This rebuild thing — it might just work!
June is only about a third over, but, hey, the Chicago White Sox have won six of 10 in the month. And those six wins haven’t come in some slap-ass games with the fellow friendless like the Kansas City Royals or Baltimore Orioles. Chicago opened the month taking two of three from the best team in the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers. And after a fairly unimpeachable 5-2 win at Fenway Park over the Boston Red Sox — until the White Sox came to town, the best team in all of baseball — things are looking up for our Not Ready for Prime Time Players.
Reynaldo López beat the heralded Rick Porcello, pitching well enough to knock off a playoff team, on a getaway day, in its home park. In other words, with 6 1⁄3 innings, six hits, two runs (one earned), three walks, six Ks and a 60 game score, López pitched pretty well, and outpitched a former Cy Young winner. We’re firmly in reliable territory now with the young López, the first of this season’s staff to ascend.
And, OK, there’s been a little debate about the relative value of Tim Anderson on our pages of late. As someone in the TA camp, if he’d sombreroed it today with an E, yeah, I’d make some sassy mention of his falling stock or whatever.
But today, on the second anniversary (second, not fifth or sixth) of his call-up to the White Sox, he was not only the cog in the lineup the White Sox need Anderson to be, but a hustle star, so you’re gonna have to read a couple of victory laps here, folks.
Anderson was 0-for-2 with two whiffs, but he also bagged two walks, which, if you’re Frank Thomas, no horns sound or confetti drops. But when you’re Tim Anderson, a guy who last year had, uh, trouble ... walking ... that in itself is sweet.
But examine the walks. The first came in the third, with the score tied, 1-1. The sacks were packed, with two out. Now, Porcello sort of handed him the walk by running the count 3-0, but at 3-1, TA didn’t pull the trigger on a close pitch up and in — so close, it actually nipped some plate. Anderson swings there, it’s almost a guaranteed out, a likely double play, and a good chance his bat ends up in the graveyard. Instead, the White Sox took the lead, 2-1.
In the sixth, Anderson walked to lead off, the White Sox still up, 2-1. Here, TA earned his free pass, going down 0-2 and fighting back for a seven-pitch walk, with ball four quite low and away — but it wasn’t a pitch the young shortstop has never chased before. After a debatable, first-pitch sac bunt from Charlie Tilson (if you gotta bunt with no outs in the sixth on the road in Fenway Park with your starter gassed and a bullpen not yet earning the right to skip purchasing supplemental insurance on a game-by-game basis, Ricky, please at least have Tilson drag that mofo in hopes of going first and second, the man’s got some sweet wheels!), Anderson made what was truly the play of the game by scoring on a ground out. From second base. TA read the play and saw Porcello stumble over first base on his putout, and didn’t hesitate, scoring rather easily. Anderson’s hustle play was the eventual winning run in the game.
In the field, where TA is considerably more maligned, he ended the fifth inning with a delightful assist, bankhanding an Xavier Bogaerts grounder in the hole and pegging a powerful throw, across his body but on line and on the fly, to Matt Davidson at first as Bogaerts helped the cause by Chet Lemoning a dive into first base to beat the throw. Oh, and Sandy Leon was on third base with the tying run at the time.
There were other heroes.
Daniel Palka Bamm-Bammed an 0-2 oppo double to score two insurance runs in the top of the ninth (although, to be fair, the Nick Capra Fantastic Exploding Third Base Coaching Machine almost struck again; he sent José Abreu for the second run, and the relay throw from behind second base beat him, but Leon made a bad read on it and the ball handcuffed him) and was 2-for-5 on the day.
Yoán Moncada had an error in the seventh that let Boston creep to within 3-2, but his hustle in the ninth on a grounder that ricocheted off of pitcher Matt Barnes turned into a two-out infield hit on replay overturn, keeping the inning alive for Palka’s clout.
Matt Davidson made a nice peg on a slow roller with one out in the second, nailing Rafael Devers at the plate and keeping the score tied, 1-1. Otherwise he was 0-for-4 with four Ks and desperately needs some alternate medicine for that back:
Omar Narváez had some fab blocking by on the Davidson play, and has awoken from pre-Kevan Smith slumber with a 2-for-4 day, despite leaving four on base.
Abreu was all over the bases, with a 1-for-2 day and two walks, an RBI, two runs and a K. He also hit is 625th double (OK, 25th) of the season.
And, finally, plaudits for the back end of the bullpen, which saw López burn through 96 pitches to get 19 outs, and stepped up once more: Jace Fry, 1 1⁄3 innings, hit, K; Joakim Soria, eighth save, one inning, walk, two Ks. (Nate Jones managed a line out, HBP and walk in his brief appearance and will go sans plaudits.)
With the win, the White Sox now have as many winning months (two) as losing ones this season. This month, the starter’s ERA is 3.18, and the bullpen has been even better this month: A 2.08 ERA, 2.73 K/BB and .923 WHIP.
Somewhat rashly, I was pro-White Sox pen heading into the season, but a combination of very short starts by the rotation and, well, the bullpen sucking, made my gut feeling go sour. But boy, with the starters doing their share by getting into at least the seventh inning of games, the bullpen is really starting to shape up.
And now, this:
It seems Yolmer Sánchez is no better versed at the high-five line than he is Gatorade soaks. What would we do without him?
Still-disabled Miguel González, the apparent victim of Yolmer’s wandering glove, surely is making a note to strap on the cup for future high-five lines.
After I put the word out on Twitter, I got several clips of the mischief, including this, from Dan Johnson: