In the second round of ‘throw your scuffling starter at the wall and hope he sticks,’ the Indians brought out a guy who sat mid-90s with a nice overhand curve, and the White Sox brought out Erik Johnson.
1. Erik Johnson was OK! He had all the normal shortcomings of Erik Johnson (shaky control, fastball sitting 89-90, struggles to keep the ball in the yard) but more muted than usual.
Well, most of it was muted. Johnson flashed a nice slider at times, struck out five, and gave the Sox 6.2 innings in the second half of a doubleheader, on a Monday of a week that has no off-day. This was a useful service.
But Johnson fell behind frequently due to poor control, had to try to comeback with 89-90 mph stuff, and gave up three home runs to the likes of renowned power hitters Jose Ramirez, Rajai Davis and Juan Uribe, who had a combined six home runs coming into Monday.
2. Johnson wound up walking three and getting tagged for five runs, which is bad, and going forward there’s not much confidence in his ability to shoulder responsibilities much greater than this going forward.
But after the Sox emptied out the best of their bullpen to win the opener, a full slate of work lying ahead of them, and nothing from the offense that provided motivation to extend the pitching staff, they did things like bring Johnson out for a seventh inning he was clearly ill-suited for, and relieved him with Matt Purke with runners on. It was a disheartening watch, but it will look a lot more sage if the Sox can nail down close victories with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana the next two nights.
3. The thing holding down the Sox offense was Indians starter Cody Anderson, who entered the game with a 7.99 ERA, but pumped mid-to-high 90s with a nice overhand curve and probably shouldn’t be as awful as his start. Even then, letting Anderson cook to the tune of a career-high nine strikeouts against zero walks was probably not an ideal effort.
4. The only burst of White Sox offense were aided by Indians defensive incompetence. The Sox briefly tied things up in the bottom of the third when Todd Frazier banged a ground rule double to the left-center gap. Melky Cabrera was able to bring him home when he drilled a two-out single to left, and a close play at the plate was avoided when Ramirez booted the ball in left.
Austin Jackson led off the eighth with a triple to deep right that was aided by Lonnie Chisenhall letting the ball kick off his glove as he stumbled to the dirt. It would have been a tremendous running catch had he complete it, so it was credited as a hit despite the ugliness. Jackson was then promptly gunned down at the plate on a contact play.
5. Carlos Sanchez was optioned down to Triple-A Charlotte before the game to make room for Johnson. Sanchez has been nothing short of atrocious in his limited trips to the plate (10 strikeouts in 29 plate appearances with no walks nor power), and has no clear role with Tyler Saladino around, but making a permanent spot on the roster and using the 26th man for Tommy Kahnle is pretty bizarre as well.
Team Record: 27-19
Next game is Tuesday at 7:10pm CT vs. Indians on CSN+