White Sox

White Sox retain Crosstown Cup, avert sweep behind Chris Sale's 15 Ks


White Sox retain Crosstown Cup, avert sweep behind Chris Sale's 15 Ks

Shortly after Sunday’s 3-1 White Sox victory over the Cubs, Jose Abreu asked a clubhouse attendant to have Chris Sale autograph a baseball for him.

Abreu said the ball is a gift for his son, but nobody could blame him if he kept it for himself after Sale’s dominant performance in the finale of the 2015 Crosstown Cup.

Sale matched a career high with 15 strikeouts and didn’t yield a hit until the sixth inning as the White Sox won in front of 39,475 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Melky Cabrera all homered off Dan Haren as the White Sox stopped the Cubs’ nine-game winning streak and evened the teams’ season series at three games apiece. The series tie means the White Sox — whose pitchers struck out a franchise-record 18 and combined on a three-hitter — retained the Cup after they won three of four meetings in 2014.

“Everybody knows the quality he has,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “We have to thank God because he’s with us. He’s an outstanding pitcher, probably one of the best in baseball right now, and every time he’s on the mound for us — I don’t know how to explain it because he’s unbelievable.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Tyler Saladino's defense at third improves with experience]

Sale’s fastball-slider-changeup combo did all the talking from the outset.

The left-hander struck out the side on 14 pitches in the first inning and didn’t have a batter put the ball in play until Jorge Soler reached on an error in the second. Sale struck out two more in the second inning, another in the third and got all three batters in the fourth. His first eight strikeouts came via swings.

“He was ready to go,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He was fantastic today. I don't know, not too many times he's been better than that. He's had some that were close to it, but right from the start of the game, when he strikes out the guys in the first inning, strikes out the side, you're feeling pretty good about it. He was darn near unhittable for the time he was in there.”

Sale only got into trouble once as he loaded the bases in the sixth inning, hitting Anthony Rizzo on a pitch on which he appeared to not check his swing. Dexter Fowler ended Sale’s no-hit bid with a clean, one-out single to left in the sixth, and Chris Denorfia drew a walk ahead of the Rizzo at-bat.

But Sale got out of it with a strikeout of Soler, who took a 1-2 slider just off the outside corner for a called third strike.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox make ‘tough’ decision to DFA Emilio Bonifacio]

Starting the seventh inning with 104 pitches, Sale struck out Addison Russell on three offspeed pitches, got Starlin Castro on a 2-2 slider and blew Miguel Montero away with a 1-2 fastball that registered 95 mph.

Sale struck out eight of nine Cubs starters, including Kris Bryant three times.

He limited the Cubs to a hit, two walks and a hit batter over seven innings and threw strikes on 73 of 116 pitches.

“A couple of guys had tough days against him,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “A couple of guys he executed every pitch in every at-bat against him. On their end they just have to top their cap. He’s tough when he doesn’t hit spots, and when he does it’s almost impossible.”

It wasn’t much easier against Nate Jones, who struck out the side on 13 pitches in a scoreless eighth inning, including pinch-hitters Kyle Schwarber and Chris Coghlan. Jones’ final strikeout established a new franchise record for the White Sox in a nine-inning game as they bested the previous mark of 17 from Sept. 13, 2014.

“I wouldn’t say I knew the exact number,” Sale said. “But I knew they were getting up there. It’s fun. The crowd gets into it. People in the K Zone are going crazy for me. It’s a fun, fun time. You have balls leaving the park, guys hitting homers. It’s a fun atmosphere to play in.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Quintana-Schwarber showdown turned tide in White Sox loss]

Abreu relishes the opportunity to play behind Sale. When Sale is as outstanding as he was against the Cubs, Abreu said the offense wants in the worst way to get him a victory. Abreu’s opposite-field drive in the third got that campaign started with Ramirez contributing in the fourth and Cabrera in the fifth.

The three-homer showing helped Sale to his 11th victory and netted Abreu a nice keepsake for his son.

“When Sale is on the mound he motivates you to do your best, and you’re not thinking about the other team, you’re thinking about your team and your teammates and that’s the only thing you have to take care,” Abreu said. “He’s so dominant.”

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka


Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?


Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

"It's a dirty play by a dirty player."

