White Sox 6, Rays 5: Run differential is overrated

With the Dodgers trailing the Mets 9-4 entering the ninth inning on Saturday, Dave Roberts tried to use Zach McKinstry to pitch. Umpires prohibited him from doing so, citing the relatively new rule that position players couldn’t appear on the mound in games with a margin smaller than six runs.

After the game, Roberts said he had forgotten about the rule, which had been implemented before the original iteration of the 2020 season, then suspended as the pandemic forced the league to play a bunch of things by ear.

The White Sox apparently don’t have to worry about that rule being policed for them. After going an entire month without winning a game by more than five, the White Sox jumped out to a 6-0 lead through two. Any May 10, 2022 game against the Guardians will tell you that the six-run lead is the most dangerous lead in baseball, and the Sox once again proved that time-tested adage correct.

Thanks to a combination of a slightly off Lucas Giolito, a passive Tony La Russa and some poor defense, the Sox saw that lead get whittled down to one run over the fifth and sixth innings. Fortunately, Aaron Bummer, Kendall Graveman and Liam Hendriks stood all as the 7-8-9 combo they’ve been paid to be, and the White Sox can claim the season series against the Rays.

The Sox offense squandered a few opportunities after the second inning, but it only became glaring during the sixth, which started unraveling when first baseman Yasmani Grandal flat-out missed a routine throw from Danny Mendick on what should’ve been a first out that moved a runner to third.

Instead, runners were at the corners with nobody out, and Harold Ramirez drove a run home with a sac fly. Randy Arozarena followed with a drive to the right field corner, and it was one of those flies I referred to in Month in a Box. Andrew Vaughn ran in the correct direction as hard as he could, but he couldn’t close the distance, and it rattled back toward center field for an RBI triple.

Giolito remained in the game after a mound visit, and Isaac Paredes popped out for the second out. But Mike Zunino, who’d made hard contact to too high and too low in his first two trips, figured out the middle ground and launched a 112-mph laser just over the left-field wall for a two-run homer that made it 6-5.

Giolito still remained in the game, and he struck out Taylor Walls on a fastball out of the zone to preserve the narrowest possible margin.

It should’ve been easier, especially after the way the White Sox trashed Tampa Bay starter Ryan Yarbrough. Vaughn had a couple of particularly punishing plate appearances.

In the first inning, he followed Danny Mendick’s single with an 11-pitch battle. He fouled off five borderline-or-worse pitches before Yarbrough missed over the plate with a changeup, and Vaughn pounded it to the left-center gap for an automatic double. When Mendick had to check up at third, Luis Robert popped out and José Abreu walked, it set the stage for one of those bases-loaded disappointments the Sox are known for.

Instead, the team that entered the day 3-for-35 with the sacks packed saw Jake Burger improve those numbers with another drive to the left-center gap. This one didn’t clear the wall like it did on Saturday, but it still scored the game’s first two runs. Grandal then drove in the next two with a checked-swing single that dropped into the first blades of outfield grass on the right side.

An inning later, Vaughn came to the plate with Josh Harrison on second, and he fouled off three consecutive pitches before riding an elevated cutter to right field for a double. Robert then made up for his first-inning failure with a single that scored Vaughn for the Sox’s sixth and final run.

Other opportunities went by the boards. Burger grounded into a double play after the first two reached in the fourth, and Abreu grounded into a fielder’s choice at home with runners on second and third and one out in the sixth. On another day, the Sox could bemoan the 11 stranded runners. On this day, they can say they’re done with the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox for the season, and went 11-8 against them.

Bullet points:

*AJ Pollock was the only starter without a hit, as he went 0-for-5 with a strikeout.

*Mendick batted leadoff in an attempt to take advantage of the hot hand, and he went 1-for-5 with the run scored in the first.

*Graveman bounced back from an arduous outing on Saturday by striking out the side on 13 pitches in the eighth.

*Before Grandal committed the error, he did his Abreu impersonation by starting a 3-6 double play that held up after a challenge.

Record: 25-27 | 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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StockroomSnail

“Thanks to a combination of a slightly off Lucas Giolito, a passive Tony La Russa and some poor defense”

I wish the last two weren’t consistent anchors.

HallofFrank

I know they caught the Red Sox at the right time in round one but… how in the world did this team go 11-8 against the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays?

Is this season just the reverse of last year? Beat some good teams then crap the bed in the Central.

funkerdan

They just keep scoring 3. It’s the most consistent offense ever in a bad way. I think they doubled up today because of the day off. Think they’re trying to average 3 per day regardless of games played.

CaptainEuphemism

This gets rough for double headers.

a-t

4/5ths of the rotation is/has been really good, and the back of the bullpen is very capable of making games last only 6 innings. The roster is built to hold leads quite well, especially with defensive replacements. The offense has simply been not very generous with said leads.

HallofFrank

What you described sounds like a good formula to beat bad teams and struggle against good teams. That’s not what we’ve seen.

In other words: it’s weird that this team is below .500 but above .500 against those teams.

a-t

Not really. The Brewers for instance are intentionally built like that and they don’t have any particular issues with good teams. Frankly I think the opposite is true, that an all-offense no-pitching group, like say the 2020 White Sox, is more likely to beat up on bad teams but struggle when confronted with quality pitching.

Also, I think they’re just playing better than when they lost a bunch early vs the ALC. 11-11 against the 4 good ALE teams indicates that they’re playing approximately as well as those presumably playoff-quality teams. I would not be particularly surprised if they got very hot in the second half due to improved health and playing a lot of crappy teams.

