A Chris Sale beauty was chucked into the trash can tonight. You can scrounge in the dumpster if you like, but it you’re unlikely to find it. It’s gone. It’s lost. Scoring multiple runs may greatly increase your chances of winning baseball games, but turns out the winning formula is still to score more runs than your opponent. Familiarly, the White Sox failed to do so once again, dropping the series opener and losing their fifth-straight contest.
Sale having a long outing was a good bet early after eight and nine pitch innings to start the game. He allowed a single to Franklin Gutierrez in the first, then settled in and cruised into the seventh. Working mostly fastball-change, he leveraged the slider where he needed it to dispatch the Mariners over the next five innings with the only blemish being a walk issued to Leonys Martin. In the seventh, things got a little rocky, as a self-made jam was created by hitting both Gutierrez and Dae-Ho Lee with sliders. He then used that same pitch to escape the jam by striking out Kyle Seager, thus ending the threat, but the suggestion that he was not in full domination mode was already made, and would become unfortunately important. Sale finished the evening after having completed eight innings and allowing just a single hit to go with his three walks and six strikeouts.
David Robertson, making his first appearance post-All Star break had some difficulty with the middle of the Mariners order, putting himself in a position to face Lee as the tying run with one out. After working a strikeout of Lee, Kyle Seager lined a single to center to get the Mariners on the board and cause Don Cooper to saunter out for a never pleasant 9th inning mound visit. It was not as productive as hoped. Adam Lind saw two pitches, the second of which he deposited just over the fence in right field, securing misery for all those that care about the success of the White Sox. Sale’s shakiness over his last two innings makes it tough to second guess his removal without the benefit of hindsight, but boy do I wish he was left in for the complete game.
On the positive side, ongoing fear of shutout was silenced early on when Tim Anderson took Wade LeBlanc into the upper deck in the first inning, acquiring a lead the Sox wouldn’t relinquish until that final pitch of the game. The additional tallies were acquired in the 4th inning — Todd Frazier, who seems to have every intention of staying relevant in the home run race, slugged his 26th long ball of the season, this a two-run shot that also scored Melky Cabrera. A cheapie did not exist between the two homers, as early measurements were 441 feet for Anderson’s shot and 427 for the dead-center blast by Frazier.
Not coincidentally, the last time the White Sox notched double digits in hits was the last time they scored more than one run. Of their 11 hits tonight, multi-hit games were had by Cabrera, Avisail Garcia, and Dioner Navarro. Navarro’s good fortune was such that he collected an infield single on a swinging bunt. It may have happened before, but it’s never developed as slowly as his roller to the left side of the infield. Melky’s knocks were accompanied by competent outfield play. Sale was letting the ball into the play with regularity, and a couple of the more threatening fly balls were tracked down by Cabrera, some with what a charitable individual could call a hint of grace. Some with what nobody could call a hint of grace.
Three runs is all well and good when you went through a stretch wondering if you’d ever score any again, but we’d be lying to ourselves if we were satisfied with that output against Wade LeBlanc. The weak spots are still glaring, despite Garcia managing to reach base twice tonight. Jose Abreu, who came into the contest with an OPS of .858 since the beginning of June hit a double in his first at-bat, and then looked downright lost in subsequent appearances, continuing a Jekyll & Hyde act he’s been performing quite a bit this summer.
A team with a pitching staff as shaky as the White Sox once Sale and Quintana are out of the way needs to put up consistent runs, and when they can’t bounce guys like LeBlanc early and stack runs when given those matchup opportunities, the hopes of seeing a season go past what’s already on the schedule are slim and growing slimmer. And of course, ultimately losing the game that pits LeBlanc against Chris Sale is a gut punch this season could have done without.
The strategic curiosity for sliding Anderson into the second spot of the lineup is probably only exceeded by him batting leadoff in the first place, but with his fifth home run on the season Monday, anecdotal evidence says the two-hole is where he belongs and will thrive. In reality it’s still an odd approach for handling the young shortstop. Playing a prime position well while carrying a league average bat in his first exposure to the game’s highest competition suggests he can handle himself no matter how strangely those in charge of him behave.
Team Record: 45-47
Next game is at 9:10pm CT in Seattle on WGN
Lead Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson – USA Today Sports Images