The White Sox improbable drive toward a respectable first half finish continued with another somewhat improbable–or at least improbably easy–triumph over a team that used to be standing between them and the last Wild Card spot.
1. Shaky and diminished James Shields vs. a resurgent C.C. Sabathia hardly seemed like a walkover coming in, but it actually found two pitchers traveling in different directions. Sabathia came into Monday’s outing having allowed 11 earned runs over his last two outings while Shields was…shading toward competence?
On the anniversary of the United States unilaterally declaring their preferred reality into existence, Shields provided just enough superficial results for the Sox to declare him fixed as well, stringing together his second-straight quality start, and his first quality start since the trade that wasn’t against the Minnesota Twins.
It was far from dominant. the Yankees opened the scoring when Chase Headley continued his odd, singularly focused dominance of the Sox by whipping something flat, center-cut and 89 mph from Shields into the right field seats to put New York up 2-0 in the second. Shields essentially decided he was done trying to get Headley out (his only two walks of the day were to him), recorded his last strikeout of the day with the first out in the third inning, and Aaron Hicks flying out and lining out deep to right saved him from bases loaded situations in the fourth and sixth.
Still, getting two runs over six innings from the No. 4 starter is nice work every time, especially when the offense rips off eight unanswered runs in support.
2. Indomitable wunderkind Tim Anderson, after getting stranded in the first, took matters into his own hands and boomed a 91 mph fastball on the bottom of the zone out 424 feet to near dead center to tie the game in the third. Reaching base in the eighth for the third time on the day in the eighth on a Didi Gregorius error, Anderson raced home from second to score an insurance run on a great read of a shallow bloop single from Jose Abreu to put the Sox up 7-2.
Not every day of watching a prospect develop is full of him creating runs whole cloth out of dizzying tools, but the ones that are will bewitch you for a while.
3. Despite remaining near the top of the AL home run leaderboards, Todd Frazier had seen his OBP fall under .300, and seen even the recently arrived Anderson pass his strangely low doubles total. On Monday, Frazier finally set upon fixing that; he doubled twice, walked twice, scored twice and reached base all five times.
He got a three-run fifth started for the Sox with a one-out double, and scored on a Brett Lawrie sacrifice fly to center, which immediately preceded Dioner Navarro catching a low fastball and scooping it into the left field seats, bringing in Melky Cabrera to break the game open at 5-2. When Frazier greeted Yankees reliever Luis Cessa with a leadoff double in the seventh, Lawrie brought him home again with an RBI single to push the game out of save opportunity territory. Another RBI single in the eighth for Frazier capped off his flawless day.
4. The final innings extended the margin of victory, but when Robin Ventura’s initial effort to steal some outs from someone other than his prime relievers was immediately rewarded with a leadoff double off Matt Albers from No. 9 hitter Rob Refsnyder, with a three-run lead in the seventh, he relied on sharp work from Zach Duke and a third-straight day of Nate Jones. That they threw absolute smoke with no sign of wear (five strikeouts over two innings) blunted some of the concern about the workload, and an 8-2 ninth inning lead kept David Robertson on the bench.
5. The White Sox are now three games over .500, with three games against the blatantly tanking Braves and two games left against a Yankees team that is really vulnerable when you are not trailing them late. The dream of finishing the break four games over is very attainable.
Team Record: 43-40
Next game is Tuesday at 7:10pm CT vs. New York on CSN
Lead Image Credit: Kamil Krzacazynski