White Sox

Lucas Giolito keeps dealing, Tim Anderson keeps raking, and the pieces are coming together for the White Sox

Lucas Giolito keeps dealing, Tim Anderson keeps raking, and the pieces are coming together for the White Sox

Jason Kipnis is not wrong.

The Cleveland Indians second baseman (and native of the Chicago suburbs) might have been feeling the sting of dropping three of four on the South Side, or perhaps he, too, isn’t happy when Tim Anderson celebrates home runs. But he offered this pearl of wisdom after Sunday’s game:


Indeed, it is too early to be celebrating a second-place trophy. But the White Sox seem to have staked a claim to being the second best team in the AL Central during a buzz-worthy week on the South Side in which they took six of seven from the Indians and the Kansas City Royals.

Winning a pair of series against struggling teams shouldn’t vault the White Sox into the conversation of the best the American League has to offer. It hasn’t been so long that everyone’s forgotten them getting their brains bashed in by the Minnesota Twins just a week ago.

But there perhaps hasn’t been a better example of tangible rebuilding progress in the last two and a half years of this process than what happened this week at Guaranteed Rate Field. “Turning the corner” might also be an ambitious description, as that’s likely to be a gradual turn rather than one that requires yanking up on a handbrake.

But the White Sox are playing well, they have a bunch of guys playing well, and they are winning games. During back-to-back seasons that featured a combined 195 losses, winning games is about as refreshing as something can be. At this point last season, the White Sox were 20-39, 19 games below .500. After this feel-good homestand, they’re 29-30, just one game below .500.

Progress.

“It’s been a long road,” Lucas Giolito said Sunday after his latest gem. More on him in a bit. “It’s just really cool to see a lot of these younger guys start to step up, take a bigger role. We’ve all learned so much from our past failures, and I think that we’re all just kind of growing up as a team, coming together.

“Especially with some of the fresh faces we have this year leading the way, the culture in this clubhouse could not be better. It’s the best I’ve ever seen in baseball. I’m just excited to be a part of it and continue to go on this roll.”

Giolito has perhaps been the biggest star of this recent surge, illustrated by the swarming press gaggle around his locker Sunday. He could be rewarded for his incredible turnaround with American League Pitcher of the Month honors when they’re handed out Monday. But even if he gets edged by Twins hurler Jake Odorizzi, it won’t take away from what Giolito’s been able to do in 2019.

Remember that this was the guy who had baseball’s highest ERA and WHIP among qualified starters last season, and he walked more batters than any pitcher in the AL. Now he’s the owner of a 2.54 ERA that ranks as the third best among qualified starting pitchers in the Junior Circuit, behind only Odorizzi and Justin Verlander.

Over his last six starts — which have all been wins, by the way; Giolito is one of just five pitchers in baseball with at least eight wins — he’s got a 1.03 ERA with 48 strikeouts compared to just eight walks. He walked 90 hitters last season. Sunday, he turned in his first walk-less start since May 29, 2018, just his fourth in a White Sox uniform.

White Sox fans can probably answer the question of how nice that is to see all by themselves, but let’s give the manager a chance, shall we?

“Satisfaction,” Rick Renteria said of watching Giolito pitch. “He's put in a lot of work, everything he's done. He's attacking the strike zone, very effective, mixing in all his pitches, commanding the strike zone, first-pitch strikes. All those things you want him to do. … He's pitching with a lot of confidence. I think he's pitching because he knows who he's becoming, who he is. He's trusting it and letting it happen.”

“Very satisfied,” Giolito concurred. “A bit of a relief after last year. I know a lot of people were doubting me. At times I doubted myself. I went into the offseason with a new plan and the plan is working so I’m going to stick with it.”

And speaking of Verlander, the guy catching Giolito, James McCann, has some familiarity with the future Hall of Famer after catching him in Detroit. No one’s going to say that one terrific stretch elevates Giolito to Verlander status quite yet, but are there any similarities between what made Verlander so successful and what Giolito’s been doing of late?

“One of the big things we talked about during spring, and he already had a little bit of it, was just that routine,” McCann said. “That's something you see that separates a guy like Verlander, or (Max) Scherzer or (David) Price. It's the same thing after every start, in between starts.

