White Sox

The future shines through as White Sox take season series from Astros

The future shines through as White Sox take season series from Astros

This isn't going to go down as the White Sox biggest win over the Houston Astros.

I can think of four that rank a little higher on that list.

But for a team that's limped its way out of the All-Star break rather than continue the upward trajectory that spurred visions of contention as soon as 2020, a wild 13-9 victory over one of the best teams in baseball has its importance.

White Sox fans are itching for the future to arrive. Get Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal on the big league roster. Get Michael Kopech healthy. Get a big-name free agent or two. And get going on the way to the perennial contention that's long been the end goal of this rebuilding project.

There's more patience required, at the very least for the remainder of the 2019 season, but if you wanted to see the future in action, all you had to do was flip on the TV on Wednesday afternoon.

These were the Houston Astros in town, one of the absolute favorites to win this year's World Series, and the White Sox slugged their way to a dramatic win after giving up a three-run lead, James McCann's eighth-inning grand slam breaking a 9-all tie to give the South Sider what just might be their best victory of the season.

"We very easily could have folded and given in to them and the talent they have over there," McCann said. "But we kept fighting and kept pushing and never gave in and that's really good to see."

There's so much talk of learning moments with this work-in-progress group of mostly young players, of things Eloy Jimenez and Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez can build on to make themselves the core players the White Sox need when the days of contention come along.

But what about a team-wide learning moment? Something this entire group can experience and use to propel themselves into that contention period? Was today one of those moments?

"What do you think?" Jimenez said.

Point taken.

"It’s really good because that is one of the best teams of the business right now," he said. "We competed at a high level today. That means a lot. That means we can do it."

Jimenez was part of that future on display Tuesday, smashing his 20th home run of his rookie season in the seventh inning. The ball, like others before it, traveled many hundreds of feet to dead center, this particular one clearing the foliage of the batter's eye and landing not too far in front of the concession stand at the base of the Fan Deck.

Even with all that distance, it wasn't one of his five longest dingers of the season. In other words, get ready for much more of those kind of moonshots as the years move on.

"Eloy's a special player," McCann said. "You see the type of power that he has, and there's not many guys in the game that have that type of power."

Aaron Bummer and Alex Colome each played big roles Wednesday, Bummer minimizing the damage despite starting the seventh inning with the bases loaded and nobody out, and Colome keeping the Astros off the scoreboard, if not the bases, after Jose Altuve tied the game at 9 with his own eighth-inning home run.

Neither of those guys were dealt away at the trade deadline, Rick Hahn's front office signaling that they're expected to play big roles at the back end of a potentially contending bullpen in 2020.

Anderson banged out four hits and touched home on McCann's grand slam. Anderson's been red hot at the dish since returning from the injured list at the end of July and owns a .393 batting average in the month of August.

And McCann, too, seems a good bet to be part of that future. The White Sox have him under team control for the 2020 season, and with the offensive breakout he's experienced in this All-Star season and the glowing reviews he constantly receives as a guiding force for the team's pitching staff, his return seems like a no-brainer.

He's not going to hit a game-winning grand slam every time up, but you can include that big moment on the list of positive signs for the future that the White Sox saw against a dominant Astros team.

The two-of-three series win the White Sox grabbed this week combined with the split four-game set from May's trip to Houston makes for a win in the season series, too, no small feat against a team that might end up the world champs. That series had its moments. Giolito didn't pitch in this three-game set, but he tossed a complete-game shutout against the Astros back in May. Dylan Cease did pitch in this series, and though he wasn't thrilled with his performance Tuesday, he still held this lineup to just two earned runs.

All in all, a great showing for the young White Sox against the contending Astros. If the end goal of the South Side rebuild is to be like the team from Houston, then showing these signs of growth against the team from Houston has to be good for something, right?

"You feel good about any season series you take," manager Rick Renteria said. "I'm more elated in the way that, even though we gave up the lead, they ended up tying it with such a good lineup, we didn't quit. They've been doing that all year. It may not go well for us at some point in time but these guys keep fighting, they keep playing. I think you can count on that, they try to pick each other up. They even get upset with each other when we give up leads. They want their guys to have success, they want to be able to get it done.

"But today, that was exciting. That was an exciting game for us, to be able to pull it out, as any this season."

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The biggest pieces of the White Sox rebuild are on absolute fire in September, great news for 2020

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USA TODAY

The biggest pieces of the White Sox rebuild are on absolute fire in September, great news for 2020

“The 2020 season, it starts in September.”

