White Sox 5, Athletics 3: Left-handed closer provides an opening

Through two games in Oakland, the White Sox’s issues against right-handed pitching couldn’t be more evident. The White Sox have scored all of their 19 runs with a southpaw on the mound.

  • OAK RHP vs. Sox: 12.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K
  • OAK LHP vs. Sox: 5.2 IP, 22 H, 19 R, 4 BB, 4 K, 6 HR

And through eight innings, it appeared like it was going to matter. Austin Pruitt started this game as an opener of a bullpen game, and finished it as a starter by throwing five no-hit innings. Joel Payamps carried the no-hitter into the seventh. He and Domingo Acevado carried the shutout into the eighth.

That’s when when pyrite left arm of A.J. Puk took the mound with a 3-0 lead, and a win looked even more bankable when he began the ninth by getting José Abreu to ground out to second, with Tony Kemp making a diving stop. Eloy Jiménez shocked him for a no-doubt oppo shot to spoil the shutout, and while he walked pinch-hitting Yasmani Grandal (replaced on the basepaths by Leury García), the Sox didn’t catch a break on AJ Pollock’s grounder to the left side. Pollock arrived at first base at the same time as Kemp’s cross-body throw on the grounder that was to the left side of second base, and had he been ruled safe, the call would’ve stood. Alas, he was ruled out, and no evidence could overturn that call, either.

Puk dodged what appeared to be the Sox’s biggest bullet, and while Andrew Vaughn singled García home to make it a 3-2 game, he had the Sox down to their last one on a 2-2 count to Seby Zavala.

Then Puk planted what was supposed to be a back-foot slider into Zavala’s front shin, and all hell broke loose.

Adam Engel, who entered as a pinch-runner for Vaughn at first, advanced to second, and the Sox needed every bit of his speed to make it home on Romy González’s rope through the left side. Chad Pinder made a strong throw, and Sean Murphy did his best to apply a sweep tag, but Engel slid wide feet-first, and slapped the plate with his left hand as Murphy’s mitt whistled past him. The game was tied, González advanced to second, and those 90 feet mattered when Elvis Andrus hammered a center-cut sinker to the left-field wall for a two-run double that put the Sox ahead for good.

Liam Hendriks had to warm up when he least expected, and while he walked the leadoff man to bring the tying run to the plate, he quickly ended the threat with a strikeout and a double play to cap off the Sox’s second victory of the year of the week.

If you fell asleep between the fifth and eighth innings, and saw the score upon waking up, you’re probably stunned, because the Sox showed no capability for this kind of outburst. The first three Oakland pitchers showed the capability of throwing strikes with all their pitches, and that jammed the lineup’s radar. Pruitt, Payamps and Acevedo threw 109 pitches between them over the first eight innings, including a whopping 76 strikes. The A’s defense tried to give the Sox a boost with a pair of errors, but the Sox didn’t convert on the assistance.

Lucas Giolito was once again fine, meeting the minimum for a quality start. The A’s greeted him with line drives for a run in the first, but his secondary pitches improved to keep Oakland off the board until an unfortunate sequence in the fifth. He was on the verge of stranding a leadoff double with a backwards K and a groundout, and then he got Kemp to offer at a neck-high 2-2 fastball. But Kemp managed to muscle a blooper down the left-field line for an RBI single that made it a 2-0 game, and then Giolito hung a slider for a Murphy double and Oakland’s third run.

Fortunately, Giolito, Joe Kelly, Aaron Bummer and Hendriks ensured that it was also Oakland’s final run. Kelly stranded a runner on second with a pair of strikeouts, while Aaron Bummer pitched a perfect eighth in what seemed like far more appropriate leverage for a guy still finding his sea legs off the IL.

As it turned out, Bummer has appeared in two games after his three-month absence, and he’s picked up the win in both of them. This one was far more deserved.

Bullet points:

*Every single one of Miguel Cairo’s ninth-inning decisions mattered. Pinch-hitting with Grandal, who gave the Sox the necessary baserunner. Pinch-running for him with García, who advanced into scoring position on Pollock’s groundout, which allowed him to score on Vaughn’s single. Pinch-running Engel for Vaughn. He’s 8-3, and 8-2 when he knows he’s managing with anything resembling advance notice.

