South Side Morning 5: White Sox record a base hit

1. While the story of a weekend series at Coors Field was that the White Sox’ overworked, overmatched pitching staff struggling to record outs against a good offense in a terrible environment for pitchers, the White Sox very nearly flipped that narrative on its head Sunday when Kyle Freeland came two outs away from throwing the first no-hitter against the White Sox since 2011. The White Sox offense isn’t exactly Murderer’s Row, but the possibility was about as unexpected as one can imagine when you consider the park— there’s only been one no-hitter in Coors Field history (Hideo Nomo in 1996) — and that they have the best batting average in the league against left-handed pitchers.

Still, Freeland worked wonders all afternoon, inducing weak contact while working around the zone throughout. He struck out nine, walked three, and the only trouble he found himself in was back-to-back walks to Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier leading off the seventh inning before promptly getting Avisail Garcia to ground into a double play. Melky Cabrera saved the White Sox the embarrassment with a one-out single in the ninth inning, which also ended Freeland’s day at a career high 126 pitches.

2. As mentioned above, the overarching theme of the series was the White Sox pitching staff getting battered around. They were outscored 26-9 over the weekend, allowing double-digit runs in both Friday’s and Sunday’s losses.

Derek Holland‘s performance Friday is what we’ve come to expect since the calendar turned to June. In his last seven outings, he’s failed to get through five innings four times and in two of those couldn’t complete three. Coming into the season, the main concern with Holland was health. The White Sox have done a fine job keeping him on the mound, but he’s completely lost his command and it’s resulted in a whole heckuva lot of hard contact.  His DRA now sits at 6.35, 14th-worst in the majors among pitchers who have thrown 75 innings or more.

3. Carlos Rodon, on the other hand, looked a lot better than his resulting line. He wasn’t quite the pitcher who generated 26 swings and misses against Oakland last week (he had eight on Sunday), but was still a lot better than the pitcher who couldn’t throw strikes in his 2017 debut. He stayed in the strike zone and induced weak contact pretty well through the first five innings. The sixth inning is where things unraveled a bit, as he allowed a massive home run to Charlie Blackmon–which is hardly the most embarrassing thing for a pitcher to do–on a low fastball that didn’t get low enough, and followed that up by issuing two of his three walks on the day, before being replaced and having Chris Beck allow those two to score.

The highs and lows of Rodon from start to start or even inning to inning or pitch to pitch is like a roller coaster. But just as it’s important to temper expectations when he shows what he’s capable of in starts like the one we saw in Oakland, it’s also important not to get too down when he’s working through struggles. We saw a little bit of both on Sunday, but at the very least it seems his development has picked up right where he left off pre-injury.

4.  Avisail Garcia is limping across the finish line after earning a place on the All Star team.  He’s hit .172/.238/.241 over his last fifteen games while battling through a couple of injuries.  Ironically, it looks like he could really use the full All Star Break to rest his sore finger, but barring a setback or some other incident, he seems set to attend the festivities in Miami.  It should still be less demanding than a regular schedule, and it almost certainly means a lot to him to be able to go.  Moving forward, although there were always BABIP and approach questions about the strength of Avisail’s first half, but it is hard to say just how much of this regression is luck abandoning him or his “true talent” rearing its ugly head as opposed to simply fatigue and playing hurt.

5.  Nate Jones experienced a setback while throwing off of flat ground over the weekend.  He will be re-evaluated over the All Star Break and hasn’t pitched since April 28th.  Although injuries are now unfortunately an expected part of Jones’ profile, this virtually guarantees that the potentially extremely valuable reliever won’t be traded this season.  Jones is signed through 2018 with two cheap team options for 2019 and 2020 that drop to the league minimum if Jones undergoes elbow surgery.  So, this won’t be the team’s last chance to deal him when and if he should return to form.

Lead Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing – USA Today Sports Images

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