“Whether they go out and shove and throw eight innings shutout or if they get hit around a little bit, they keep the same routine, the same mentality and same mindset. And that's something he's doing really, really well right now and I think it's helped him take it to the next level.”

We could go on and on about Giolito all day, but in order for the White Sox to be playing like they played on this homestand, they need to be getting good performances from more than just one starting pitcher. And they have.

Anderson was at it again Sunday, belting a home run off the impressive Zach Plesac for the White Sox only run through the game’s first seven innings. And while he didn’t launch his bat like he did against the Royals back in April, you could tell he’s still locked into his mission of bringing more fun to the game.


“I knew I got it,” he said after the game, “so I had to walk it out.”

Anderson came through in the clutch in the bottom of the eighth, too, adding an insurance run with an RBI double. He’s batting .330 on the season, still one of the top marks in the AL.

But it’s the plays Leury Garcia and Ryan Cordell made in the outfield, the slick double plays being started by Yonder Alonso — who Giolito called a “vacuum” after the game — over at first base, the still impressive numbers of Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada. And let’s not at all gloss over the All-Star caliber closing of Alex Colome, who made it a perfect 12-for-12 in save opportunities Sunday. Though he gave up a leadoff double in the ninth inning, it was just the second hit against him in a save situation this season.

Again, Kipnis is on to something. They don’t give out any trophies in June, let alone one for finishing 10-plus games behind an elite Twins team. But for a White Sox organization that’s preached patience through so much losing over the first two seasons of this rebuilding process, a week like this is a reward worth celebrating. It might not end up meaning much more than a fun week. But I’ve got a feeling White Sox fans will take a fun week over the alternative.

What’s real promising is the positive signs this week featured for what comes next, for the seasons when this team is expected to move from rebuilding to contending.

“Everybody's been hoping to see the talent these guys have come to fruition,” Renteria said. “They're starting to scratch the surface. They should be excited. These are the real guys right now. They're going to continue to work and get better.

“That doesn't mean we're not going to have hiccups or have a bad run. It just means you have some guys that are starting to understand and trust themselves and what they're capable of doing and you're starting to see some of the fruits of that.”

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Scott Podsednik and the art of making things happen

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Scott Podsednik and the art of making things happen

An awful lot of energy is spent these days discussing the leadoff spot.

Offense struggling? Maybe there needs to be a new leadoff hitter. Offense doing fine but the leadoff man isn’t of the stereotypical variety? Better think about making a change.

While teams certainly don’t need a stereotypical leadoff hitter who specializes in speed and small ball to be successful — the school of thought that your best player should get the most plate appearances possible is not a bad one — Scott Podsednik showed how guys at the top of the order can simply make things happen and win you ballgames because of it.

On April 11, 2005, the White Sox were once again having trouble figuring out Kevin Millwood, who was throwing his second gem against the White Sox in as many starts to begin his season. But after five scoreless innings, Podsednik made something happen.

He popped up a bunt that went so awry that it went over Millwood and behind the pitcher’s mound. It was a bad bunt, maybe, but it worked. He reached first with a single. Not long after, he used that blazing speed of his to swipe second base and put himself in scoring position with nobody out.

In a one-run game, the White Sox down 1-0 at the time, Podsednik changed everything. He scored the tying run two batters later, when Carl Everett drove him in with a single. It’s a run that doesn’t happen without Podsednik’s skill set. Call it the best argument in favor of the stereotypical leadoff man. Or just call it making things happen.

Podsednik did it again two innings later, driving in the winning run to cap a two-out rally against Millwood. After two quick outs, Chris Widger and Joe Crede delivered back-to-back singles. Podsednik made it three in a row, driving in Widger — who went from first to third on Crede’s hit up the middle — to put the White Sox in front.

Podsednik’s work 15 years ago isn’t likely to do much to sway any ongoing arguments over who should lead off for the 2020 White Sox or any of the 29 other teams. But it sure paid big dividends for the 2005 White Sox.

He made it happen.

What else?

