A 10-5 win Sunday made for a satisfying end to an otherwise moribund weekend for the White Sox, as the series-ending win over the Rangers was preceded by a pair of losses where the White Sox were collectively outscored 24-7.
1. An uptick in velocity and command of his breaking pitches were the main fuel behind a month where Dylan Covey seemingly transformed from Rule 5 afterthought to a legitimate candidate for future rotation consideration. A Friday night in Texas where he struggled to command anything and left quite a few changeups high in the zone showed just how small his margin for error is, as Covey was tagged for eight earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings in a start that more resembled his forgettable 2017 than the pitcher we saw for the majority of June.
Covey didn’t show any ill effects of the groin injury that forced him out of his previous start early, but was routinely beat around during a second inning in which he allowed three of the four home runs the Rangers hit off him on the day. The fact that he walked three and struck out zero — he induced just four swinging strikes on the evening — only further illustrated how badly he was locating throughout his 74-pitch outing.
Covey showed enough during his hot stretch to earn more opportunities on a team going nowhere in 2018. But he’s now on a three-start stretch where he’s walked 12 against just three strikeouts, so while optimism regarding the 26-year-old is obviously higher than it was even just a month or so ago, it will be interesting to see how he adjusts and if he’s more like the pitcher we saw for the majority of June or not.
2. Carlos Rodon certainly has more margin for error than Covey in any given start, but the Rangers jumped all over his first sign of command issues and what started out as a dominant start ended earlier than expected. Rodon retired the first seven Rangers he faced, including three strikeouts, but hung a fastball to Joey Gallo in the third inning for a solo home run and lost control in the fourth when a single and a pair of walks came home on a Robinson Chirinos bases-loaded double.
It was the first truly bad start of Rodon’s five since returning from injury on June 9, but what’s prevented him from truly living up to his potential during his three-plus years in the majors has been an inability to consistently command from start to start or, like Saturday, inning to inning. The good news for Rodon is that he seems completely healthy after being plagued by injury for the better part of the last year and a half, but we’re still waiting for Rodon to put together a complete and consistent performance like we know he’s capable of.
3. The White Sox weekend woes were not limited to the poor starts by Covey and Rodon. The bullpen was overburdened and allowed eight earned runs in 8 1/3 innings between Friday and Saturday, although a large chunk of that can be attributed to Bruce Rondon, whose ERA has ballooned up to 8.31 after allowing five earned runs while retiring just one batter on Saturday. Similarly, the White Sox committed a pair of errors in each of their two losses and five for the entire weekend, which is only part of the story of a weekend where a team that already wasn’t exactly known for its smooth fundamentals appeared to lose control of it entirely
Things like this are going to happen when a team rosters a handful of borderline major leaguers or young players still getting their feet wet, but while we’ve somewhat gotten used to the White Sox losing more often than they win, one thing you’d prefer they shore up is on that side of the ball. It’s easy to excuse a rebuilding team playing, say, Adam Engel when his bat isn’t up to snuff,, but when players who are already limited extrapolate things by failing to communicate, missing the cutoff, or some other mental miscue, it becomes much more difficult to excuse. Those are aspects of the game within their control, and while mental errors costing the White Sox wins is hardly detrimental to the immediate future, it’d at the very least make watching the losing more aesthetically appealing, and one would hope they get under control if and when they have eyes on contention.
4. The White Sox did win a game this weekend, as Reynaldo Lopez threw 6 1/3 mostly successful innings in a 10-5 win on Sunday, allowing just two earned runs with three walks and six strikeouts. Most notable in the win, and over the weekend as a whole, was Jose Abreu busting out of his slump and Avisail Garcia putting together a nice post-injury streak. Abreu, who hit was in the midst of a .188/.233/.325 slump from June 5 through 26, is 6-for-20 with a home run, a triple, and three walks since Wednesday, hardly world-mashing numbers, but a vast improvement coming out of one of the worst slumps of his career. Garcia went 4-for-5 on Sunday and is hitting .333 with six extra-base hits in 42 plate appearances since returning from the disabled list on June 22. He’s still hacking away at an absurd rate — zero walks in 118 plate appearances overall this season — but if he can start making solid contact again like he did in 2017, it would be a great sign.
5. A mostly unsuccessful weekend was also felt at the minor league level, where Luis Robert was placed on the seven-day disabled list and Eloy Jimenez left Sunday’s game with an apparent leg injury (the severity is not yet known). The arms fared better, as Michael Kopech tossed six innings on Saturday, giving up just three hits and striking out eight, although he also walked four. Dylan Cease continues to be the biggest bright spot in their stable of prospect arms, rebounding from a rocky debut at Double-A to toss seven innings on Sunday, allowing just one earned run with seven strikeouts and two walks. Alec Hansen has yet to get completely acclimated to the same level since returning from injury, however, as he turned in his third straight rough start on Thursday, giving up three earned runs with five walks and four strikeouts in just 3 2/3 innings.
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