The Good Guys managed to pull out a 3-3 tie in the ninth, with a homer from who else but spring training hero Yermín Mercedes.
Dylan Cease showed definite control issues with two walks (one scoring), a home run, and a hit batter, he’s not the only one who had a rough day.
Tim Anderson, despite having a 2020 goal of cutting down on errors, bobbled a very easy grounder for another error. Eloy Jiménez had a dive-and-miss in left. Nick Madrigal made a brief appearance before he took a grounder off of his face; he walked off on his own, though, so I think our most prized draftee lives to fight another day. An inning later, Andrew Romine missed an easy play by trying to flip a slow hop from his glove instead of his bare hand, allowing an infield hit.
So, the defense could have been better. The best part of spring training is that the White Sox can get these kinks worked out now, and they’ll be just fine by regular season (hopefully).
Someone on the diamond was already Opening Day-ready on defense: Yoán Moncada. Our $70 million man had the bright, shining defensive moment with an excellent play at third, as he works towards a spring highlight reel on SportsCenter.
After Cease got pulled, we got another look at the usual bullpen guys of Steve Cishek, Aaron Bummer, Jimmy Codero, and Evan Marshall and Kelvin Herrera, so it’s looking like the Sox are starting to solidify the reliever rotation.
Yasmani Grandal had a double and a homer, so he’s recovering from his “early spring training injury” quite nicely.
Grandal’s homer shortened the Reds lead to 3-2 and Mercedes tied it up in the ninth, but Sox offense never made it past a couple moments of contact to do much more damage. There was a brief moment in the eighth when it looked like the day was going to be saved by a brigade of Guys Off the Bench, but Zack Collins struck out staring so those hopes were dashed. The offense — can somebody, anybody make contact? —definitely needs to get worked out between now and March 26, or else we’re staring down another sad season of strikeouts.
The Reds displayed an excellent use of the shift, which got them some solid outs to back-up Anthony DeSclafani, who pitched well for four innings. Between that and Cincinnati’s solid defensive outfield, they might be a fun team to watch this year — after all, PECOTA picked the Reds to win the Central, so there’s someone new to root for against the Cubs.
RANDOM SPRING TRAINING MUSINGS (working title)
Nicky Delmonico playing first is an interesting choice. He didn’t do poorly or have any issues. Just an interesting choice.
Amir Garrett is 6’6´´ and played college basketball. Is the trend of tall pitchers a new thing, or am I just now noticing it?
Was Pedro Strop only allowed to be on the Reds after Puig got traded?
Roger Bossard puts activated charcoal on the field, which is also what I use on my face when I have a breakout, so the infield and I have something in common.
In the clutch: Andrew Vaughn’s single turned out to be the decisive hit in today’s victory. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)
The White Sox’s bats got off to a slow start, but they finished strong in a 5-1 victory over the Brewers.
The first run of the game scored in the top of the third inning in an unusual way. The White Sox managed to put their first two batters of the inning on base. Luis Robert singled, promptly stole second (what a surprise), and James McCann singled to put runners on the corners. Then, Leury García laid down a bunt that actually worked. García placed it nicely, as he was safe at first, and McCann advanced to third on a throwing error by Brewers catcher Jacob Nottingham. Unfortunately, that was the only run the White Sox scored that inning, despite having a golden opportunity to tack on another run.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Brewers tied it with a solo home run by Keston Hiura. Hiura, a rookie in 2019, slashed .303/.368/.570 with a 139 wRC+ last season. Even though FanGraphs was unimpressed by Hiura’s defense, his bat was enough to boost his value to 2.1 fWAR, even though he only played 84 games. This blast by Hiura was the only run White Sox starter Dylan Cease allowed in his four innings of work. Cease issued no walks, struck out five, and he looked in control against most hitters today. Cease appears ready for a big improvement over his rookie campaign, which did not go as planned.
With the game still tied at one in the seventh, the White Sox had runners on the corners with two outs after singles by García and Danny Mendick. Andrew Vaughn, up to bat in a big spot, came through with a sharp single to give the White Sox a lead that did not relinquish.
After a walk to Zack Collins to load the bases, Luis Gonzalez broke the game open with a two-run double to make it 4-1. In the eighth, Andrew Romine tacked on a run with an RBI triple, which drove in the final run of the game for either side.
As for the White Sox’s bullpen, it got the job done, too. Five relievers played in this game, and all of them (Codi Heuer, Jacob Lindgren, Caleb Frare, Kodi Medeiros, and Vince Arobio) pitched a scoreless inning. Thanks to them, there was no drama in the latter innings.
The White Sox improved to 6-5 this spring. They will face the Rockies at Camelback Ranch tomorrow at 2:05 CST, and Drew Anderson is the White Sox’s probable starter. March 5 is a pretty good day in White Sox history, as that is Paul Konerko’s birthday. It could be an even better day in the future, as that is also Nick Madrigal’s birthday. Hopefully, he will be able to celebrate with another victory.