— Millwood pitched extraordinarily well against the White Sox for the second time in 2005. After throwing six shutout innings on April 6, he allowed just two runs over seven innings in this one. Millwood ended up making five starts against the White Sox in 2005, logging a 1.32 ERA in 34 innings, but went just 0-2 in those five games. He had himself an excellent season overall, with a 2.86 ERA that led the American League and was the second lowest single-season ERA of his 16-year big league career. He finished sixth in the AL Cy Young vote that season, tying with White Sox pitcher Jon Garland and finishing behind Mark Buehrle.

— Freddy Garcia was pretty darn good in this one, too, throwing eight innings of one-run ball. He retired the final 13 batters he faced. Garcia allowed just three runs in 14 innings in his first two starts of the season. This one was the first of a whopping nine outings he made that season of at least eight innings.

— Garcia threw a pair of wild pitches with Grady Sizemore at the dish in the second inning, two of the 20 he ended up throwing in 2005. That total led the major leagues. In the following season, his second full campaign with the White Sox, he only threw four in the same number of starts, 33.

— Podsednik threw Ronnie Belliard out at third base in the third inning, preventing what might’ve been another run in the inning the Indians scored their lone tally. Podsednik had three outfield assists in 2005, and that was one of them.

— “Aaron’s going to get hit a lot in his career.” Hawk Harrelson chalked up Aaron Rowand getting hit by a pitch in the fifth inning to the center fielder’s approach at the plate. Well, Rowand did get hit by a lot of pitches in 2005, 21 of them, to be exact. Only Shea Hillenbrand of the Blue Jays got hit by more that season. This one that caught Rowand in the hand looked like it hurt like hell.

— Remember when the Indians played at The Jake? Good times.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

April 10, 2005: The White Sox got shut down by the reigning AL Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, who allowed just two runs in his seven innings, striking out 11. The Twins tagged Buehrle for five runs, including four in the third inning alone. Torii Hunter’s three-run homer was the big blow in that frame. White Sox lose, 5-2, drop to 4-2.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Sunday, when you can catch the April 13, 2005, game against the Indians, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s an extra-inning affair with some heroics from Juan Uribe.

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Trust in White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu dwindled early in 2005 season

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USA Today

Trust in White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu dwindled early in 2005 season

Early in the 2005 season, there was one White Sox player that fans thought was on thin ice and another who actually was on thin ice.

Despite playing great defense at third base, Joe Crede hadn’t exactly won over the fan base yet. He hit just .239 in 2004 with a .717 OPS in his second full major league season. He was already 27 and the White Sox had used their first round draft pick in 2004 to select hot shot third baseman Josh Fields, who was already considered an MLB Top 100 prospect.

So when Crede got off to a 3-for-21 start in the team’s first six games in ’05, there were already calls for his benching.

It wasn't going to happen. Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen were prepared to be patient with Crede. They seemed more concerned with closer Shingo Takatsu.

Takatsu had taken the South Side by storm in 2004, entering games in the ninth inning to standing ovations and the sound of a gong playing over the speakers at U.S. Cellular Field. After taking over the closing duties in June, Takatsu converted 19-of-20 save opportunities in his first year with the White Sox.

Still, there were concerns that his unique frisbee style of pitching wouldn't last once teams saw Takatsu more than once. Those concerns were heightened when the Indians tagged him for three solo home runs on April 7, 2005, leading to the White Sox’s first loss of the season. Takatsu’s only blown save in 2004 also came to the Indians and Guillen was already voicing his concerns.

“I might not use him against (the Indians),” Guillen told the Chicago Tribune. “They have a good left-handed lineup. Right now, he’s going to be there no matter what. We’re going to see the next couple days.”

It wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence, especially considering the White Sox had already played three straight close games against the Indians, including two one-run victories.

But that was the situation as the White Sox went to Cleveland with a 4-2 record for the Indians’ home opener. Freddy Garcia took the mound for his second start of the season, while Kevin Millwood countered for the 3-3 Indians.

Here was Guillen’s lineup:

LF Scott Podsednik
2B Tadahito Iguchi
DH Carl Everett
1B Paul Konerko
RF Jermaine Dye
CF Aaron Rowand
SS Pablo Ozuna
C Chris Widger
3B Joe Crede

The White Sox-Indians game from Apr. 11, 2005 will air Saturday at 4 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago. For the full White Sox Rewind schedule from the 2005 season, click here.