*Cleveland hung on to beat the Twins in the opener of their four-game set, so the Sox are still 1½ games out of first. They do have sole possession of second place, as the Twins fell to third for the first time since late April.

*Andrus registered both the first hit and the last hit, breaking up the no-hitter in the sixth before his go-ahead double in the ninth. He also stole a base and was often in the right place tat shortstop, so his revenge series continued unabated.

*Giolito lowered his ERA to the Albany area code: 5.18.

*The win-expectancy chart via FanGraphs. After Abreu’s groundout, the A’s had a 98.9 percent chance of landing the plane.

Record: 71-68 | Box score | Statcast

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Jim Margalus
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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Amar
Last edited 21 days ago by Amar
ParisSox

Good stat. The Sox are easy to strategize against. Loving this run and hope they make the playoffs, but don’t have much hope beyond that. So just enjoying the ride.

soxygen

There aren’t very many LHP in the ALC. If I remember right, last year LHP had 29% of innings in MLB. At the start of the season, one of the projection systems had projected that ALC teams would get 21% of their innings pitched by lefties.

metasox

A twist of the future more balanced schedule is less value to matching a roster against its divisional opponents

asinwreck

Is it too late for MLB and MLBPA to amend this week’s rules changes so that all opponents of the Chicago White Sox are required to exclusively pitch left-handers? And have this rule take immediate effect?

calcetinesblancos

When the yanks brought in Britton (who was having an awful season) to finish things off in the FOD game, I remember thinking that they must not be very familiar with the Sox or something.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

If they needed to land the plane good thing the Sox weren’t playing Oakland’s AAA affiliate

vince

I fell asleep in the 8th and woke up pleasantly surprised.

calcetinesblancos

This game was a clinic in why The Russa should not return.

roke1960

Is there anyone out there who thinks the White Sox would be 8-2 in their last 10 with Tony managing? Under no circumstances should he be allowed back in the dugout this year.

upnorthsox

Well they are actually Tony’s wins so yeah he not only would be 8-2, he is 8-2 in their last 10.

roke1960

Can you explain that?

upnorthsox

They are his wins, he hasn’t been fired and Cairo isn’t the interim manager. He’s out sick, just like Francona last year, and just like Francona last year he gets the wins not Cairo.
The so yeah, Tony is 8-2 the last 10 games. The only difference is Cairo has actually done something to earn his paycheck these last 10 games. Will he continue to do so next week? I guess we’ll find out.

Last edited 21 days ago by upnorthsox
Augusto Barojas

Just wow. Tony gets credit for the wins, only because he was not here to sabotage them.

roke1960

I’m just saying the White Sox would not have gone 8-2 in their last with Tony managing the team.

Joliet Orange Sox

I think TLR should represent the White Sox organization at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on September 19. All of the travel involved would probably mean he’ll have to miss a week of games before and after but I think he deserves the honor.

gibby32

It is enjoyable to watch a manager put his team in the best position to win. Cairo used his roster superbly in the ninth inning and has done so over the past eleven games. It would have gone largely unnoticed, however, had they not come back and won. Grandal as a pinch-hitter for Sheets when they needed a baserunner facing a lefty; Garcia running for Grandal after a walk; Engel pinch-running for Vaughn as the potential tying run; leaving Zavala and Gonzalez up to hit with two outs in the ninth. One can say that some of these moves were obvious and I would agree. But I also believe that this game is lost if LaRussa is managing. Also, Cairo is using Leury the way he should be used instead of treating him as a regular player. Her spells Andrus for a few innings in a blowout; he finishes in right field last night after Sheets had to leave for a pinch-hitter; he pinch runs. He does NOT start two-thirds of the games, hitting literally anywhere in the lineup. With this usage, Leury is useful, albeit overpaid. LaRussa subjects him to all sorts of vitriol because of how he uses him.

GrinnellSteve

It’s the deployment of Leury that is the single biggest difference between the two managers.

My wife asked why he didn’t put Engel in for Grandal. It turns out he was saving him for the run that mattered. And it did matter. I don’t think Leury scores on Romy’s single.

