I guess the White Sox will do well if they can keep holding teams to 2 runs or less…
— Nick Schaefer (@Nick_BPSS) April 20, 2016
The White Sox are the first team in the American League to reach 10 victories after Wednesday afternoon’s 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The offense remains mostly listless, with just five hits a day after scoring five runs for the first time in a week, but the pitching staff has been good enough to make up for it thus far. There’s still plenty of problems for the team to address going forward, but banking 10 wins in their first 15 games is tough to complain about.
1. A day after putting up five runs for the first time in a week, and stopping a three-game losing streak behind the arm of Mat Latos, the White Sox turned to their ace, Chris Sale, and Sale authored another chapter in his book of pitching restraint, continuously dialing down his velocity, pitching to contact and racking up just three strikeouts in his seven innings of work. The only run he allowed was of the unearned variety, coming after he hit Kole Calhoun to lead off the eighth inning; he was replaced by Nate Jones, and Calhoun came around to score on a two-out error by Todd Frazier.
2. The HBP ended a streak of 10 straight batters retired by Sale, with only two of those 10 outs coming via the strikeout. In fact, the only Angels hitter who seemed to be able to square the ball up on Sale all day was the otherworldly Mike Trout, who rocketed singles into center field in his first two at-bats — the only two hits Sale allowed all afternoon.
3. Speaking of Trout, despite the two hits he uncharacteristically ran the Angels into two outs in a game where they were clearly at a premium. He was thrown out attempting to steal second base after his single in the fourth inning on a beautiful throw by Alex Avila, and in the ninth inning he slipped while trying to advance to second on an infield single that Jerry Sands was unable to pick cleanly at first base, and was gunned out for the second out of the inning while representing the tying run.
4. Robin Ventura’s strange decision to hit Tyler Saladino No. 2 in the batting order, of course, paid off immediately when Saladino crushed a 96-mph fastball from Garrett Richards into the left field seats for a home run in the first inning. The outcome of a decision doesn’t make it the right decision, of course, as batting a guy with a career .266 OBP second in your lineup isn’t a good decision no matter how you shake it. But kudos to Saladino for making the most of just his fourth start of the season and not missing a dead-red fastball.
5. A taxed bullpen meant some tough decisions for Ventura late in the game. After letting Sale start the eighth inning at 102 pitches and then yanking him upon the leadoff HBP, he turned to Jones, fresh off a two-inning, 19-pitch performance less than 24 hours earlier. With Zach Putnam, Jake Petricka, and Dan Jennings presumably unavailable after mopping up for Carlos Rodon on Monday, and Zach Duke basically a LOOGY at this point, Ventura’s options basically boiled down to riding Sale up above 110 pitches, trying to get two innings out of David Robertson, or putting his faith in Jones. While it seems unwise to go with Jones, particularly given his recent injury history, there didn’t seem to be a clear-cut right answer, and he somehow got out of his 2/3 of an inning unscathed before Ventura turned the game over to Robertson for the final four outs.
Team Record: 10-5
Next game is Thursday at 1:10 p.m. CT vs. the Angels on CSN.
Top Photo Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports