Instant offense: Or, perhaps, “only offense.” Giolito’s two-run single in the second was the big bop for the Sox. (@WhiteSox)
Listen, there’s going to be some overlap between here and South Side Sox tonight, because there’s a lot going on — namely, the loss of one of our own, Rob Warmowski.
The Chicago White Sox lost 5-3 on Sunday, capping a sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves. As the game was winding up, word was trickling out about a bigger and more personal loss to us as White Sox faithful, Rob’s passing.
I’m writing now, and will be publishing something in the morning, specifically on Rob, a guy I’ve admired for a decade yet had only scratched the surface of. But as the losses for the 2019 White Sox pile up (we’re now churning defeats out at a rate that tracks to more than 90, again, for another season), this personal sticks, and hurts — even for someone like me, who was only beginning to get to know Rob well as a member of our staff here.
We were going to do some great things together, on these pages.
So, this was another game in Atlanta where the White Sox got off somewhat quickly on offense, this time falling behind in the first but rallying right back in the second to tie courtesy of … [checks game notes]… a Lucas Giolito two-run single?
(Benetti: “Did you see his jaw drop when he realized that ball was gonna fall?”)
But the highlights were few from there. Giolito pitched OK, victimized by two, two-run homers by Freddie Freeman, but otherwise acquitting himself as an ace does, keeping his team in the game in spite of a couple of gaffes (just four hits, one walk, seven Ks over six pitched).
Unfortunately, with the White Sox held to just five hits — and in what is becoming a troubling trend, just one extra-base hit (Tim Anderson, double, part of a 2-for-3 day that also included an egregious and failed steal attempt of third base) — our ace did not have four runs of margin of error.
It was encouraging that the White Sox walked five times in the game, and that all three RBIs came with two outs (José Abreu later singled in a run in the seventh to draw the White Sox to within 4-3). But there’s just not a lot more to say, and truly, the news about Rob tonight just makes it an all-around, utterly terrible day.
The White Sox continue their cultural insensitivity tour by shipping up to Cleveland for four games. (That last crack’s for you, @Whitesoxski.)
It’s a bit of a harried afternoon here, under the circumstances. So, let’s just get to the lineups, close our eyes, click our heels three times, and hope to get outta Atlanta with a win, or at least the roster intact.
Ballgame is at 4:10 p.m., on the WGN. Maybe Ashley will let me borrow the sunglasses emoji if Lucas slings us a win.
Gryffindor: The Sorting Hat whispers in the back of the minds of ReyLo and Herrera, but the Braves were too much to handle. (@WhiteSox)
Five runs off of 13 hits aren’t enough for the Good Guys in game two of this three-game weekend set
The Atlanta Braves score a lot of runs, and the Chicago White Sox score a lot of runs, but not enough, late. Both starting pitchers are gettable, but the Sox’s pitching takes the bigger bruise. For the second straight game, the Good Guys drop the game to the Braves. The game was definitely interesting, but it didn’t produce the result that Sox fans so desperately wanted. Let’s take a look at the highlights of the game:
The Good Guys were able to go up first in the first inning with an RBI-Single by the newly-acquainted fourth-spot hitter Yoán Moncada. He drove in Leury García, who led the game off with a first pitch base hit up the middle.
That would be the only good to the start of the game. In the bottom half of the inning, Reynaldo López recorded two outs. Sandwiched around the outs were six runs scored, as ReyLo faced all nine batters before being taken out of the game at the 42-pitch mark.
A little funny thing occured before the outburst of runs. With two outs and the game still tied, Tyler Flowers hit what should have been a groundout to third to end the inning. However, YoYo played the ball back, so the baseball rolled into the bag, bounced high in the air, and Moncada barehanded the throw to first. But, Flowers beat the play and opened the door wide for five more runs to cross the plate in the inning.
A taxing inning could not go Reynaldo’s way, and an already taxed bullpen was destined to finish the game. Jimmy Cordero was the first relief pitcher out of the gate. He walked the first batter he faced, but he struck out the second batter in Dansby Swanson. 50 minutes later, the whole first inning was a thing of the past.