That was Christian Yelich, the all-but-sure-to-be NL MVP, describing Manny Machado, who's about to become one of the best-paid players in baseball history, after Game 4 of the NLCS, a game in which Machado once again grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Machado's Los Angeles Dodgers and Yelich's Milwaukee Brewers have played four games in this NLCS, and after three of them, the focus has been on Machado. Not because of his bat or his glove but because of lack of hustle and certain methods on the base paths that weren't exactly on the up and up.

After Game 2, he was criticized for not hustling on a ground ball to shortstop. In something straight out of a public-relations person's nightmare, he defended himself by saying that hustling really isn't his cup of tea. During Game 3, he twice attempted to break up double plays by interfering at second base and was, upon review, busted for it the second time. In extra innings in Game 4, he appeared to intentionally drag his leg across Jesus Aguilar's at first base. That play cleared the benches, got Machado called "dirty" in the Brewers' clubhouse and earned him the reputation of postseason villain.

And so Machado's impending free agency gets to be discussed in a brand new light. There's now more baggage attached to the 26-year-old superstar with a fantastic bat and a stellar glove.

The question is: Will the White Sox, one of many teams that could be mulling a contract offer worth hundreds of millions of dollars, care?

As much as it’s talked about building a perennial contender of the future by developing the on-field skills of their fleet of highly touted prospects, the White Sox brain trust has discussed developing a culture, a way of doing things, to go along with all that talent and all that skill. Unsurprisingly that conversation has focused on the oft-used phrase of “doing things the right way.”

Does what Machado has been doing count as “doing things the right way”? It seems easy to assess that it doesn't. It's far more difficult to determine whether it will end up making a difference or not.

Not hustling is one of Rick Renteria's biggest bugaboos. He sat down multiple players on multiple occasions throughout the 2018 season — starting with Avisail Garcia in a spring training game and including a veteran like Welington Castillo as well as a young star like Tim Anderson — for not running to first base on pop ups and line outs and ground outs. Would Renteria's tune suddenly change if Machado and his preference for not hustling arrived on the South Side in what would surely be the biggest free-agent deal in club history?

Renteria got fired up over the issue at the end of July, when he benched Anderson for not hustling on what the shortstop believed was a line out.

“We tell these guys, don’t assume anything. ... It’s as simple as that, and he understands it. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. He comes out of the box, he doesn’t stand there. But we just reiterated to make sure that you allow the umpires to make the calls and you allow the other clubs to go ahead and ask for reviews. We run.”

But asked about not running out his ground ball in Game 2, Machado shared pretty much the opposite philosophy.

"Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen," Machado told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am."

What about Machado's interferences at second base? It was that exact play that sent Anderson into an on-field tiff with umpire Joe West during the second Crosstown series of the season just last month. Javy Baez slid into second base, and Anderson thought Baez did something he shouldn't have, raising his arm to interfere with a double-play turn, that sequence of events ending with Anderson screaming at West on the field. Would Anderson be cool with playing alongside — and potentially vacating his position at shortstop for — an infamous interferer?

And what about being a "dirty player," a villain? The White Sox always seemed fine — heck, they loved it — having one of baseball's greatest irritants in A.J. Pierzynski on the roster. Perhaps no player wore the "villain" title as a badge of honor more than the catcher on the 2005 World Series team. But remember that Pierzynski took the punch, he didn't throw it. Being baseball's version of a "villain" and being a guy who makes dangerous plays that could hurt somebody are two different things.

The point being: Do Machado's actions in this postseason series make him anathema to the "Ricky's boys don't quit" mantra? If the White Sox were to turn a blind eye to the events of this NLCS, would it qualify as a betrayal of their quest to establish a high-effort, high-character culture?

Or do they value that culture so much that they stay away from Machado this offseason?

Here's Rick Hahn from September of last year.

"It’s the culture that Ricky and his coaching staff have been able to create in that clubhouse. I cannot tell you how many various fans have stopped me, or emailed me or mentioned to me that they’ve never been this excited over a 60-win team. Or they’ve never been excited about a team that isn’t going to the playoffs. And I think so much of that is based on how Ricky and the coaches have them playing day in and day out. You see them fighting for 27 outs, you see them prepared every night. Sure, we’re going to get out-manned at portions during this process, but the fight and competitiveness and the style of play is the kind of thing that is going to endure year in and year out. And that is extremely important for us to establish at the big league level for all of us."

Machado's talent would make any team he's a part of more competitive. But for the White Sox, who talk an awful lot about hustling and refusing to quit, perhaps all these postseason shenanigans make it so Machado just isn't their cup of tea.