posted a 3.40 ERA with 364 strikeouts in 52 starts.

Hahn said no one should be surprised to hear the White Sox connected to the game’s biggest names this winter. We’ve already seen it with big-name free agents, but does that apply to the trade market, too? Paxton’s two years of team control didn’t make him the most logical fit for the long-term focused South Siders, but the M’s have guys like Mitch Haniger and Edwin Diaz, under team control for four years apiece, who would fit that long-term plan. Of course, the Mariners figure to have a long-term plan, too, and might not be anywhere near as willing to part with that pair of 2018 All Stars.

The point is, however, the return package that went back to Seattle in exchange for Paxton. The Yankees gave up a trio of prospects, headlined by Justus Sheffield, the No. 31 prospect in baseball who ranked as the Yankees’ best and now ranks as the Mariners’ best. Sheffield got a brief taste of the majors in 2018, but it was what he did in the minors last season that earned him that high ranking: a 2.48 ERA with 123 strikeouts in 116 innings over 25 appearances, 20 of which were starts.

That’s not all too dissimilar from the guy ranked six spots ahead of Sheffield on MLB Pipeline’s list of the top 100 prospects in the game: Dylan Cease. Cease is the White Sox No. 3 prospect, their No. 2 pitching prospect behind only Michael Kopech, who was promoted to the major leagues in late August before needing Tommy John surgery just four starts into his big league career. Cease was one of two White Sox representatives at the Futures Game last season and ended up as MLB Pipeline’s minor league pitcher of the year for his 2.40 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 124 innings over 23 starts.

Sheffield and Cease are both 22 years old, both ranked really high on the prospect lists and both put up sensational numbers as minor leaguers in 2018. Sheffield was the centerpiece of a major trade this offseason, and while it would seem outrageous to suggest that Cease would be, too, just a year and a half after the White Sox acquired him in the Jose Quintana deal, he would be a logical starting point in a discussion about an All-Star caliber arm. Heck, it was Cease and current White Sox top prospect Eloy Jimenez who the White Sox got for Quintana, a controllable All-Star hurler, in the first place.

Who knows how many of those are left on trade market now that Paxton’s been dealt. Zack Greinke’s name has been mentioned as a potential trade candidate, though he carries with him other circumstances, such as his monster contract that pays him $104.5 million over the next three seasons. The Cleveland Indians are reportedly willing to listen to trade offers for just about anyone, including Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, two of the game’s best starting pitchers in 2018. But when it specifically comes to the White Sox, it’d be a good guess that the Tribe would be less willing to part with their stars if it meant them going to a division rival.

It doesn’t seem like the White Sox are in the position to start trading prospects yet, and perhaps that’s a factor in their apparent aggressiveness when it comes to free agents. They have financial flexibility that could allow them to hand out a huge contract, bring in a big fish and still hang on to all their prospects.

As the rebuild advances, the day could (and almost certainly will) come when Hahn is ready to deal from a position of prospect strength to improve an area of weakness on the major league roster. That day likely won’t be in the wake of a 100-loss campaign. But for those out there who would propose such a move during admittedly fun sessions as an armchair general manager, know that the price will be high — and it could start with Cease.

White Sox Talk Podcast: The White Sox prospect you may not know but you should

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Jody Stewart/Winston-Salem Dash

White Sox Talk Podcast: The White Sox prospect you may not know but you should

Zach Thompson might be off your radar, but the White Sox prospect is someone to watch in the White Sox organization, not just for what he's doing on the field, but for what he says off of it.

Chuck Garfien spoke with Thompson who had a 1.55 ERA last season with Winston-Salem and Birmingham. Thompson talks about the message he received from God that helped turn his career around (2:30), why he becomes a different person when he's on the mound (6:00), the talent he sees in the White Sox farm system, playing for Omar Vizquel (8:42), why he watches videos of open heart surgeries in the clubhouse (12:20) and more.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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