1. The White Sox entered Cleveland on Tuesday looking for their first win of the season at Progressive Field in five tries. Things started off very nicely with a Yoan Moncada double to deep left-center field Cleveland starting pitcher, Mike Clevinger. This was followed up by a hard-hit opposite field RBI single from Jose Abreu to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Carlos Rodon then delivered an early shutdown inning, striking out both Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez in a very sharp first. Unfortunately, things wouldn’t be as enjoyable for the rest of the evening as Rodon’s control unraveled in the second inning with a pair of walks and a hit batter (Brandon Guyer, naturally) which allowed the Indians to score four runs in the frame and take a lead they would not surrender. Cleveland would tack on a couple more runs in the bottom of the 7th inning with a pair of two-out hits against reliever Bruce Rondon which would put the game completely out of reach. The White Sox tried to mount a comeback off of Cleveland reliever Zach McAllister in the ninth inning with singles from Tim Anderson and Charlie Tilson followed by another booming double off the bat of Moncada, but after a Cleveland error extended the inning, Abreu flew out to medium right field to end the White Sox threat.
2. This makes two positive nights at the plate in a row for Moncada who had a pair of very hard-hit doubles, and nearly had a third double in the second inning. Unfortunately, Indians’ left fielder Michael Brantley made a nice running catch on the warning track in deep left field to turn the line drive into a loud out. Moncada has drawn the ire of a lot of White Sox fans in recent weeks with his struggles since coming off the DL, so it’s important to keep context in mind when evaluating his season’s work. He entered last night’s game as a league average hitter, .257 TAv, at a premium defensive position, all while starting the season at less than 23 years of age. Moncada’s struggles with strikeouts were always going to yield lean periods in the early part of his career, as he works to iron out those issues. Expectations for Moncada have always been sky high, but not every prospect is going to be Kris Bryant right away. Moncada is still going to learn and develop over the rest of this year, and most likely the next couple of years, so let’s table the “bust” talk for say, two to three years, and revisit the issue after the 2021 season. Let’s not forget how well Moncada was playing before his DL stint and also remember that Moncada still has some of the best athleticism in the Majors. I believe that is eventually going to translate into above average production at the plate.
3. Speaking of unfinished products, the full Carlos Rodon Experience was on display Tuesday night in Cleveland. His slider was electric when he was getting ahead in the count and locating it well, but Rodon’s control was largely erratic and that led to mixed results on the evening. Rodon may have only walked two Cleveland batters (and hit another), but after the first inning, he really wasn’t hitting his spots and looked like he was fighting his own mechanics all night. Still, Rodon managed to make it through 6 1/3 innings allowing only four runs, all of which came in the second inning. Rodon’s ability to go so deep into the game after throwing 46 pitches in the first two innings is really a testament to how good his stuff is, even when he doesn’t have pinpoint control. It seems like this has been said for years now, but the sky is the limit for Rodon if he can harness his control. Unfortunately, Rodon hasn’t been able to do so yet in his career for a variety of reasons. Hopefully he can stay healthy the rest of the season and settle into a grove and finally translate more of his potential into performance.
4. The White Sox had no answer, again, for Mike Clevinger. Once he got through a rocky first inning, Clevinger threw it into cruise control and dominated into the eighth inning. Just five days after he threw seven innings allowing only two runs while striking out eleven White Sox batters, he delivered 7 2/3 innings and struck out ten while allowing only one run. Clevinger truly embodies the “surprise contributor” as a player who has developed into a very solid MLB starter while never being ranked as a top MLB prospect. Hopefully the White Sox can find their own Mike Clevinger over the next couple of seasons, as teams generally need players like this to help support upswings in their competitive cycles.
5. In the third inning, Steve Stone and Jason Benetti started talking about the first major trade of the season, a deal that sent Kansas City Royals’ reliever Kelvin Herrera to the Washington Nationals for a trio of prospects. Stone opined that the Royals were smart to deal Herrera earlier in the season, increasing the amount of time the Nationals would benefit from adding a strong reliever to their bullpen. Stone also added that he thought the Herrera trade may jump start the trade market and lead to more deals in the coming weeks. Herrera is probably better than any reliever on the White Sox, but it’s encouraging to see the Nationals give up a couple of decent prospects for a bullpen upgrade. The White Sox will likely have a few veteran relievers available for trade, most notably Joakim Soria, who is having a very good year. It’s unlikely that any reliever brings back a top prospect, but if the White Sox are able to hit on just one prospect they bring in by trading some of the veterans on this squad, they could significantly improve the long-term outlook of the franchise. In the meantime, I’ll continue to root for positive contributions from the veterans while they’re still on the White Sox and hope that they can pass on valuable lessons to the younger players.
With the loss, the White Sox fall to 24-48 on the season. Up next is the series finale against Cleveland featuring Reynaldo Lopez and Corey Kluber.
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