Matt Davidson

T-shirt Thursday: Rebuilding season's silver linings shine through for White Sox as Ricky's boys don't quit

T-shirt Thursday: Rebuilding season's silver linings shine through for White Sox as Ricky's boys don't quit

The T-shirts given away Thursday night at Guaranteed Rate Field read: “Ricky’s boys don’t quit.”

And Thursday night, Ricky’s boys didn’t.

Four runs in the eighth inning flipped what was storming toward a 2-0 loss into a 4-2 win for the last-place White Sox, still the owners of baseball’s worst record. But this developmental, rebuilding season is all about the silver linings, and a bunch of them were on display in the comeback effort, even if that comeback was much the fault of the also-in-last-place Texas Rangers.

But, hey, Ricky’s boys don’t quit.

“That’s our motto,” Yoan Moncada said through a translator. “Ricky always says that to us, ‘never quit, never quit.’ And we always try to do our best. We try to come here every day and go out there thinking that we have a shot that night to win the game. We always think that way. We try to play hard and try to do our best and win games. We never quit.”

More than anyone, this season is about progression and development for Moncada, the former No. 1 prospect in baseball who is without a doubt one of the cornerstones of this rebuild. He’s fresh off a DL stint, though he’s been perhaps the team’s best hitter, now the owner of a .270/.361/.500 slash line after a three-hit night Thursday. It was his double — who knew balls could get stuck in the outfield wall on the South Side, too? — that ignited the two-out rally in the eighth.

The White Sox could lose a billion games this season, but if Moncada’s numbers end up looking like this, that’ll be a tremendous positive moving toward that contention window opening. A slow start — remember when Moncada was hitting .184 through the season’s first 12 games? — has transformed into his being the best offensive player on the team, debatably.

Debatably because Matt Davidson also keeps managing to impress, and though he was hitless Thursday, he had the game’s biggest plate appearance, a bases-loaded walk that forced in the game-tying run in that eighth inning. It was his 23rd free pass of the season, now four above his 2017 total. Davidson’s revamped plate discipline has his on-base percentage at .367, more than .100 points higher than it was last year. His team-high 11 homers aren’t bad, either.

Davidson entered the season in “prove it” mode, looking to leap into consideration for a spot in this team’s long-term future while few penciled him in anywhere in their 2020 lineup projections. Though it’s still early, just a month and a half into the campaign, he’s looking like a guy who could line up alongside all those prospects currently developing in the minor leagues.

Especially if he keeps seeing the ball like this.

“It’s what I’m trying to accomplish, and it just shows you too how many at-bats you can throw away, I guess, if you swing at balls,” Davidson told reporters. “I could easily have swung at that next pitch, the slider away, and it shows you just don’t need to swing as often as we think. The plate is really small, sometimes we walk up there and we feel like it’s really big. The guy is 60 feet away trying to throw it over there so just really trying to think small in the zone and that’s about it.

“I’m sure last year I’d have swung at one of those.”

And how about this string of successful outings from James Shields? Big game or not, he was dealing Thursday, finishing with a season-high eight strikeouts in a season-high 7.1 innings. He allowed one run on three hits. A 3.94 ERA in his last five starts is nothing to play trumpets about, but he’s gone at least six innings in those outings and three of them have been quality starts.

Shields doesn’t factor into the White Sox long-term plans, but he could help out this rebuild should performances like this continue. Perhaps he catches the eye of a contending club this summer and gets the White Sox a prospect or two in a deadline deal. It’s hypothetical at the moment, but good starts like Thursday’s can only help.

Before Thursday’s game, general manager Rick Hahn talked about sharing the fan base’s disappointment in how this team has played, pointing to how sloppy the White Sox have looked at times. And certainly, even in a winning effort, there was sloppiness Thursday. Jose Abreu got hit with a fielding error. Moncada made a pair of outs on the base paths. Trayce Thompson threw a ball into the grass after fielding it in right field.

But in a season of silver linings, this team finally looked like it deserved the “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” title it earned in a host of fight-till-the-end efforts last season. The type of play that had Hahn and others raving about Renteria’s managing style during the offseason finally reappeared for a bit Thursday.

And for a team with such a bright future, it was good to see something shining here in the difficult present.

“It was huge,” Davidson said. “It’s fun, it’s part of our game that kind of came out.”

Podcast: Who's more deserving of All-Star bid — Matt Davidson or Yoan Moncada?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Who's more deserving of All-Star bid — Matt Davidson or Yoan Moncada?

Bill Melton and Dave Otto join Leila Rahimi and discuss whether the Cubs should target Manny Machado and who from the White Sox roster is more deserving of an All-Star bid.

Plus, the crew looks back at Sox-Rangers moments from the past.

Listen to the entire podcast here:

Who knew? Baseball oddities from Crosstown Classic week

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USA TODAY

Who knew? Baseball oddities from Crosstown Classic week

Another week of Chicago baseball is in the books, including a Crosstown series. Let’s take a look back at the week that was in baseball oddities.

