Tampa Bay Rays

Moncada's moves help seal White Sox epic extra innings win

Moncada's moves help seal White Sox epic extra innings win

To say the 2018-19 White Sox have had an up-and-down season would be an understatement. The season has been filled with more good than bad for sure‒three All-Stars, 42 wins, one possible Rookie of the Year candidate‒but their seven-game losing streak coming out the All-Star break certainly seemed taxing.

Chicago’s Leury Garica-fueled bounce-back win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday certainly helped spirits but Saturday’s dramatic, extra-innings win at Tropicana field could be the type of win that really gets the team back on track.

It looked like the White Sox were headed for their eighth loss in nine games. They were down to their final out when catcher James McCann decided to add another chapter to his storybook season.


 

McCann took a slider from Rays relief pitcher Emilio Pagán 373-feet out to left field for the game-tying home run.

It was another huge moment in a great season from McCann, heightened by the fact that there were so few baserunners (total) in this game and that another o-fer in the scoring column would’ve marked the second shutout loss in a week for the White Sox.

Instead, McCann’s heroics extended a game in which the White Sox bullpen‒2 H, 0 ER‒was excellent in relief of Lucas Giolito, who also pitched well.

Over 6.2 innings, Giolito racked up 9 Ks while giving up 7 hits, 1 walk, 1 earned run. The lone run Giolito gave up was a high changeup that former White Sox outfielder Avisaíl García.

This game was without a doubt a pitchers' duel, so it was only fitting that the game-winning run was scored on an RBI-single by  José Abreu in which Yoan Moncada personified "Ricky's boys don't quit" on the basepaths.


Despite the lack of strong offensive production on Saturday night, the White Sox were able to grind out the win in a Giolito start, something that has been a recurring theme for the squad.

As elder statesmen Abreu hinted at, the White Sox need their key players back but wins like Saturday’s will help build confidence in the meantime.

The South Siders head into Sunday’s noon game with the Rays‒and their subsequent series with the Miami Marlins‒with their seven-game losing streak further in the rearview mirror and that is the best news we could hope for as we await the cavalry.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Avi Garcia didn't like how things ended with White Sox, but he's back in town with no hard feelings

Avi Garcia didn't like how things ended with White Sox, but he's back in town with no hard feelings

White Sox fans will get to revisit the Avi Garcia Era over the next few days.

Whether that's something they particularly want to do or not is up for debate, but at the very least Garcia, who spent six seasons in the White Sox outfield, will be front of mind as his Tampa Bay Rays visit the South Side.

Garcia was non-tendered by the White Sox this offseason, bringing an end to a lengthy tenure for a guy who generated mixed reviews from the fan base. His potential was never a question, as he came to the White Sox from the Detroit Tigers in 2013 carrying comparisons to future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. But Garcia's time on the South Side was full of injuries and a general failure to match that hype.

He, of course, had one great season in 2017, when he made the All-Star team and ranked among the best hitters in the game with a .330 batting average and a .380 on-base percentage. But last season, he was injured on Opening Day and played hurt the remainder of the season, making a couple trips to what was then called the disabled list. His numbers plummeted as a result — just a .236/.281/.438 slash line in only 93 games — bringing an end to the Avi Garcia Experiment as the White Sox looked to an outfield of the future featuring young players like Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and others.

Speaking from the visitors' dugout ahead of Monday's series-opener, Garcia said he wasn't happy about how things ended — not that he's harboring any hard feelings at this point.

"I was a little bit (disappointed)," Garcia said. "But you know, it is what it is. Business. So now I’m happy where I am right now. Just got to keep working and do my thing.

"I don’t know what they think. The only thing I know is I don’t like the way I came out from the White Sox. But it is what it is. It’s business. So, no hard feelings. Just trying to do my job and be happy with my team."

Certainly Garcia didn't have a bad career on the South Side, and he had plenty of supporters who believed that his 2017 success was the start of that potential finally turning into something sustainable. Injuries prevented him from being able to prove he could replicate those 2017 numbers, and heading into just his age-28 season, there were fans who thought he deserved a shot at being part of the White Sox long-term future.

Garcia might not have been pleased with the ending to his time here. But he said he remembers that time fondly.

"In baseball, sometimes things go good and sometimes it goes bad. I’m just happy," he said. "I got a lot of memories in Chicago. I went to the All-Star Game here for the first time, my kids were born here. So I got a lot of memories here. Walking the street, walking here to the ballpark, meeting with the guys. It’s just special."

With their focus on the long-term future, though, the White Sox are probably not regretting their decision. Garcia was set to get a raise to roughly $8 million through the arbitration process had the team tendered him a contract, and that money can now be put to better long-term use. Jimenez, with his new long-term deal, is entrenched in left field. And while young players like Robert and Micker Adolfo might not reach the big leagues in 2019, a path is cleared at the major league level for them to get a crack at those outfield jobs when they're ready.

Plus, the team might have simply seen enough to know that Garcia was not a fit for their long-term plans.

Regardless, he received praise upon his return to his old home ballpark.

"He gave us everything he had all the time that he was here with us," manager Rick Renteria said Monday, "respected, I thought, playing the game a certain way. Was always, I thought, a good teammate with everybody. Everybody enjoyed being around him. It’s nice to see him back. I hope he doesn’t do anything against us. Yeah, I’ve got good memories of Avi."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the Tampa Bay Rays

0313_blake_snell.jpg
USA TODAY

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the Tampa Bay Rays

As the 2019 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

The Rays won 90 games last season. It's true.