Seby surprise: Zavala made a big impact in Sunday’s opener, earning the lead spot on this podcast. (Kim Contreras/South Side Hit Pen)
Baseball is back! Our guy down in Arizona, Sean Williams, checks in from the Cactus League opener, a 7-2 win for the White Sox. We run down a bunch of standouts from that first game and project a little bit into the 2020 White Sox season.
Young blood: Yermín Mercedes, Luis Basabe, and Micker Adolfo all contributed to a key ninth-inning rally this afternoon. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)
GOODYEAR, ARIZ. — After yesterday’s game was cancelled, the White Sox were able to squeeze in their first Cactus League matchup this afternoon, as they traveled to Goodyear to take on the Reds. The lineup was stacked, giving White Sox fans a look at most of the guys that will be playing regularly once the season starts on March 26.
However, it wasn’t the starting lineup that was the story of the day, but the subs who came in and helped seal a 7-2 victory.
Dylan Cease took the mound this afternoon for his first Cactus League start and came out of the gates firing, hitting 99 and 98 mph consecutively to start his day. Cease went for two innings, which is the norm for starters at the early stages of spring training. He allowed at least two batters to reach base in each inning, but they never amounted to anything thanks to his defense and three strikeouts.
All things considered, Cease’s command was pretty good for his first outing. There were moments where he struggled to find the strike zone, but those moments never hurt him — and for his first in-game action in months, his performance could’ve been a lot worse.
As for the rest of the White Sox starters, it was a very quiet day. At the start of spring training, it’s common for pitchers to be ahead of hitters, and that was evident this afternoon. Tim Anderson had an infield single in his first at-bat, but that was the only hit among starters until James McCann had a double to lead things off in the top of the fifth. Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez, José Abreu, and Luis Robert all went a combined 0-for-11 on the day. Moncada, Abreu, and Robert each hit the ball hard on different occasions, but they have nothing to show for it.
But even though most of the starters struggled, they managed to give the White Sox 2-0 lead thanks to some timely hitting in the top of the fifth.
After Carson Fulmer put runners on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the fourth, Matt Foster entered the game in a tough situation. However, Foster would rise to the occasion. He generated a weak fly ball and a grounder to quickly get two outs after facing just two batters. McCann helped get Foster completely out of the jam by gunning down Shogo Akiyama trying to steal, for the third and final out. Foster went on to pitch in the following inning, where he once again shut down the Reds and didn’t allow a run.
At this point in the game, there were all new faces in the field for the White Sox — and when the fun began. Seby Zavala took over for McCann and blasted an opposite-field, solo home run to give the White Sox a 3-0 lead in the top of the seventh. A lot of hitters were aggressive today, wanting to make a statement early. Seby, however, was not. He was patient at the plate, wasn’t fooled by junk outside of the zone, and once he got his pitch he deposited over the wall in the right, center gap.
Zavala wasn’t the only sub who would come through for the White Sox this afternoon. After the Reds made it a 3-2 game in the bottom half of the eighth, the White Sox were looking to add insurance runs in the ninth and they would do just that.
Micker Adolfo got the rally started with a double, and would later come around to score on an error, the first of two unearned runs in the inning.
Nick Madrigal would also join the party by scorching a RBI single to left field. Madrigal made a few mistakes in the field this afternoon, but he made up for it with this RBI. All told, the White Sox plated four runs on four hits in the ninth and put the game out of reach for the Reds.
Tyler Johnson finished this one off with a 1-2-3 inning where he picked up two strikeouts and was sitting in the upper-90’s with his fastball.
The White Sox will be back in action tomorrow as they take on the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 PM CT, with Alex McRae taking the bump. This is the first of six games televised by NBC Sports this spring, so don’t miss it.
It’s a Yaz! So far, White Sox fans are seeing less of the labor and more of the baby this offseason. (YouTube)
At this time last year, the White Sox were embarking on a seemingly endless journey in pursuit of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. The club had a minimal payroll heading into the 2018 offseason, and seemed like they were in a good position to land one of the big fish. Even though the team wasn’t completely ready to start winning and they still had to work on the development of some of their own key players, Rick Hahn and Co. knew this was an opportunity that they couldn’t pass up.
With Harper and Machado having a smaller market due to their steep price tag, the White Sox were aggressive in their pursuits early as they tried to sell both players on the future of the ballclub, and how they would have a great opportunity to win consistently on the South Side. Unfortunately, we all know how this story ends, as the White Sox came up completely empty. It was yet another offseason where the White Sox were actively engaging with the big free agents, but swung and missed, leaving a lot of fans in doubt about the team’s future.
Sure, the White Sox do have talent in the farm system. However, it’s almost impossible to win on homegrown talent alone. Teams need to be able to supplement what they already have with players from outside of the organization, whether to fill holes, bring over veterans to guide younger players, or make the most of an opportunity to sign/trade for a player who once might’ve looked like a longshot. There are many reasons why free agency and trades are important, and after last offseason’s shutout it started to feel like the White Sox were running out of time to strike and make an impact move.
Fast forward to this offseason, where the White Sox once again found their name in the rumors surrounding almost all of the top free agents available. There was a little more skepticism from fans this time around, and rightfully so, as they didn’t want to get their hopes up again in what could be another failure of an offseason. Hahn acknowledged the frustration, and knew this offseason was important when he addressed the media at the GM Meetings earlier this month:
Rick Hahn, to reporters at the GM Meetings today: “In the end it’s kind of my experience people aren’t too interested, maybe outside this room, people aren’t too interested in hearing about the labor. They want to see the baby.”
And he was right. White Sox fans are tired of “having a seat at the table” as Hahn likes to say, and want the front office to start making things happen. Being in the mix for top tier free agents and coming up empty is an exhausting practice, especially for a fan base that is starving for a winning team. At the conclusion of the 2019 season, the team was trending upwards, in large part due to the developments of core players, the arrival of Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, and with Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal on the way shortly. In addition to that, the team would be getting Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodón back for the upcoming season as well.
With all the positive developments that came from last season, the White Sox still needed a few dominoes to fall, and had to make something happen this winter in order to start putting out a product that could win consistently. The team still has quite a few holes to fill with starting pitching, left-handed hitting, and right field being the most notable. This free agent class was littered with plenty of names that could fill those gaps and instantly be an upgrade, and it was time for the White Sox to, in Hahn’s parlance, show us the baby.
It didn’t take long for the organization to show they were serious about winning this offseason, as they came out of the gates quickly and inked Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal that gave the catcher the largest contract in the history of the franchise.
Grandal checks off a lot of boxes for the White Sox. He’s a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate, gets on base frequently, and is one of the best defensive backstops in the game. This is that type of immediate-impact signing that will benefit the club and pitching staff in many ways. Everything Grandal brings to the table makes him the complete package, and his name was up there as one of the best available free agents. The White Sox were able to get the deal done and outbid the rest of his suitors, which is a result that isn’t common on the South Side.
The Brewers made an attempt at re-signing Yasmani Grandal, extending multiple offers during free agency, according to sources. In the end, four years, $73 million was out of their price range. Said one source: “We tried.”
After a painfully long 2018 offseason, it was beyond refreshing to see the White Sox get a deal of that significance done early in the process. It also goes to show that Hahn and Co. are ready to get down to business this year. Not to mention, having Grandal as a member of the team now makes the White Sox a more attractive destination for other free agents, especially pitchers. He’s a highly-respected catcher throughout baseball, and just about anyone would benefit from working with him full-time. His elite framing ability is going to get the most out of the pitchers he works with, as he’s sure to get them a ton of extra strikes during his time in Chicago.
One free agent pitcher that the White Sox have been linked to this offseason is Zack Wheeler, one of the most prized pitching targets this winter. Members from the Mets media and other Mets outlets started mentioning the White Sox as serious suitors for Wheeler. Danny Abriano of SNY even went as far to say that the White Sox were among the “leading group” of teams bidding for Wheeler’s services. This news dropped just days before the Grandal signing became official, so Hahn was working on signing not just one significant free agent right away, but two.
Hahn could’ve sat around and celebrated the first big signing, but instead immediately went right back to work, focused on making the White Sox a winning team, and making them a winning team now. There hasn’t been much movement on the Wheeler front since those initial tidbits of information dropped, but at least the club has identified what would be another major upgrade — and they wouldn’t have to spend $200 million or more for that upgrade, as they would have last year. Sure, Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg would both be incredible additions, but those two are likely going to be out of price range. It would be wise to allocate the money among multiple players, as opposed to sinking most of it into one arm. Wheeler is in a tier slightly below Cole and Strasburg, but he has the potential to be a very good pitcher for a long time — and at half the price.
In addition to that, the White Sox outrighted Yolmer Sánchez and signed José Abreu to a three-year, $50 million dollar contract. The Abreu deal didn’t make much sense at the time, especially considering the fact that he recently accepted the qualifying offer. However, with the extension, the White Sox will save money this year and it won’t hamper their ability to continue to sign free agents. Not to mention, Abreu has been around some rough teams during his White Sox career and he deserves some security for the next few years. As far as Yolmer goes, that decision was made primarily because he was due to make $6.2 million in arbitration. Even though he’s fresh off of winning a Gold Glove, defense is about the only value he provides to the team, unless you count being a clubhouse guy/Gatorade showers.
The White Sox could’ve easily been OK with paying Yolmer the $6.2 million, because they still aren’t committed to a high payroll as of now, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they did that. However, with Madrigal being ready to take over second base in the not-so-distant future, it didn’t make sense to pay Yolmer to ride the bench. The team also has Danny Mendick, who can contribute much more offensively than Sánchez, and while he’s not a Gold Glove-caliber defender, he is solid defensively and can play multiple positions. Mendick is a perfect fit to hold it down at second base while Madrigal finishes up his development in Triple-A. Barring any surprise trades or signings, I would expect Mendick to take that job for now.
So what happens next? Well, the White Sox are off to a good start this winter, but their work isn’t even close to being done. Grandal was a great signing, but they still need to add more. We know the White Sox are once again in the mix with a lot of free agents, but this time around it feels a little different. They’ve made some noise early, and it finally seems like the front office is ready to shift their focus towards winning and being more competitive. They’ve already shown the willingness to outbid other teams and set the market for certain players, and hopefully they will continue to do that with their other targets.
The AL Central is the worst division in baseball right now. With a few more moves and the arrival of some of the highly-touted prospects, the White Sox could potentially be in the heat of a divisional race for most of next year. At the very least, there should be significant improvement, and the team might be able to squeeze their way into a wild card spot. A lot would have to go right for the White Sox to be fighting for the playoffs in 2020, but for now, at least the team is closing the book on the rebuild and is ready to start winning.
Boom town: It was a successful season, with an explosive ending, in Charlotte. (Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)
The Knights were overall a much better team than last season, as their hitters took full advantage of the MLB ball in Triple-A. It took until the final day for the Knights to be eliminated from playoff contention, in a 75-64 season.
The International League saw 2,440 home runs this season, compared to 1,555 last year, an 885 home run difference. The Knights went from hitting 103 homers and allowing 113 in 2018 to hitting 208 and allowing 203 in 2019. This really made some hitters look fantastic all across Triple-A, but it honestly did ruin some pitchers as well. Unfortunately, some of those pitchers were on the Sox.
Since the Knights were basically the White Sox bench, I am going to stick with evaluating strictly prospects, so sorry to players like Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, and basically the entire Knights outfield that started in Charlotte. Also, if any players started with the Sox and were sent down, sorry, but you also miss the cut.
Started the year with the Knights
A few players started the year with the Knights but did not play that much due to injury, or in one case, a trade. Spencer Adams and Ian Hamilton both had lost seasons due to injury, and seemed to be affected by the new baseball. Adams only threw 18 innings before leaving for the season, and they weren’t good. He lost his starting spot and he pushed himself out of any prospect hype. Hamilton had just an awful year on and off the mound. He missed the beginning of the season due to a car crash. He was not very good when he was on the mound for Charlotte, and then got hurt again off the mound (hit in the face from a foul ball in the dugout, Hamilton required surgery for multiple facial fractures). Jordan Stephens was not good, got hurt, and the Sox just cut him loose, leaving Cleveland to scoop him up off of waivers. Yeah, not great for these three former top prospects.
There was positive movement for Knights prospects as well. Chief among them is Dylan Cease, though his same struggles that have been blatant in MLB were also there in Triple-A. Cease had trouble in the first inning, and usually had one big-run inning, before settling down. He only pitched 68 1/3 innings with a 4.48 ERA, but his stuff is so good that people should believe he will be better next season. Carson Fulmer can be considered in this category still, but I won’t waste much time on him. Fulmer clearly was better this season than any of his other: His strikeout rate was higher and his pitches moved more and faster, but the results aren’t there. Sadly, 2020 might be a last gasp for the former first round pick to make an MLB team (until the Houston Astros or Los Angeles Dodgers get him and turn him into an ace or a high-leverage arm in the bullpen, like they’ll do with Dylan Covey).
Zach Thompson, a reliever, also started the year with the Knights, but he also had a weird cameo in Birmingham, in my opinion, it was for no reason. Thompson struggled mightily in Charlotte, along with multiple other young arms. He had a 5.50 ERA. How? Although his strikeout and walk numbers were fine, Thompson allowed 1.92 HR/9. He is also on the older side and wasn’t selected in the Rule 5 draft last offseason, so the prospect chops on Thompson are probably off.
It was a bit better on the hitting side. There were no season-ending injuries of note, but also not a lot of prospect promotion until September call-ups. Catchers Zack Collins and Seby Zavala both earned promotions before September, but did not inspire while in Chicago. Collins was much better in Triple-A after he was demoted. He finished the MiLB year with a 170 wRC+ with a 16.1% BB-rate and just a 19.9% K-rate, which is fantastic for him. He showed his normal pop and that bump at the end of the season in Charlotte was why he found his way back to the majors in September. Collins has not been overwhelmingly good but his approach is much better. He still needs to swing more often, but that should be work done in the offseason. Zavala had a down year on all counts, and was not even called up for September. His power was good, but the bat-to-ball skills were not as impressive and his K-rate skyrocketed. He could still be in the mix as a catcher for the future, but his prospect shine has definitely decreased. What is saving him is defense, which Collins sorely lacks behind the dish. But with an automated strike zone seemingly on the way, how much will framing matter in the future?
Danny Mendick was one of the rare players on Charlotte who stayed the entire season. Weirdly enough, the MLB ball did not really have a great affect on the utility infielder. His ISO only rose from .148 in 2018 to .166 in 2019, but he put together a solid, not great, season for the Knights nonetheless. Mendick’s batting average rose significantly compared to last season, jumping by 32 points while his plate discipline was still great. The K-rate barely rose, about .2% to just 17.2%, which is a good rate for a contact hitter. Mendick’s walk rate also rose, this time about 1% to 11.8%, which is good especially because it rose from his Double-A rates. Mendick probably does not have the hitting and defensive potential to be an everyday MLB starter, which may be why he stayed in Charlotte the entire season when older players like Ryan Goins got promotions instead of him. Nevertheless, Mendick has had some success with the Sox since his September promotion. It seems to be down to him or Yolmer Sánchez for the 2020 backup infield position.
The Promoted Players
This is where the fun begins, as Anakin Skywalker would say. The prospects who were promoted to Charlotte are far and away the best of the bunch, as well as a couple notable lower prospects as well. But let’s start with the best of them, Luis Robert.
Robert is an elite talent and has prospect rankings that show it. He is the No. 3 overall prospect from Baseball America, 19th on FanGraphs, and fifth on MLB Pipeline. Across all three levels, Robert slashed .328/.376/.624 with 32 home runs and 36 stolen bases. He showed just about every single tool a player could; he even had seven outfield assists from center field and played a part in two double plays, and we have all seen videos like the one below of him flying and diving for a catch.
While we all know Robert’s strengths, and the videos and stats confirm how great he is, he does have things to work on. The ability to walk has become very important to White Sox fans lately, and it does not seem like Robert will help that much. He walked in about 5% of his plate appearances and had a K-rate around 23%. That plate discipline isn’t great, but he really wasn’t challenged much in MiLB so his approach could change. If it does not, he could be in for a very slow start for his MLB career.
The other top guy to be promoted was 2018 first round selection Nick Madrigal. Like Robert he also had two promotions this season, and slashed .311/.377/.414 among the three levels. Madrigal didn’t show much power, but he did at least hit homers this season — four in total, but power will never be a part of his game. Madrigal is a slappy hitter who does have the ability to drive the ball into the gaps. That’s why he had 27 doubles and five triples this year, but BABIP will be an important indicator of his success at the plate. Madrigal also had 35 stolen bases in 2019. But the real calling card for Madrigal is his defense, and for a team that generally doesn’t have very good infield defense, his fielding ability is important. Errors aren’t everything, especially in the infield, but Madrigal only committed four in 932 1/3 innings at second base. Outlets like MLB Pipeline have also surmised that he could be a Gold Glove second baseman once he arrives in Chicago.
The other three promoted players of note are led by fan favorite Yermín Mercedes. The MLB ball certainly agreed with his bat, as Mercedes’ ISO from Double-A at .170 rose to .337 in Triple-A. He hit better than .300 at both levels and also had a BB-rate of more than 10% as well. Mercedes strikes out at a good rate, but good things always seemed to happen when he got the barrel of the bat on the ball. His hit tool seems to be undeniable at this point, but Mercedes has no position. He has been placed at catcher for most of his career, but is not a very good one. He is not athletic enough to move to other positions, and probably is not tall enough to be a first baseman. Mercedes did not get the call for more at-bats in Chicago this season, so the organization does not seem too keen on his abilities, but his bat does seem to be legit. He just needs a chance to show he belongs on a roster somewhere.
The other two are both relievers, Matt Foster and Hunter Schryver. Foster started in Birmingham and left fairly quickly, after 9 2/3 shutout innings. With the Knights, the MLB ball did seem to take a toll on Foster because of a professional high of 1.47 HR/9, but he still had a 3.76 ERA. Foster has a mid- to high-90s fastball, and did have good strikeout numbers (27.7%) and a fine walk rate (8.5%). Schyver also started in Birmingham, and stayed a bit longer. The ball seemed to really affect him. With the Barons, Schyver went from a 2.77 ERA in Birmingham with .37 HR/9 and an 8.5% BB-rate. In his 13 1/3 innings, his walk rate rose to 17.4%, the HR/9 went up to 1.32, and he had an 8.56 ERA. It was a disaster, but the lefty is still somebody to watch; he just needs to get used to the new ball.
Triple-A has become a more important stepping-stone MiLB level because of the different baseball. It made a lot of pitchers worse, and made some hitters look fantastic. It is still too early to decide what improvements or bad performances are simply due to the ball, but the Knights did take enough of an advantage to be in a playoff hunt until the last day. And hey, Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal looked great while on the cusp of the majors, which is probably the best takeaway of the season.
Daphne Moon, housekeeper and physical therapist to Fraiser Crane’s father, Martin, is in the kitchen when she hears loud, exuberant noises at the front door. She approaches as the door opens and Martin Crane and his son Niles enter with big smiles on their faces. They are both covered in Mariners hats and jerseys. Niles is casually tossing a baseball and then strikes a less than imposing pitcher’s windup pose as Martin pretends to snap a picture.
Daphne: Oh, look at you two, now! Have a swell time at the ball field? See any touchdowns did ye?
Martin: Daph, it’s home runs! Not touchdowns! Anyway, Niles! Tell Daph all about the game! Niles here won a contest and was the Fan of the Game! He even got to throw out the first pitch after they let that Asian fella talk forever before the game!
M: Gesundheit! [canned laughter]
NIles [laughs]: Aw… shucks Dad. You know, I don’t like to brag… but I’d like to say the fact the Mariners were able to perform and find the strength within to outlast those ruffians from Chicago named after…[shudders] common feet coverings, likely purchased at the local Gas ‘n Go… Anyway, evidently, in baseball, if a score remains tied after each team has batted nine times… well, it’s quite wonderful really…I believe they are called…
Frasier Crane bursts into the room, fuming: EXTRA… INNINGS!? You get more of the most insufferable, detestable, horribly dull way to spend a splendid September evening! And even when we were mercifully about to be spared another infernal two hours of this nonsense when [snaps his fingers] ah yes, the young player Omar swatted the ball over the fence, ending the game… the Colonel Sanders aficionado in the Chicago dugout asked the men in charge to review the play?! How is that even allowed! I have a right mind to write a sternly worded letter to the commissioner….[Frasier pours himself a glass of sherry, downs it in one gulp, then pours another. He’s about to continue his diatribe when Daphne interjects]
D: Oh come now Mr. Crane… don’t be a spoilsport… [to Niles] Alright then! Tell me all about your wonderful night at the Field Pitch!
N: Right then! [Grabs the unfinished Sherry from Frasier’s hand, takes a sip as Frasier rolls his eyes and huffs away to the balcony] So, evidently, The Mariners hurler is called “The King,” and my goodness you should have seen him throw that ol’ pill around! Those Chicago batsmen had nary a chance to make Sir Felix sweat!
F: Oh yes, that was certainly one of the more pleasurable memories I shall take away from this travesty of an evening, at least both pitchers were courteous enough to quickly dispatch the other team’s batters with ruthless efficiency! Even the young man from Chicago, Dylan Cease, he was able to keep up with Felix, getting 5 strike-ins…
M: [rolls eyes] Strike-outs Fraise…
F: Oh will you be quiet! It was enough having to watch you hoot and holler with all these yokels in the 4th inning…Yes, yes, they had the bases loaded and certainly wanted to score plenty of points… but you didn’t have to throw popcorn at me like the others when I cheered for Mr. Cease when he moved the game along by striking…[pause] out the last batter!
N: This is my story Frasier! Maybe if you could have gotten the least bit excited when that Long fellow sent that ball deep into the night, a night as dark as Henry Longfellow [chuckles to himself] described in Paul Revere’s Ride!
M: But can you believe that dummy Dee Gordon?! He had that double play ball in the 7th! And he flipped it slowly to second, not giving enough time to complete the back half of the play and let the Sox tie it up! What was up with that?!
[Frasier and Niles look back at Martin, unsure on how to proceed]
M: Never mind…. ok, Niles. Wrap it up will ya?? I wanna take you down to the policeman’s bar and get you to use that baseball signed by Ichiro to buy us rounds all night long!
N: [beaming with pride] Ok… Pop! Well, Daphne, the game was tied… my attention started to wane a bit, I must admit… evidently, one of the nefarious White Stockings is allowed to expose his entire muscular right arm as he pitches to our team! I believe I heard a young woman shout “I LOVE YOU JIMMY BICEPS!”… most likely a deeply inebriated Chicagoan female…
F: This is dragging on longer than the fifth encore at the local performance of Titus Andronicus we watched at the symphony last week!