C Note

On Wednesday, Kris Bryant was the 35th player in MLB history whose 100th Major League home run was hit while wearing a Cubs uniform. He did it in career game number 487. Among those who started their career with the Cubs --and hit home run No. 100 with the Cubs—Bryant was the quickest to hit the century mark (Ernie Banks did it in his 500th game).

However, among the 35 players whose 100th came with the Cubs, it’s the second quickest overall. Hank Sauer took only 456 games to reach the milestone, even if he was 33 years old at the time of No. 100. Here’s the catch: the first 234 of those games – and the first 46 home runs – came while with the Cincinnati Reds. Sauer had a late start to his career and also missed a few seasons due to World War II.  Sauer’s story can be found here.

Bryant’s 100th blast came on the third anniversary of his first Major League home run. The last player to hit his 100th on the anniversary of his first? Buddy Bell, who hit No. 1 on April 22, 1972 and No. 100 on April 22, 1981.

Always on Base

Kris Bryant reached base five times on Friday: two hits, two walks and a hit by pitch. 

Through Sunday, Bryant has reached base five or more times in a game 14 times in his 490 career MLB games. The last player with more games reaching at least five times through 490 career MLB games? Ted Williams (16 through 490 games)

Bryzzo: Back in Business

Bryant and Anthony Rizzo homered in the same game for the 20th time (including twice in postseason) on Wednesday. The Cubs are 18-2 in those games.

Willson Goes Wild

Perhaps the biggest story for the Cubs last week was Willson Contreras. 

Wednesday: 3-for-5, double, two triples .

First two-triple game by a Cubs Catcher since Steve Swisher 8/11/1976

Friday: 4-for-5, two doubles, two home runs. 

-First time a Cubs player followed up a two-triple game with a two-home run game (or vice versa) since Andre Dawson May 4-5, 1989

-First Cub with three extra-base hits in consecutive games since Billy Williams September 8-10, 1968 (and Billy sang the seventh inning stretch on Friday!)

-First Cubs catcher with four extra-base hits in a game since George Mitterwald April 17, 1974

-First Cub with seven extra-base hits over two game span since AT LEAST 1913 (thanks to STATS)

Saturday: 3-for-5, home run.

First Cub with six+ total bases in three straight games since Aramis Ramírez July 17-19, 2005

Became first catcher with 26 total bases over three-game span since Randy Hundley in 1966 – also with Cubs – thanks to STATS

Contreras’s Friday-Saturday RBI total of 10 is one more then he had in his first 30 games combined.

Sunday: 0-for-3, run, walk, stolen base.

No hits, but he became the first Cub to steal a base on his birthday since Tony Campana on May 30, 2012 (Campana did it the year prior as well)

About that stolen base—Contreras and Rizzo became the first Cubs catcher-first base combo to each steal a base in the same inning since Lloyd McClendon (first base) and Damon Berryhill (catcher) on a double steal (Berryhill stole second, McClendon stole home) in the fifth inning May 19, 1989 versus the Reds.

WC goes deep…

The Cubs and White Sox both started their catchers batting sixth on Friday.

Both have the same initials – WC – and both have an unusual spelling of their first names.

Welington Castillo (one fewer L than usual)

Willson Contreras (one more L than usual)

They both had multi-home run games last week: Contreras on Friday, Castillo on Tuesday. 

It was Castillo’s second multi-home run game of the season, putting him in select company. He’s only the sixth White Sox catcher with two multi-home run games in a season

Les Moss 1956
Sherm Lollar 1959
Carlton Fisk 1985, 1987, 1988, 1991
Ron Karkovice  1993
Tyler Flowers 2014
Welington Castillo    2018

No White Sox catcher has ever had three multi-home run games in a season.  We’ll have to keep our eyes on that.

Roller Coaster of Run Scoring

Following Saturday’s win, the Cubs had a five-game winning streak, which followed a five-game losing streak, which followed a five-game winning streak.

But what was more crazy was the run distribution.

April 26-30 5-0 12 runs
May 1-6 0-5 14 runs
May 7-12 5-0 50 runs

All over a 15-game span.

Giolito: Effectively Wild

On Sunday, Lucas Giolito walked seven, added three wild pitches and still got the win.

He was the first pitcher to do that since the Pirates’ Don Robinson on May 19, 1982 and the first American League pitcher to do so since “Sudden Sam” McDowell on September 12, 1964 (against the White Sox). Giolito is the only White Sox pitcher since at least 1908 to pull that off.

Davidson Dingers

This season Matt Davidson has one home run at home and ten on the road.

This season at Wrigley Field: two home runs in 12 plate appearances.

This season at Guaranteed Rate Field: one home run in 60 plate appearances.

Of course, seven of those home runs on the road were at Kauffman Stadium.

The White Sox have played 37 games and Davidson has 11 home runs and 22 walks. That’s a pace of 48 home runs and 96 walks.

Davidson has 37 home runs in 153 career games (still not a full season’s worth) in a White Sox uniform.