White Sox 3, Twins 1: Learning while winning

Usually losses are the games that offer the most valuable lessons. Tonight, the White Sox learned a lot of loss-like lessons from what turned out to be a satisfying win.

Lesson No. 1: Trying to post zeroes after putting the leadoff man aboard is a hard way to live.

The Twins reached base to start the first six innings, and not all on their own:

  1. Single
  2. Ground-rule double
  3. Double
  4. Walk
  5. Walk
  6. Double

The Twins managed to only score one run out of all this, when Dylan Cease’s leadoff walk of Ehire Adrianza came around to score on a two-out single by Jorge Polanco. Cease was one pitch from getting out of the inning, but he threw a second low fastball when Yasmani Grandal wanted one high, and he paid there.

Lesson No. 2: So is walking the bottom of the order.

Cease walked five batters (one intentional) over four innings. Codi Heuer and Gio González walked two apiece, and Alex Colomé added one to get to double digits.

Most annoying was their inability to pitch to the No. 9 hitter Adrianza, whose leadoff double in the third inning apparently scared the White Sox into walking him his other three times up to bat. That created a lot of traffic for the heart of the Minnesota order, and that’s usually the way ballgames against the Twins get out of hand.

Lesson No. 3: The Twins probably won’t strand 15 again.

The Twins went 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position. One of those hits was the aforementioned Polanco single, and the other was a Josh Donaldson grounder that Tim Anderson stopped behind second base, which prevented the go-ahead run from scoring in the sixth. Evan Marshall came in to replace Heuer and struck out Nelson Cruz to end the bases-loaded threat.

Speaking of which…

Lesson No. 4: Nelson Cruz is mortal.

Granted, the White Sox probably won’t want to face him with the bases loaded the rest of the series after doing so twice tonight. Nevertheless, while the White Sox appeared to dig their own grave by loading the bases for Minnesota’s biggest bat, they avoided burying themselves.

Cruz went 0-for-4, and he stranded nine by himself. Cease got him to ground into an inning-ending double play with two on in the third, Marshall got him to swing over a changeup for strike three in the sixth, and after González and Colomé teamed up to walk the bases loaded all after two outs, Colomé induced a harmless grounder to short on the first pitch.

Again, I wouldn’t recommend deploying this strategy until Cruz’s 50th birthday, but maybe White Sox pitchers will face him with confidence when necessary knowing that he can be beat.

Lesson No. 5: The White Sox still have work to do against right-handed pitching.

While the White Sox’s pitching stresses were more pronounced, the Twins didn’t have it easy themselves. José Berríos only recorded one 1-2-3 inning, working around six singles, a walk and a hit batter over five innings while striking out two. That walk — of the leadoff variety to Yoán Moncada — came around to score on a Nick Madrigal blooper inside the line for the game’s first run. The Sox eventually loaded the bases for José Abreu with two outs, but his grounder up the middle found the shift to end the inning.

The White Sox stranded 12 themselves, and while they went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position, they had to wait until the eighth inning for the last two of those hits.

It helped that Rocco Baldelli brought in his left-handed closer Taylor Rogers, and it helped that Rogers walked Moncada and Luis Robert to start the inning (Robert fouled off a few crushable pitches but at least made himself useful).

Adam Engel then came off the bench for Nomar Mazara, fouled off a bunt on the first pitch, and then hinted at a bunt with some pre-pitch motions. The Twins bought the fake and started their wheel play, and Engel pulled the bat back and poked a grounder through the vacated shortstop position for the go-ahead single. Tim Anderson followed by giving Colomé further cushion with a double off the wall to chase Rogers from the game.

In came righty Jorge Alcala, and he struck out Grandal and Abreu to prevent further damage.

Lesson No. 6: Eloy Jiménez needs a defensive caddy.

Colomé did his job in the ninth by getting a pair of weak popouts to Moncada to start the inning. Byron Buxton finally put a good swing on one, resulting in a roped-but-catchable liner to left. Alas, Eloy Jiménez coudn’t track the hook, and the ball glanced off the tip of his glove and stuck underneath the outfield padding.

Jiménez almost yielded his second inside-the-park homer of the year, holding his hands up as Buxton circled the bases, but it’s a reviewable play, and at least Jiménez committed to the ground rule, instead of aborting it halfway through.