Jose Abreu said that before August was even over, looking toward the final month of yet another losing season, yet another season without a playoff appearance on the South Side. Of course, everyone involved with this organization is hoping that changes in 2020, and with his sights on that campaign, Abreu talked about using the last month of this one to get ready for next year.

Well, if this month is really the first month of what’s next, the guys who figure to play the biggest roles on that 2020 team — in this rebuild, in general — are off to a heck of a start.

Friday night, it was the quartet of Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez powering a high-scoring win over the Seattle Mariners. The four combined to go 8-for-18 with two home runs, two doubles, a triple, seven RBIs and six runs scored.

It was a nice microcosm of what’s been happening all month.

In the dozen games the White Sox have played in September, Abreu, Anderson, Moncada and Jimenez have combined for a .363 batting average, a .431 on-base percentage, a .687 slugging percentage, 13 home runs, 18 doubles, a triple, 42 RBIs and 40 runs scored. They’ve accounted for more than 58 percent of the runs the team has scored and more than 61 percent of the runs the team has driven in.

Considering Anderson, Moncada and Jimenez are three cornerstones of Rick Hahn’s rebuilding effort and the elder statesman Abreu, with his constant declarations of his desire to remain with the team, seems a safe bet to be back in black for 2020, this is the core of this lineup moving forward playing at an extremely high level.

It’s exactly what the White Sox and their fans want to see.

Anderson is going to be dominating the headlines the rest of the way as he chases a batting title. He woke up Saturday with the best batting average in baseball, a .334 mark for the 2019 season. In September alone, he’s hitting .400.

Moncada has steadily had the best all-around offensive season of anyone on the team, quite the transformation from a year ago, when he struck out 217 times in a disappointing first full campaign as a major leaguer. In September, he’s hitting even better than Anderson, with a .435 batting average to go along with an insane .500 on-base percentage.

Jimenez has had an up-and-down rookie season, but he’s closing in on 30 home runs after smashing No. 27 on Friday night. He’s definitely in the midst of one of his better stretches right now and owns a .694 slugging percentage with five homers in September.

Abreu has been criticized by certain segments of the fan base for the noticeable dip in his on-base percentage this season. Thanks to a hot finish, it is higher than last year’s at the moment, but if the season ended today, it would be lower than the figures he posted during his first four seasons in the big leagues. But what those critics aren’t focusing on is one of the most productive seasons of Abreu’s career. He also homered Friday and is up to 33 bombs on the season, three off the career high he set as a rookie in 2014. And he’s blasted past his career high in RBIs from that same season, up to 116, which leads the American League. He's got five September homers and a .784 slugging percentage on the month.

In a season judged from the outset based on the development and performance of the team’s core players rather than its win-loss record, that’s all spectacular news for the organization moving forward into 2020. Combine all that with the strides made by Lucas Giolito and James McCann, the arrival of Dylan Cease, the expected return of Michael Kopech, the expected arrivals of Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, plus what’s expected to be an active offseason, and this team is shaping up to have a very promising outlook for 2020.

“I’m expecting that this is it,” manager Rick Renteria said after Thursday’s game, asked if he believed the White Sox string of sub-.500 seasons would end next year. “We are trying to win. I think we talk about it, we are going through it. I know there’s still refining to do, but I’ll be honest with you. We are finishing this season, we are talking about coming into next season ready to battle, period, exclamation point. That’s what we are looking to do.”

If these four guys keep swinging the bats like this straight on into next March, that would go a long way toward proving their manager right.

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Tim Anderson now leads all of baseball in batting average

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USA TODAY

Tim Anderson now leads all of baseball in batting average

Tim Anderson’s quest for the batting title got a boost on Friday, and his quest for the AL batting title is looking more like reality by the day.

Anderson had a 2-for-5 night in Friday’s 9-7 win in Seattle to raise his batting average to .334. He is nine points ahead of Yankees second baseman DJ LaMahieu.

The White Sox have 15 games left in the season so it’s getting down to the wire.

Anderson not only leads in the AL, but also leads all of the majors in batting. He jumped ahead of Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon, who had an 0-for-4 night on Friday to drop to .332.

Anderson’s evolution from .240 hitting in 2018 (and a career .258 hitter entering 2019) to leading the majors in batting average on Sept. 14 is one of the more surprising and relevant developments of the White Sox season. He’s also been fun on the field, and even on social media.

On Friday morning, MLB tweeted out a vote for best bat flip of the year and the only two in contention were Ronald Acuna Jr and Bryce Harper. Anderson (and the White Sox along with plenty of White Sox fans) jumped in the replies to call out the snub.


He then quote tweeted his own notable bat flip for comparison.


Stay fun, Tim.

 

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