The second inning contained some improvement. The inning lasted only 30 minutes, and the Braves put only one more run on the board with a Matt Joyce single, 7-1 home team lead.
The South Siders didn’t stay quiet for long. Top of the third, José Abreu was hit by a pitch, and Eloy Jiménez recorded his second infield single of the night. With that, last night’s pinch-hit hero singled up the middle to score Abreu and to decrease the deficit, 7-2.
Believe it or not, the game actually quieted down for a bit. Of course, with both teams having double-digit hit totals, the noise didn’t completely disperse. Pito did take two hit-by-pitches to his left arm, so those welts were definitely singing and will continue to well into the night.
In fact, the Good Guys didn’t want Pito to feel alone in that matter, so they made some noise in the seventh to help harmonize. The Sox put up three runs in the frame, courtesy of RBI singles from Eloy and Yolmer Sánchez. Adam Engel reached third base on an error in right field, so Yolmer scored the third and final run of the inning. The future was looking bright for the Good Guys, bright enough for sunglasses, down only 7-5.
But, the clouds quickly rolled in. The Braves wanted to mirror the South Siders, so they did. Atlanta put up three runs in the bottom-half of the seventh. A pinch-hit Ronald Acuña sac fly, a bases loaded walk to Dansby Swanson, and a wild pitch paved the way to the Braves’ seventh.
Unfortunately, the White Sox couldn’t do anything in the eighth, but the Braves did. Josh Donaldson hit a solo home run to put his team up 11-5.
The Good Guys couldn’t find the equalizer in the top of the ninth, so Atlanta wins the weekend series. The Sox didn’t lose for lack of offensive effort: five runs on 13 hits. The starting pitching and the struggling Kelvin Herrera solidified the end score. The Braves exude what a good team does. The offense picks up the pitching, and the starting pitchers eat up innings. Yes, Atlanta needs bullpen help, but Atlanta is putting it all together. Luckily, the White Sox still have tomorrow, and they still have a sunglasses-needed bright future!
Tomorrow, Lucas Giolito takes the mound. Giolito, the ace of the staff, must go the distance to save a labored bullpen. Lucas is 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA. He is set to face Julio Teheran. Julio is 8-8 and owns a 3.39 ERA. Giolito will put his team on his back in order to salvage this weekend series. WGN will have the broadcast and radio for an unusual 4:10 CT start for the White Sox.
The sunglasses emoji are still on-call for their South Side Hit Pen debut.
On a hot streak: ReyLo is looking to bring the heat against the hottest N.L. East team. (Clinton Cole / South Side Hit Pen)
Though the Chicago White Sox couldn’t outpitch the Atlanta Braves, the offense lived up to their end of the bargain. Scoring seven runs, the bats of the South Siders were heated up down South. Unfortunately, Iván Nova was plagued by his worst start as of late.
Luckily, baseball is a short-memory game, so as John Mulaney once said, “What’s yesterday?”
Today, Reynaldo López will try to help his team even the series in this weekend’s interleague play. This Rey of sunshine has had quite the second-half to the 2019 season. As a total of the halves, Reynaldo owns a 8-11 record, as well as a 5.08 ERA. López has also amounted an 0.8 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. Look for ReyLo to keep it rolling!
The former Houston Astro and late-to-the-2019-season, Dallas Keuchel, is 5-5 on the season, and he owns a 3.78 ERA. In only 13 games played this season, Keuchel has been worth 1.4 bWAR. Hopefully, the Sox can take advantage of Keuchel’s short 2019 season.
These are the South Siders tasked to get the job done tonight:
After his pinch-hit, three-run home run — Welington Castillo is tonight’s starting catcher, batting sixth. Other than that, the first five guys are the eyes of the future.
For Atlanta, their offensive-burst of a lineup is as follows:
This rejuvenated lineup is one to worry about during this series. After a ten-run party last night, these guys are aiming for a repeat.