In a season with months remaining, it makes sense to play Jiménez nine innings. While driving for the AL Central title and with Jarrod Dyson on the bench, it makes more sense now to pull him when the Sox are leading in the ninth. He might’ve been the first batter due up in the bottom of the ninth, but his misplay would’ve been the reason the Sox needed to hit.

Bullet points:

*This was Cease’s Ceasest start of the season. He actually had all four pitches working for moments, and he induced six swinging strikes, including a punchout of the unpunchable Willans Astudillo to escape a jam. Yet he also threw 99 pitches over 4⅔ innings and got only 10 whiffs on the night.

*Moncada’s walk rate is one of the silver linings of his COVID-compromised season. He drew three more tonight, and two of them turned into runs. He also took away a hit from Astudillo with a fine backhanded play on the line.

*Edwin Encarnación went 0-for-4 with five stranded, and the Twins pitched around Jiménez to get to him in the seventh. His average is down to .168.

*Renteria might reconsider his thought process for left field, but his aggressive deployment of his best relievers to defuse two-out jams and the successful fake bunt with Engel shows that he had a sense of the moment.

*However it happened, this happened:

https://twitter.com/gregsharpcomedy/status/1305733662454026240

*Rick Hahn has his first winning season.

Record: 31-16 | 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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Joist

Totally agree re: Renteria’s aggressive deployment of Marshall, Heuer, et al in earlier innings.

Related: Whose ERA is luckier, Cease’s or Colome’s?

burning-phoneix

Cease’s.

He walks more people, allows more hits and doesn’t strike out as much as Colome.

Brett R. Bobysud

Cease. No question

Eagle Bones

Yep, gotta give credit where it’s due. Good on Ricky for using the best guys to get through the toughest spots. Still kind of felt like he waited too long to get Heuer up in the first place, but I’ll settle for good usage.

shaggy65

#DHMcCann

Edwin is all pop-ups these days. He can’t hit fastballs and he can’t hit breaking balls, so…I guess we can use him against guys with good change-ups? To add insult to injury, McCann actually has really solid numbers against Berrios.

Reminder–if our back-up catcher DH’s, he can still move to catcher if the starter gets injured. The pitcher moves into the lineup and we use a couple pinch hitters (like Edwin!) to finish the game–not the end of the world.

Please, Ricky! Take the plunge!

HallofFrank

I’d like more Engel and less Mazara in the next two weeks. He’s *clearly* been the better offensive player, even against RHP. I’d still want Mazara to get some PAs to see if he can get going, but if he can’t I want Engel ready for the playoffs. I know Mazara’s been decent/good in RF but defensively, but I don’t trust it—especially in the playoffs.

If the Sox are going to get this kind of offensive production from RF, at least let it be from an elite defender who might be able to leg out a few hits.

As Cirensica

Rather than seeing less Mazara in the next weeks, I am inclined not to see him at all. Ever. I read lots of criticism with Encarnacion not producing, and yes, he is not producing what we expected, bu he has produced something. Mazara, on the other hand, is an automatic out, and when he hits, it is of the single variety. Mazara’s K% is higher than Encarnacion and way higher than his career %K. I read Mazara was trying to increase selectivity, and tweak things. I think it is time for him to ditch that approach, and to go back and try to be the 1 fWAR player over 162 games he is.

Today, he looked completely lost at the plate. Struckout looking a strike in the middle of the plate. Hitting the ball in a very uncomfortable fashion for an easy out, and another strikeout on three swings and miss (not even a foul tip).

Adam Engel, with all his shortcomings shuold get the priority to start games. More so in the playoff.

HallofFrank

At this point, I’m only concerned with preparing for the playoffs. As long as Engel gets more PAs for timing and time in RF, he should be ready.

So, I’d still like to see Mazara get some ABs. Let him try to tweak something or whatever. If he continues to flounder, no harm—Engel is the primary RF for the playoffs. But just *maybe* he gets hot or, at least, turns himself into a serviceable pinch hitter for the playoffs.

The bottom line: if he keeps this up, it’s borderline indefensible to start him as the primary RF in the playoffs.

Eagle Bones

Yeah I’d like to see something closer to 50/50 (regardless of pitcher handedness) rather than a straight platoon at this point.

Brett R. Bobysud

I mean…wasn’t the major reason they acquired Jarrod Dyson was to prevent a situation like what happened with Eloy in the 9th?

Just saying…

Brett R. Bobysud

Also, couldn’t they have kept Eloy in the lineup by shifting him to DH to bring Dyson in?

He still would’ve gotten an AB in the bottom of the inning if they’d needed it and EEE wasn’t doing anything last night.

joewho112

You can’t shift someone to DH from the field.

Brett R. Bobysud

Boooooo

knoxfire30

Ok I am ready to pull the plug, McCann and Grandal need to occupy Dh/C duties, and at this point I am on board with Engel over Mazara who looks absolutely lost even vs right hand pitching.

What a tight rope they walked last night, and what an awesome job by the pen.

HallofFrank

I’d like to see more McCann/Grandal at DH, but I also don’t want it everyday. There’s a reason catchers don’t play 150+ games like everyone else: it’s a physically and mentally demanding position. Sure, DH is about as easy a gig as you can get, but it’s still not an off day. I’d imagine the whole day is different when you DH vs. not in the lineup and, while I’d like both of the bats there, I’d also want to make sure they are plenty rested, too.

denny

IMO:

Engel should be the everyday starting RF and if and when Mazara gets a start, Engel should be late inning defense replacement.
Period.

Dyson should also be late-inning sub for Eloy in close games. Period.

McCann is being wasted. Should definitely be in lineup as much as possible. I actually feel McCann has outplayed Grandal all season. McCann should also be top FA target for them and sitting him to let EE pop-up may give fuel to him wanting to go elsewhere. A lineup with McCann at C, Grandal at 1B, and Abreu at DH enables Sox to be able to keep DH if a catching change is necessitated.

Robert maybe needs to move up in lineup to see better pitches. He gets nothing with Mazara behind him.

It seems that Sox have the right speed players who could steal a base a little more often. It seems Ricky R doesn’t want to use that weapon enough.

Despite the offense’s gawdy power numbers, Menechino has a long laundry list of off-season adjustments with a number of hitters.

Or not.

GoGoSoxFan

McCann at C, Grandal at 1B, Abreu at DH . . .

Playing one of your two catchers at a position in the field as opposed to DHing opens you to the possibility that he gets injured in the field. A catcher DHing is a lot less riskier.

joewho112

I haven’t been able to watch many games. What is up with Robert recently? His September numbers have been abysmal. Did the league adjust? Physically worn down? mentally worn down?

mikeyb

It’s great to see Moncada looking like his old self lately. His walk against Berrios in the 2nd was a thing of beauty. Got down 0-2, then took 4 straight balls, including 3 pitches that most hitters would have gladly swung at; a sweeping breaking ball that started on the outside corner and ended up low and inside, an inside fastball just off the plate, and then a tailing changeup that just drifted off the outside corner. Stone/Benetti kept talking about how great Robert’s late walk was (where he fouled off like 5 pitches right down the middle that should have been crushed), but that Moncada walk was one of the most impressive PAs I’ve seen all season. 99% of hitters swing at one of those balls.

Michael Kenny

I cannot tell you how much I loved Engel’s butcher boy. If that’s not a symbol of this team’s progress, I don’t know what is.

MarketMaker

The Fangraphs article on Cease really illuminated how tenuous that situation is. And his start backed it up almost perfectly.
The Sox are really short on pitching right now. Hope Dunning is legit because he’s already the 3rd starter.

texag10

How hard is it for a pitcher like Cease to get more “on top” of his fastball? Based on that article and replays from last night, his grip at release ends up more horizontal than vertical. If he gets more vertical maybe he can translate his cutting fastball into a rising fastball similar to Giolito’s? Or maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about which is probably the case.

HouseOfTheRisingSox

Was interesting to see Ricky manage that as a “must win” by going early to high leverage guys. I liked the decision and sets us up to at least get the split in the series.

Also, today is last day someone could “opt back in”. Any chance on Kopech? We could use the arm.

Malkatraz

I can’t stand watching Encarnacion or Mazara…

That being said the Sox are locks for the playoffs. I think Ricky will let them keep hacking away, hoping they find something. If not we will be seeing McCann and Engel in the playoffs.