Figuring out how is a very difficult project that I have little interest in dedicating the necessary time and resources to at the moment. Just know that they had one of the best pitchers in baseball, Blake Snell, who won the AL Cy Young over guys like Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber and Chris Sale and Gerrit Cole because he had an eye-popping 1.98 ERA and 221 strikeouts. They traded for Tommy Pham in the middle of the season, and the former St. Louis Cardinal was sensational in 39 games with them, slashing .343/.448/.622 with seven homers after relocating to St. Pete. Joey Wendle had one of the better rookie seasons of 2018, batting .300 with a .354 on-base percentage. So that's all kind of how.

Of course, no Ray outside of Snell got more attention than the skipper, Kevin Cash, who might have revolutionized the game with the advent of the opener, basically a regularly scheduled bullpen day. It ended in Snell making 31 starts and no other regular starter making more than 17, and that was the dealt-at-the-deadline Chris Archer. Second on the team in starts was reliever Ryan Stanek, with 29. Closer Sergio Romo made five starts. It might be a new trend across the game. It might have been some silly way of avoiding the uncomfortable fact that the Rays didn't have enough viable starting pitchers to chew up all those innings. But it's viewed more as the former because it worked: The Rays had a 3.74 team ERA on the season, second in the AL to only the Houston Astros, employers of the aforementioned Verlander and Cole and one of the final two teams standing on the AL side of the postseason bracket in October.

The Rays' roster is just as head-scratching in 2019 as it was last season, but after 90 wins in 2018 — playing in a division with two 100-win teams, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees — there's reason to view them as one of the better teams in a generally weak Junior Circuit.

Snell still tops the rotation, and the Rays paired him with a former Astro in free agent Charlie Morton. He's 35 years old, sure, but he's fresh off an All-Star season in Houston, with a 3.13 ERA, a 15-3 win-loss record, 201 strikeouts and a 10.8 K/9. He's somehow been a league leader in hit batsmen in four of the last six seasons, but he was terrific in two seasons with the Astros. He's a welcome addition in starter-starved St. Pete.

Archer once looked like a franchise centerpiece, but he didn't produce like one after his tremendous 2015 season, with a 4.12 ERA in 94 starts over the last three campaigns. Will the Rays be better off with the young trio of Tyler Glasnow (who they got in the Archer trade), Ryan Yarbrough (who put up good numbers as a starter in the minors) and Yonny Chirinos (good in the minors in 2017, not so much last year)? Time will tell. Top-30 prospect Brent Honeywell could also come up and bolster the rotation at some point in 2019. He didn't pitch last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he's still highly ranked after his solid 2017 in the minors that featured a 3.49 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A.

But Cash's staff manipulation could once more help them get to where they need to be, no matter who's getting the "start." Or the "open," rather. Plus, having one of the game's best relievers in Jose Alvarado, a 23-year-old who put up a 2.39 ERA last season, is nice, too.

The Rays managed to win 90 games despite mere chunks of seasons from just about every position player on their roster. And they're now without C.J. Cron's 30 homers, Mallex Smith's 40 stolen bases and Wilson Ramos' All-Star first half. But Wendle has that solid rookie year under his belt, they expect to get way more than 39 games out of Pham — even if Rays fans might be a tad miffed at him right this second — and White Sox castoff Avisail Garcia is lighting up the Grapefruit League with a .350/.417/.850 slash line and three homers in eight games. The White Sox seemed justified in moving on from Garcia this offseason after getting just one good season out of him in six years. But if he can match the percentages he put up in 2017 (a .330 batting average and a .380 on-base percentage) with some additional pop (19 homers in just 93 games last season), the Rays could reap the rewards.

The Rays are hardly a sure bet. They play in a division with two teams that should again reach triple-digit victories, and the roster still doesn't have the initial impression of a legit contender. But the Rays are the Rays, always managing to squeeze way more wins than they should out of what they've got. Last year fit that description, and in an American League devoid of real challengers for that final wild card spot, the Rays look as capable as any team.

2018 record: 90-72, third place in AL East

Offseason additions: Charlie Morton, Yandy Diaz, Avisail Garcia, Mike Zunino

Offseason departures: C.J. Cron, Mallex Smith, Carlos Gomez, Sergio Romo

X-factor: The Rays made a silently great addition in Yandy Diaz this offseason in a trade with the Cleveland Indians. For a team like the Tribe that seems to need all the help it could get to remain a championship contender, letting Diaz slip away is a head-scratcher. But the Rays will be plenty pumped if he can replicate the .375 on-base percentage he had in 39 games with the Indians last season. Or better yet the .409 on-base percentage he had at Triple-A Columbus. Or better yet the .454 on-base percentage he had at Columbus in 2017.

Projected lineup:

1. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
2. Tommy Pham, LF
3. Joey Wendle, 3B
4. Avisail Garcia, DH
5. Ji-Man Choi, 1B
6. Willy Adames, SS
7. Austin Meadows, RF
8. Mike Zunino, C
9. Brandon Lowe, 2B

Projected rotation:

1. Blake Snell
2. Charlie Morton
3. Tyler Glasnow
4. Ryan Yarbrough
5. Yonny Chirinos

Prediction: Third place in AL East, wild card

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.