Yolmer's gatorade

That was only a misplay for Vaughn because he jumped for it and didn’t just play it off the wall. I don’t think Engel could’ve made that play.

As Cirensica

Including hall of fame managers person?

Yolmer's gatorade

Maybe, but it’s a valid argument if Vaughn’s OPS is above .850

tommytwonines

I saw the lineup and thought “why not Engel in right and Vaughn at first today against the lefty, sit Grandal”. But it worked out, so there.

And yes, the voice in my head deserves quotation marks.

chipporter

With 3 legit 1st baggers on the roster, there is no reason to play Grandal there.

tommytwonines

That’s what I said – they just got lucky. Grandal shouldn’t really be playing at all right now.

As Cirensica

I’m seeing some life. The schedule will eventually get easier in time for the ‘addition’ of Lynn and Anderson plus, hopefully, a healthier Moncada looking at least half as good than what he can be. I think things are looking up.

Last edited 1 month ago by As Cirensica
Yolmer's gatorade

After the Dodgers, only the Giants, Astros, and Padres serieses are real difficult games.

Just John

…as well as whatever games are left against the AL Central.

peanutsncrackerjack

In TLR presser after the game he mentioned more than a few times that Burger and Vaughn are “hungry hitters”, trying to make every at-bat matter. He seemed to be suggesting this was unique to them on the team, at least that’s how I read it.

lifelongjd

Will be interesting when Eloy comes back. Their best lineup has Vaughn & Burger in it, over Yas and Moncada. Maybe Yas goes in the IL. And actually I think Engel is the better option over Pollock.

Guess it doesn’t matter, LaRussa will keep tinkering and sending out a new lineup every day anyways. Just to show us how smart he is

Right Size Wrong Shape

Best lineup tomorrow? Yes. But long term, Burger is not a better option than Moncada.

billm2214

Assuming Burger continues looking like a major leaguer and Moncada can overcome his hamstring/low energy/long covid, has anyone discussed moving him back to 2B. I know his history when he first came up but it does solve the 2B hole immediately.

Last edited 1 month ago by billm2214
Right Size Wrong Shape

I think moving to second may only add to the leg issues. James Fox intimating that Sosa may be on the way…

billm2214

Well if he’s 27 and his legs can’t handle playing 2B then he’s probably not a long-term solution anywhere. If he is healthy, it seems more logical than rolling the dice on an unproven minor-leaguer…especially in a supposed non-rebuild year.

chipporter

I remember the conversation being that 2b required more thinking and 3b required more reaction and all that thinking got in the way of his offensive production.

a-t

It’s nothing to do with ‘thinking’. Yoan, while broadly speaking a
superb athlete, just does not have the right type of athleticism to be an above-average middle infielder, which has to do with 1) really quick footwork and 2) contorting the body to make accurate throws from all kinds of angles. If he had those traits, he’d have been a SS in the first place with the rest of his impressive tools.

An analogue here, to jump sports, is DK Metcalf. His combine was divisive because he was incredible in most ways: elite in measures of size, speed, strength, and vertical. But his 3-cone drill and shuttle times were awful; he can’t change direction quickly at all. Obviously that hasn’t mattered and he’s been really good. It just means he has to be deployed correctly.

He wouldn’t be good at all if he were asked to run a bunch of curl/comeback routes. So instead his route tree consists of slants, posts, verticals, etc., where his incredible size/strength/speed combo plays up and his weakness don’t matter, because he’s simply not asked to use them. The same thing applies to Moncada: he’s got an explosive first step, impressive range, and a cannon arm, but not the upper nor lower body agility that is generally required of a competent middle infielder. He fits vastly better at 3B, and he feels much more comfortable there because he knows it. There’s a reason that he was enthusiastic about the move to 3B!

Last edited 29 days ago by a-t
chipporter

While informative, that didn’t address what seemed to be the consensus of thinking after he moved back to third, which was, he couldn’t handle the mental aspects of playing second and that was what factored in his lowered offensive output while playing that position. His offensive numbers went up after the move back to third. The conversation was centered around the falloff and subsequent rise in offense between playing the 2 positions.

billm2214

Yeah, I agree with everybody that Moncada’s played better, on both sides, at third vs second. My point, however, was if he can play 2B this year (ie now) to try to right this ship this season. Having Burger and Moncada in the lineup everyday should be more productive than one of them plus Harrison/Leury/Mendick/fill-in-the-blank minor leaguer. Obviously, match ups and LaRussa senior whims factor in. But, it seems to me Moncada can be the everyday 2B until Hahn finds a Madrigal replacement…which might be long while.

chipporter

I gotta call bullshit on Grandal’s excuse of lack of strength in his lower half. He hit the crap out of the ball last year and he had a full offseason to work on strengthening. This whole idea that it’s not age or injury doesn’t pass the smell test. Putting him at 1st today was idiotic considering that you have 3 legit first basemen on the roster, 2 of which are just about doubling his recent production.

chipporter

I was unaware of the offseason procedure.

soxygen

Here’s the part that frustrates me: if that is the problem then they really need a third catcher on the active roster more than they need, say, Gavin Sheets. So I am willing to give Yasmani the benefit of the doubt and be patient, but I am not willing to give the front office a pass on this. If they only have one healthy catcher then they aren’t making the most of their 26 spots on the active roster.

Last edited 29 days ago by soxygen
shaggy65

I’m glad to see the increased offensive production, but I’m not convinced a corner has been turned. If you built a pitcher in the lab to make Sox hitters look good he’d be an awful lot like the mid-80’s lefty we saw today.

ParisSox

This. The RH relievers then shut them down.