White Sox 3, Rays 2: Jake Burger delivers in a pinch

Entering the eighth inning, I planned on recycling/updating the headline from Friday’s game and applying it to his post: “Big hit still elusive as skid reaches five.” They trailed 2-0 because Dylan Cease didn’t get enough help from everybody around him, including an offense that swung itself out of every potential rally.

And “potential rally” even overstates the threat, because the White Sox only had three at-bats with runners in scoring position all day.

They did go 1-for-3, though, and that “1” was the aforementioned elusive big hit, as Jake Burger hit a pinch-hit two-run shot off Jalen Beeks for a three-spot in the top of the eighth that held up to end that losing streak at four.

Tony La Russa, who entered the game 26th out of 30 managers in using pinch hitters, deployed his bench aggressively in that inning, and it delivered.

First, Adam Engel stepped in for Gavin Sheets against lefty reliever Brooks Raley and won a full-count battle by dropping a blooper in between short and left field for a double, and while Yasmani Grandal followed with a strikeout, Danny Mendick muscled his own flare to right field for an RBI single that cut the deficit in half.

That’s when Kevin Cash went back to the bullpen to call for another lefty in Beeks to face Reese McGuire. Tony La Russa pinch-hit with Burger, even though it cost him the DH (although one might argue there isn’t much of a drop-off between Grandal and a pitcher there). The proactive move was rewarded when Beeks elevated an 0-1 changeup so that it played like an ordinary high sinker, and Burger treated it as such by launching it over the wall in left center for the White Sox’s first lead of the series.

The White Sox then had to hold it, and while Kendall Graveman immediately found trouble because nobody is allowed to retire Yandy Diaz, he was able to work out of a first-and-third, one-out scenario. First he struck out Vidal Brujan, and while he walked Brett Phillips in the midst of an 0-for-21, 15-strikeout slump, he rallied to retire Isaac Paredes on a groundout to short by the slimmest of margins. Mendick had to charge the chopper and get rid of it as quickly as possible, and he couldn’t afford a millisecond’s delay.

Fortunately, Liam Hendriks made much easier work of the ninth, getting a popout and two strikeouts for the save.

The late rally got Dylan Cease off the hook. Cease’s line was bizarre (4.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 7 BB, 5 K), although it was partially a product of a super-tight strike zone. Cease lost about a half-dozen borderline-or-better strikes while getting no pitches outside the zone in return, which extended at-bats long enough for him to labor into his own trouble.

He had particular problems with two outs, as four of his seven walks came in such situations. He issued his final one to Manuel Margot that put runners on first and second, and when Diaz’s grounder to first took a strange hop of Abreu and deflected off thigh into left field (again, Diaz must reach base), the Rays finally took a 1-0 lead. Aaron Bummer relieved him, but he gave up an opposite-field single to lefty Ji-Man Choi to make it a 2-0 ballgame.

Meanwhile, Drew Rasmussen cruised the way talented right-handed starters often do against the White Sox. He allowed just three hits and a walk over seven innings, and while he only struck out two, it limited him to just 81 pitches on the night. He hadn’t even pitched into the seventh this year, much less completed one, and while Rasmussen retired his last seven, the contact had risen in exit velocity, which is why Kevin Cash might’ve felt the need to pull Rasmussen despite the results. Whatever the reason, the White Sox expressed their gratitude.

Bullet points:

*Mendick continues to buy time for Tim Anderson, going 2-for-3 with a couple of strong defensive plays from the eighth spot.

*Yoán Moncada also took extra bases away from Randy Arozarena with a slick sliding pick on a grounder inside third base.

*Grandal drew the lone White Sox walk in the fifth inning. Rasmussen didn’t gain any extra strikes himself, but the Sox didn’t let the umpire decide as many of them.

*Diaz is 2-for-3 with five walks over the first two games, and he reached on the Abreu error on the one allegedly unsuccessful at-bat.

*Minnesota and Cleveland both lost, so the White Sox are back within five games of first place, and a half-game out of second.