I say we make things a little interesting and tie the series before a fun Sunday night game! NBC Sports Chicago will provide your Chicagoland TV broadcast, but MLB.TV will have tonight’s game as the free game of the day! As always, the ol’ faithful, WGN, has the radio coverage. It’s a 6:20 CT start, and I am itching to bring out the sunglasses emoji!
Interleague interstellar: In case you were wondering, Iván Nova’s career slash line is .041/.041./.041 (@WhiteSox)
Prepare for a trip through the Interleague Cosmos: it’s Super Nova day, my friends.
In the opener of this three-game set, the Chicago White Sox head to an area of the galaxy they haven’t visited since 2016: Atlanta. With their 81-54 record, the Braves sit atop the NL East. What’s even more out of this world is that the Braves are 14-6 in their last 20 games, blasting off towards yet another postseason.
While the Braves seem as insurmountable as the Sun inevitably turning into a red giant and swallowing the Earth whole, remember that Iván Nova is rocketeering for the Good Guys today. Nova started August with a 3-1 record and a 1.09 ERA, allowing only four earned runs over 33 innings. Nova especially pitches well against National League teams; in his last five games vs. Atlanta, he’s 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in 27 innings pitched. Against National League teams in 2019, he’s 2-0 with a 1.09 ERA in 24 innings.
On the hill for the Braves is the lefty, Max Fried. He’s 14-4 with a 4.03 ERA. Fried is a slight ground ball pitcher, but has been known to pile on strikeouts every now and then. In his last five starts, he has 31 punch outs in 27 innings pitched; he struck out 10 batters in an August 7 matchup against the Minnesota Twins.
And now, the lineups:
Brian Snitker’s lineup is below:
Now that you’re thinking about the Sun expanding to the point where it either engulfs the Earth or just boils the oceans ceasing all life as we know it either way, view today’s televised 6:20 CST game on NBC Sports Chicago. For the radio broadcast, set your phasers to WGN 720.
Next on the agenda are the Atlanta Braves, a team with a peripatetic history. Given a start in Boston and moves to Milwaukee and Atlanta, a long-time Braves fan presumably sits down to watch the game with baked beans, brats, and a Coke.
THE ORIGINS: BOSTON
The Boston version of the Braves was even more nomadic nickname-wise than the team later became geographically. They started in 1876 as the Red Stockings, then became the Beaneaters, Rustlers, Braves, Bees, and finally Braves again.
The Boston version was generally pretty good in the 19th Century, pretty bad in the 20th. They did win two pennants in the modern era, sweeping the Philadelphia A’s in the 1914 World Series and losing to Cleveland in 1948, but they had 11 seasons of 100 or more losses (in 154-game seasons, mind you). That included the second-worst season in modern MLB history, a 115-loss bummer in 1935 (yes, even with The Babe) that left them 61 1/2 games behind That Other Team in Town.
Attendance in Boston was generally, though not always, poor and dropped way down in 1951 and ’52, sinking to 281,000, a third of the MLB average. So, naturally, it was time Go West, Young Team.
HEADING WEST: MILWAUKEE
Apparently cheese curds are big boons to athleticism, because the Braves never had a losing season during their 1953-65 tenure in Milwaukee. They won the World Series in 1957, and lost it in 1958.
Of course, having a team that included Hall-of-Famers Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews and Warren Spahn may have helped the cheese curds along. Matthews had been a rookie Brave in Boston in 1952, Aaron came in 1954, and Spahn tossed for them from 1945 (actually a brief appearance in 1942 before heading off to WWII) to 1964, winning 356 games, including 13 seasons of 20 or more wins.
The “Spahn and Sain and a day of rain” didn’t apply in Milwaukee, since Johnny Sain had gone to the Yankees in 1951, but they got along very well with “Spahn and (Lou) Burdette and a day of wet.” And having future Hall-of-Famer Red Schoendienst join Aaron and Matthews on the hitting side for a few years didn’t hurt.
Despite the good results, attendance dropped precipitously in Milwaukee after 1960, and the team was sold to a Chicago group in 1962. Being Chicagoans, they naturally didn’t give a damn about the fans and started shopping around for the highest bidder. Voila — time to head south.
HEADING SOUTH: ATLANTA
Atlanta had built an $18 million stadium to try to lure a pro team, but couldn’t lure the now-Kansas City A’s. The Braves’ Chicago owners waved their hands as happy to have a gift from the taxpayers, and after a court-delayed, one-year wait during which Milwaukee Braves attendance fell to barely half a million, down south they came. Whether the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act made such a move more acceptable is hard to say, but since Lester Maddox was still wielding his pickax handle in Atlanta, it’s was probably just a matter of greed.
The move led to an immediate tripling of attendance, a boon that faded away quickly and didn’t return until 1982. The 1982 Braves were the second division-winning season in Atlanta (1969 the other), as the team couldn’t maintain its Milwaukee dominance.
The next big change was off the field. Media magnate Ted Turner bought the team in 1976, and, in those early days of cable TV, put all the games on his WTBS superstation. Another Voila! America’s Team was born.
Despite its vaunted (and self-created) name, America’s Team was mostly bad until 1991. But then, wow!
It helped to have a rotation that included three Hall-of-Famers. Tom Glavine was a Braves draftee. John Smoltz came in a trade from the Detroit Tigers in 1989, and Greg Maddux was granted free agency by That Other Team in Town in 1992. Armed with those arms, the Braves took their division every year from 1991 to 2005, except for a second place in the 1994 strike year. They only won one of their World Series appearances in those years, but that seems forgivable.
Things slowed down a little after that, but they only had two losing seasons before 2014. That year, they were 79-83, so naturally, it was rebuilding time.
TIME OUT FOR A LITTLE BUSINESS ABOUT BUSINESS
Eventually Turner sold everything to Time Warner, and in 2007 Time Warner spun off the Braves to Liberty Media, which in turn has done a lot of spinning, including turning the Braves into their own publicly-held company, the Liberty Braves Group. It’s the only MLB team in which you can directly buy stock these days (you can do so indirectly with the Toronto Blue Jays through their parent company, Rogers Communications, and you once could buy a chunk of the Indians, as some of us did and lived to be very happy about.)
At its current price, Liberty Braves market value comes to about $1.4 billion, despite negative earnings. Forbes’ 2019 list has the team worth $1.7 billion, which makes sense because there’s usually a premium to get a controlling interest.
Forbes has the 2019 value of the White Sox at $1.6 billion. Not that Jerry Reinsdorf will ever part with any of that. The Braves have a reputation for tightness. Spotrac has their payroll at $136 million, the White Sox at $91 million. So, what word is snugger than tightness?
ON TO REBUILDING
While some teams may wait through numerous losing years before deciding to try to do something about it (not that I can think of any), the Braves wasted no time at all. After five straight wining years, 79-83 in 2014? Badly-rated farm system? Tear that baby down.
Like most teams that are serious about trying to rebuild, Atlanta went out to find some expert help, luring John Hart, who had great success with Cleveland earlier, away from the Texas Rangers. (Can anyone think of an exception to this no-brainer idea?)
Come the 2014 postseason, the Braves gave most of the roster free agency (including Gavin Floyd). They had no future Hall-of-Famers to put on the trade block, so the biggest name they traded that winter was Justin Upton, who had a year before free agency, in a multiplayer deal that brought them lefty Max Fried, who’s 14-4 this year. A year later, they sent Andrelton Simmons and his wheelbarrow of Gold Gloves to the Angels for, frankly, not much. They also made the really big mistake of trading a young pitcher named Craig Kimbrel to the San Diego Padres.
In the process, payrolls dropped from $116 mil to $96, and Atlanta’s record dropped even further south: 61-101 in 2015, 67-94 in 2016, 72-90 in 2017. Then, suddenly, in 2018 it all turned around in a hurry: 92-70 and an NL East championship.
Little of that team was left from 2014 — mainly Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis, and Julio Teheran. The critical players came through many means — Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna Jr. as an international free agent, second baseman Ozzie Albies ditto, catcher Kurt Suzuki as a free agent, etc. (Yes, they still have Tyler Flowers, who has reverted to the guy who made White Sox fans cringe every time he came to bat.)
The 2018 payroll jumped to $131 million ($136 this year), so either the Braves aren’t as tightfisted as believed, or someone we know very well is so wallowing in greed as to be unmentionable. Not content to win the NL East just once, Atlanta re-signed free agent Markakis and added Brian McCann and Josh Donaldson. Donaldson has proven well worth his $23,000,000 by producing 4.4 WAR already, with a .900 OPS and his usual stellar defense.
You may have noticed that a 2014-15 rebuild start puts the Braves two years ahead of the White Sox. You may have also noticed that according to Atlanta’s schedule, the Sox should be division champs next year. And you have also noticed that Rick Hahn is stretching any such potential achievement further into the future every time he talks, now going for some time after the polar ice caps have melted completely. And you may have gotten a good laugh out of the thought of Jerry Reinsdorf (whoops, I mentioned him — my bad) allowing a jump of payroll to over $130 million.
AS FOR 2019, WITH TIME OUT FOR A BRIEF QUIZ
The Braves are playing long ball. Acuna and Freeman have 36 homers each, Donaldson has 32. The team has 215, second in the NL. They like to run on occasion, with 74 stolen bases, led by Acuna’s 31. The pitching is good, but not great, an ERA 4.25, fifth in the NL.
The Braves are playing without Markakis and McCann these days, but still won nine of their last 11. Overall they’re 81-54, second only to the Dodgers in the NL. Not shabby at all.
The quiz on the Braves and White Sox:
On August 18, an outfielder on one of these teams, last year’s Rookie of the Year and an MVP candidate this year with his 5.1 bWAR so far , stood at the plate admiring what he thought would be a home run, but fell short. He was pulled from the game one inning later.
On the same day, an outfielder on the other team, who could at best be considered a prospect at this point, with his -0.3 bWAR, stood at the plate admiring what he thought was a home run, but wasn’t, albeit getting more bases because of fortunate bounces. He played on. Nothing done about it.
Quiz question: Guess which team is leading its division (but not by an insurmountable margin, so taking a star out of a game could cost them), and which hasn’t played a meaningful game in its last 1,000 or so.
Friday: Iván Nova vs. Max Fried Nova is on a tear, not giving up more than two runs since July 17. He doesn’t strike out many, but, critical when facing a team like Atlanta, he keeps the ball in the park, not giving up more than one homer in his last eight starts.
Fried is a statistical anomaly. The southpaw’s 14-4 record comes despite giving up 150 hits in 136 innings, for a .280 BAA. He strikes out more than one an inning, and only walks 2.7 per nine, but he has thrown 11 wild pitches.
Saturday: Reynaldo Lopez vs. Dallas Keuchel ReyLo still has an ERA of more than five, but he’s had mostly very good starts since the All-Star break, including tossing five innings of no-hit ball against the Rangers last time out. Presumably he won’t have a repeat of the flu systems that knocked him out of that game.
Lefty Keuchel is still getting into the groove after a strange offseason that left him unsigned until the Braves picked him up June 7. He got battered by the Miami Marlins, of all teams, on August 8, but has only allowed one run in 19 innings since then. Keuchel may not be back to Cy Young level yet — righties are hitting ,276 against him (lefties .154) — but he’s not far from All-Star level now.
Sunday: Lucas Giolito vs. TBD Cool Hand Lucas has been solid-to-spectacular since being bombed by the Twins on July 25, giving up just 10 runs in 40 innings while striking out an amazing 62. He can be susceptible to the long ball, which the Braves will no doubt be trying to exploit.
The Sox often struggle against TBD. There don’t seem to be any stats on that, but it seems like they have a fear of the unknown. Julio Teheran normally follows Keuchel in the rotation, and there’s no indication he’s hurt, so maybe TBD is “Teheran to Be Determined.” The Colombian righty is 8-8 with a 3.39 ERA. He didn’t make it through two innings against the New York Mets on August 15, but has pitched 13 scoreless innings since then.
Friday and Saturday’s games are set to start at 6:20 CDT, Sunday’s at 4:10.