My jury is still out on whether Cairo is actually a good manager, but he’s cleared by several feet the bar set by the other guy. Please please please don’t let Tony back in the dugout.

Augusto Barojas

Tactical decisions aside, nobody can convince me that having a much younger and more energized person who isn’t on his last legs does not contribute to the energy a team plays with. This team has been flat for the past year, and that starts with the manager. And as we all saw, the tactical side of Tony is just not competent any longer, either. A manager who puts his team in the best position to win, or at least does not sabotage, yeah is a great change.

I think more games than just last night would have been lost had Tony still been around, personally. Vibe and energy matter. Managerial changes are made because they help stale and stuck situations, both the Phillies and Jays have played a lot better since their changes. We all know that Cairo is enormously better, even if he might not be an ideal choice longer term. I’ll take him over what we’ve had the past 2 years.

I just don’t see how any doctor in his right mind could recommend a guy almost 80 years old should return to a stressful job with physical and mental demands that are not well suited to someone Tony’s age in the first place. If he has even the tiniest heart issue, enough to keep him out a couple weeks, there is no way in hell he should be coming back, not just for the practicality of it, but for Tony’s health.

gibby32

I agree with all of this with the modest exception of your reference to a “much younger” person. Age often goes with a lack of energy, but not always. Joe Maddon is a problem for other reasons, but he is plenty energetic. But all of your points stand. Tactical decisions probably only make a difference in 5-8 games a year. But getting your players ready to play with energy and anticipation can make a difference in many games. It might be difficult to sustain, but over a short term I believe it to be extremely important.

dwjm3

I agree that age doesn’t necessarily dictate energy.

However,I think the energy angle is overblown. In fact I don’t think it has much to with energy at all.

Tony is cut from the old school managerial cloth. The sort of Earl Weaver, Billy Martin I’m in charge cloth.

A good example of this was his bs tough guy act he pulled with Arizona’s manager.

The current successful managers are more rah rah build the players up types. They are usually closer in age in hopes they will be able to relate better to the players.

Tony just doesnt fit the mold of todays manager. Of course none of us are surprised that Jerry didn’t realize that.

Last edited 21 days ago by dwjm3
upnorthsox

Rocco Baldelli is 40, Mark Kotsay is 46, Mike Metheny is 51……..

calcetinesblancos

Exactly; you can fire any of them without feeling a level of guilt like you just canned your grandpa.

Augusto Barojas

The average age of AL managers is 52. Tony is a quarter century older than that, and 10 years older than Maddon. The last time anybody managed a full season at Tony’s age was like 80 years ago.

But even if Tony was 10 years younger with a heart condition, I can’t see the ethics behind telling someone ~70 that it is ok to return to a stressful and demanding job. Which is why unless details are provided, I’m not sure I believe the narrative of a heart condition. Seems just dumb and irresponsible on the part of a doctor to allow him to return so quickly in that case. And that would hold true even if we really liked him.

roke1960

In 1950, 87-year old Connie Mack led the Philadelphia A’s to a 50-102 record. Maybe Tony wants to be the oldest manager ever. And if he wanted to, Jerry would probably let him.

Last edited 21 days ago by roke1960
Augusto Barojas

Tony may not be the oldest ever, but he’s almost 5 years older than anybody other than Connie Mack to ever manage a full season, or coach an NBA or NFL game. If not for Mack, he would be the oldest manager or coach in history, by about 5 years.

And the way it sounds, not even a heart condition is going to get in the way of the complete idiocy of this absurd multi year experiment, at fans expense.

calcetinesblancos

After that recent game where he pinch hit Leury for Seby, it’s safe to say that Tony would have done a lot of things differently than what we saw last night. There isn’t even a question in my mind. Zero.

Willardmarshall

Just imagining the rebooted relationship between TLR and Cairo…

a-t

There’s a lot of comments, deservedly, about the energy Cairo has brought that’s revitalized the team. But I also have liked his decisions quite a bit, besides the hit and run anyways. He’s using Leury correctly, as others have noted— as an excellent pinch-runner and highly versatile defensive replacement only. He’s paid rather handsomely for it, of course, but it’s a role with actual value given a lineup that consists largely of lumbering sluggers. He’s giving Grandal actual off days when not catching, and DHing him. He’s rewarding the rookie playing well (Romy) with starter playing time instead of just sticking to the vets Harrison/Leury.