[Eddie, smelling a wayward uneaten piece of hot dog in Frasier’s coat pocket, grabs the jacket and runs off to the bedroom]
F: EDDIE! NO! THAT JACKET IS A CUSTOM MADE RUBINACCI! BAD DOG! [Frasier chases the dog into the bedroom]
N: [softly chuckles] I found that piece of “meat” on the ground as we walked out of the stadium! I snuck it into his pocket, that’s what he deserves after sullying my good night… Fortunately, the aforementioned Omar Narváez, who quite ironically, was facing the pitcher the very same Chicagoans had exchanged for him. He took a mighty swing and sent a floating curvey, spinny ball over the fence…although yes, for a split second they were required by rule to take a further review, to ensure against any potential malfeasance, and they ruled in the Mariners favor!
Twas the Mariners with 2 scores and the White Hosierys with but 1! Oh, Daphne, we must go! [To Martin] Ok, Dads! Lets go live it up!
[Frasier exits the bedroom, his jacket in tatters]
F: I should have stayed at Cheers…
[Hey Baby I hear the blues a callin…. Tossed salads and scrambled eggs….that’s right!]
IS THIS YOUR KING?!?! Its an age old battle of the New Guard taking on the Old Dying Kingdom as Dylan Cease takes on the “Bad King” Felix Hernandez. (Credit: CColePhotography)
We’ve got another late night in front of us fellow Midwesterners, but if last night’s (and this morning’s) effort from the White Sox offense is any indication, there might be enough fireworks to justify another Red-Bull fueled live-watch as the Sox go for two in a row against the Emerald City Mariners.
Thanks to the barnacle that is Dylan Covey’s death rattle of a start, it took four (!) of the teams more reliable bullpen arms to bleed a five-run lead down to a one-run sliver of a cushion. Thank goodness the Red-handed Bandit (Hey Wilzy! Got another shirt idea for ya!) came in to add some much needed space for Colome in the 9th:
Tonight, Dylan Cease (#84, 23, RHP, 3-7, 6.53) hopes to get some of that sweet run support that he so very much needs as he faces the Mariners for the first time in his career (here’s hoping we repeat that sentence for as many years as it takes to get to the other 29!). Our Ace-in-Training has sandwiched a meaty and savory 11-K performance in Cleveland between the moldy, green-speckled bread of two not so delicious outings against the Twins and Angels. Let’s hope he can find a way past his first-inning woes as he’s facing a Seattle team that is 2-8 in their last 10 games, so if there was any time for Dylan to get a chance to take it to the West Coast version of the 2016 White Sox, tonight could be a very special night!
His opponent is…. woof… apparently it is the hulled-out husk that once was the most dominant pitcher in the Pacific Northwest, Felix Hernandez (#34, 33, RHP, 1-6, 6.96). Let’s check on how he fared against the Astros… Um.. er…
Yikes… the Bad King has been practically unwatchable for the past 2 seasons, and 2019 hasn’t been much better. His last two starts lasted a combined five innings, including a line against Houston that is rather Covey-esque (2 IP, 7 H, 11 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 1 K). Now no one will confuse the Sox offense as a comparable one to the Astros…. but we took the season series against those chumps so I guess Felix will give up 20 to the Sox tonight… (Fingers crossed!)
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that prior to the game tonight, the Mariners will be honoring perhaps one of the greatest foreign-born MLB player in the modern era (or even any era really), Ichiro Suzuki. The one and true hit king officially retired after the Mariners first two games of the 2019 season were played in Japan back in Spring Training. As proof of his Baseball Sainthood, here’s a clip of him doing something that would lead to a broken face to 99.7% of the rest of Earth’s population:
Lineups! Get your Lineups!
The Mariners were so considerate, they gave me this lovely tweet that saves me the trouble of posting two separate lineups. I should send y’all a Hi Mom shirt…
Game time is 8:10 PM CST (oh boy! A whole hour sooner than yesterday!) and with Jason Benetti off doing one of his 36 other gigs for other four-lettered networks, the completely capable and easy to listen to Andy Masur will step into the booth again, this time on NBC Sports Chicago. As always, WGN 720 AM is your spot for your radio listening pleasure. I have a special treat for the recap, so all I’ll say about that is: “Go ahead caller, I’m listening.”
Seriously, drink a Red Bull or two… it’ll be worth it.
“All the Single Base Hits: Now put your bats up!” (Dylan Cease Remix feat. Beyoncé & Weird Al Yankovic) (Clinton Cole/South Side Hit Pen)
In the seventh and final game of this homestand hosting both former Washington Senators clubs, Dylan Cease got a introduction to Ozzie Guillén’s nemesis “Los Pirañas,” who jumped out to a 4-0 first inning lead, and the Senators Ver. 1.0 swept the Southside Nine by a score of 10-5.
The Twins, bored of bashing homers and clubbing opponents into submission, decided to torture poor Cease by flipping the script, starting the game with five consecutive singles and jumping out to an early 2-0 lead. Cease nearly got out of the jam by pulling a Buehrle and snagging a Jake Cave ground ball between his legs, pirouetting, and doing this:
Unfortunately, the Sox needed one more out to stop the bleeding and up came C. J. Cron to deliver (what else?) a single to center field, and the Good Guys were down 4-0 before José Berríos had a chance to teach Dylan a thing or two.
Cease picked up where he left off in the second inning, giving up single number seven, then a walk (Twins fatigue from all those swings I guess), and then Mighty Nelson Cruz bowed his neck and SMASHED poked a grounder up the box which Dylan graciously deflected past Yolmer into center field for a two-run (all together now…) single, the eighth consecutive to start the game.
Suddenly realizing they were dragging this game along, the Twins returned to form and led off the third inning with back-to-back jacks from the Law Offices of Cron & Cave (You Need My Mang!) and Ricky finally got the hint and pulled Dylan from the first complete butt-whooping of his Sox career. It was the first time this year that Cease did not stay in the game for at least five innings.
The Good Guys offense (yeah, they were allowed to hit in-between the downpour of singles) was not much to write about for the first four innings. Two frames ended on double plays, in addition to squandering a runners-on-second-and-third-base opportunity in the fourth inning — as Berríos struck out Yoán Moncada and James McCann to end the threat.
Finally, in the fifth, Chicago got to see the Berríos that got roughed up by the Detroit Tigers. The Sox led off with three straight hits resulting in a Yolmer Sánchez single that cut the lead to 9-1 Twins (baby steps, OK?)
However, the South Siders’ crippling lack of depth arrived as Adam Engel (strikeout), Leury García (fielder’s choice, catching Yolmer in a pickle), and Goins (4-3 GO) could not keep the line moving despite some #WILDPITCHOFFENSE chipping the lead further, to 9-2.
Despite the wonderfully refreshing optimism on the gamethread exuding from my colleague Ashley Sanders, the rest of the game flowed as blowouts often do: Jimmy “Gun Show” Cordero pitches (👎🏽), Eloy RBI single (!), Cave homers (again), Hector Santiago reminds the Sox why he was available for the third time (3 IP, 1 HR, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K), Goins hits the third inning-ending double play for the Sox, singles were hit by both teams, Jorge Polanco played the role of the absent Tim Anderson and booted two grounders in the ninth inning, and mercifully, the Sox committed the final three outs necessary to end a regulation length, nine-inning game, losing to the Twins 10-5.
Woof. That was as they say in the business: “A Rough One”. In a direct rebuke of the Year of the Long Ball, there were a whopping 28 combinedhits and (whips out my old TI-83 calculator) 21 SINGLES in this game. The Sox get minor kudos for at least putting up a fight, scaring this writer into thinking a flood of ninth-inning runs would have scrapped this whole recap entirely.
But, a sweep is what the Sox deserved today and it’s probably for the best that they skip town for a while. By the time the team returns next Friday, the Bears will (hopefully) be 1-0 and (mega, super duper hopefully) a certain Cuban outfielder will come back with the Sox as well. The Sox fall to 60-73 and the Twins keep pace with Cleveland and go to 82-51.
Thanks again, and we will see you back here at South Side Hit Pen for tomorrow night’s tilt against the Atlanta Braves! Game time is 6:05 PM CT, and Janice Scurio will provide more great Sox coverage for you and the kids.
Before the Sox hop on a charter flight to the ATL, Dylan Cease will take his electric arm and do battle against the vaunted Twins lineup for the second time at Guaranteed Rate Field. In his last two starts, Cease has 15 strikeouts against two walks in 11 innings pitched.
Dylan’s last outing versus the Rangers was the best of his young Sox career, with a pretty line of 6 IP/4 H/3 ER/1 BB/9 K and a career-high game score of 60! Since this is a school night, Dylan’s mom wants him in before the street lights come on, so Ricky obliged and Dylan will make his seventh day game start out of 10 appearances this season.
On the hill for the Twinkies is José Berrios (10-7, 3.53 ERA), facing the Sox for the fourth time in 2019. So far he is 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA and 3.75 FIP in three starts (out of 13 runs he’s given up, only five have been earned). The 17/1 K-to-BB ratio shows the Sox have relied on poor defense behind José to account for the majority of their success against him this season.
However, the month of August has not been kind to Jose, as he’s 0-2 in four starts. His last two appearances were abysmal performances to the Rangers and then the Tigers (?) at home (?!). Maybe the Sox will have caught Berrios at the right time and he can get an early start on setting his playlist for the Twins flight after the game.
Will the Sox be able to avoid getting swept as a heavy underdog? Let’s find out together, shall we?! You can find the TV broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago or if the soothing tones of Farmio and DJ are your thing, set your radio dial to WGN 720 AM. Game time is 1:10 PM.
Yours truly will be back after the game with a followed-by-MLB-AtBat-from-work recap! Go White Sox! #FreeLuisRobert!