Record: 24-27 | Box score | Statcast

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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chipporter

“I planned on recycling/updating the headline from Friday’s game “

Quick question, do you also recycle the paper bag?

Last edited 26 days ago by chipporter
rugbysox

If anyone still has Grandal on their fantasy team, you are the most patient person in the world

Last edited 26 days ago by rugbysox
a-t

A win is nice. I’m glad that Hendriks has spent his well-rested week working on the breaking ball, if nothing else.

Second base needs to be addressed somehow. Leury’s OBP is now under .200. Ironically, his xSLG is actually over .400 (.412) for the first time in any season besides the month he played of the 2020 one. He’s elevating the ball. That’s the problem: with the dead ball, him elevating the ball means easy outs, not wall-scraping homers. The dead ball does not seem to be affecting all hitters equally. Contact hitters– with a few exceptions– are suffering quite a bit, while the elite power hitters like Judge, Stanton, etc. are barely affected.

The 80-grade pop guys have their majestic blasts going merely 440 instead of 460 feet, while their shorter homers are screaming line drives (~17-20 degree LA) and thus inherently much less affected in distance lost than high fly ball homers. So they aren’t suffering much. The contact hitters are much more affected, because their wall-scrapers and doubles in the gap are instead fly ball outs.

It’s not just the White Sox swinging noodles; guys like Whit Merrifield, Nicky Lopez, Jake Cronenworth, Ozzie Albies, and Alex Verdugo are also seeing their production drop a huge amount. The contact hitters that are performing well– Luis Arraez, TA7, Benintendi, Yandy Diaz, Jeff McNeil– are doing so largely because they’ve all (1) very noticeably improved their plate discipline and (2) ofc have high BABIPs. Statcast thinks that the high BABIP is basically a mirage (BAs much much higher than xBAs) for all but TA and McNeil, who are also above but not by as much.

The White Sox’ problem right now is not just that their non-TA7 contact hitters (Leury, Harrison, McGuire, Pollock) are now completely punchless, but also that several of their power hitters are either 1) simply badly out of sorts at the plate (Moncada, Sheets) or 2) not currently physically capable of producing their usual pop (Eloy, Grandal). Robert, Vaughn, Burger, and Abreu, who all have 60 to 70 grade raw pop, are producing basically as expected by wRC+. The guys with below-average pop that are unplayable outside of Mendick, who is “producing” bc he’s running what Statcast thinks is an entirely unsustainable BABIP.

So to recap: the Sox this offseason became a more contact-oriented team, because it was a perceived weakness, and the new ball has made that a thoroughly bad idea. Don’t expect much of a rebound from the contact hitters for this year, don’t have Grandal try and gut it through his leg-rebuilding process, and don’t trade for high-contact but low-pop hitters.

ParisSox

Interesting take. Thank you.

a-t

Well, yes and no for me. Frazier is very likely not going to have the high-ish BABIP 115 wRC+ 3.5 WAR performance he put up last year. But his plate discipline is a lot better than say Leury’s, which is why his production is decreased, but not unplayable and thus still a big upgrade. The other reason that he would still be an option is that there are very few 2B in the league who *aren’t* victimized by the new ball for the same reasons as Frazier, Harrison, and Leury, so there are not many 2B both worth trading for and available. Even Ozzie Albies is getting crushed by the dead ball. It looks like the best option that will be available is Brandon Drury, with a second tier of Cesar (lol) and Frazier.

HallofFrank

I’m glad they won, obviously, but there’s something dour in only winning because Engel, Mendick, and Burger strung together hits. It feels like… “so this is our offense now, I guess?”

soxygen

For a couple of innings there we had our best outfield defense playing (Pollock in LF, Robert in CF, and Engel in RF).

Last edited 26 days ago by soxygen
shaggy65

Mendick might not be the 2B the White Sox deserve, but he might just be the 2B that they need right now

Shingos Cheeseburgers

In an otherwise clunker of a season seeing Jake Burger become a cromulemt major leaguer is a pleasant surprise