He’s made a couple of seemingly questionable bullpen decisions— VV for the 8th a few games ago was strange but it worked perfectly well?— but he’s shown himself to be more creative, flexible, and altogether active with the bullpen than Tony. Small things— a couple starts ago vs I think KC, letting Gio start the 6th to face the one RHB at the top before going to the bullpen for lefty on lefty advantage, or also vs KC, calling on Graveman in the 7th instead of the 8th bc the 7th had the most dangerous hitters in the KC lineup due up.

He’s not perfect, and he does like small-ball tactics (bunts, hit and run, etc) somewhat more than I like, but his usage of these small-ball tactics isn’t as bad as Ricky was prone to. Would be really unfortunate if Tony came back next year as manager, because based on what I’m seeing Cairo is going to be hired away to skipper a club this offseason if not given the job here.

Augusto Barojas

I’ve said for more than a year that literally any functioning adult who was a lot closer to the average AL managerial age of 52 would be a massive improvement. I am not dissing Cairo, but don’t think it takes someone special to be a lot better than the Russa.

I would be completely fine with anybody other than Tony. Cairo works for me even if he turned out to be less than ideal. These past 10 games have been the most enjoyable in the past 18 months. If Tony returned and their fortunes reversed, would anybody be surprised, really?

steelydan52

I’m closing in on 70 fast but I can still keep up with young guys/people with no issues. Difference is when they’re done working they go shower and then party on. I shower and go to bed!
We just need Jerry to tell Tony that it’s time. Not fire him, just bump him into retirement. He has certainly earned it. But he also needs to let the GM, new or not, have control over the hiring of the next manager.
Now I read that Ted Phillips gets to have a say on his replacement as Bears president. Some bad habits never die.

soxygen

So, you’re saying the Sox should play more day games? Works for me!

jorgefabregas

soxygen

Thanks for posting the update, . I appreciate it when my fellow Sox Machinists keep the group “up to speed.”

(Takes deep breath.) This whole thing is so stupid…I really don’t care anymore…

More will be written about the Sox unique brand of dysfunction. More ink will be spilled by fans who are operating with almost no information, including whether or not he is actually sick, whether the players actually don’t like him, whether they are playing harder for Cairo or trying to win one for the skipper, etc… No one even really knows who is in charge, whether Rick Hahn is alive, etc. …

Here’s what I plan to do this weekend instead of watching the Sox: read a book on the beach. I recommend others find alternative forms of entertainment as well.

Last edited 21 days ago by soxygen
Right Size Wrong Shape

Nah. I’ve been following the team all season. I don’t think I’ll choose the point when they are playing their most exciting baseball of the season and they are right in the thick of the division race to stop watching.

soxygen

As Sox fans we’ve all watched years of bad baseball. For me, this year isn’t “fun bad” or “fun mediocre” it’s just “not fun.”

I’ve been a Sox fan for about 40 years, and I watch something like 130-140 Sox games per year. I’m not watching the next few games. It’s September and I live on the coast in Maine – real life is way more fun than thinking about who might be or might not be the manager on Monday, and being on the beach is more fun than watching a mediocre White Sox team play against the worst team in the AL.

I’ve given this org more of my time than it deserves this year, and that is probably true of almost everyone here. If you’re enjoying it, then good for you.

a-t

I think that’s a touch melodramatic. This is, for the moment, the realistic best-case scenario. He was never going to stay entirely away from the team unless in active danger of keeling over on the spot. That he’s around the team but not medically allowed to actively manage is good news! He was never going to be fired, nor removed from the dugout via promotion to special assistant or whatever at this point in the season. I just hope this stays as the status quo; his doctors are no doubt aware that the stakes will only get higher for the final sprint.

jorgefabregas

I just kinda wonder what he’s going to be doing traveling with the team if not managing. Will he be in the clubhouse? Manager’s office?

a-t

You remember how last year they hung up Eloy’s jersey in remembrance like he died? He does that, though I imagine he’ll be slightly less lively than the jersey

soxygen

Okay, dude