The White Sox played two very different games on Friday and Saturday. For all that Friday was very entertaining and - if you aren't a White Sox fan a Very Good Game - there isn't too much to say about it. Meanwhile, Saturday's game is the type that I would like to see every single day.
Friday - Loss - 2-1.
The matchup was Price v. Samardzija and it lived up to the billing. Both pitchers were largely dominant, matching each other equally going 8 innings with 1 run allowed each. Sometimes this just happens - although Price didn't have his best control, and I felt like a more patient approach may have gotten him out of the game earlier. But I'm willing to give them a pass, because Price is so good that if you think you actually have a pitch to hit you kind of have to go for it. It was also a game where if you ran into an extra solo home run that may have been enough to win.
The real regret here is the play that lead off the bottom of the 9th, where a leadoff blooped liner into right was probably misplayed by Avisail, letting it drop in while deflected off his glove. Garcia would make a nice throw into second and Alexei Ramirez appeared to quickly tag the runner's foot before pulling his glove out of the way. Umpire Brian O'Nora called the runner safe, and then followed Alexei down the second base line screaming at him. Despite the fact that it was the bottom of the 9th in a tie game, and it meant the difference between a runner and second with none out v. nobody on and one out, Ventura didn't challenge. After the game Ventura would claim the White Sox video people said they couldn't tell clearly whether or not Alexei got the tag down from their feed - evidently the Detroit feed made it obvious - but this is another instance of Ventura just not having a good mind for tactics. In this situation it doesn't matter if you have a slam dunk video. What else are you possibly saving the challenge for? The worst case scenario is you lose the challenge and then...I guess you would need another challenge in the next, I don't know, two outs? Maybe the extra inning or two the game goes into extras? There's almost no downside to challenging and there is potentially HUGE upside.
Two plays later the Tigers were celebrating a walkoff single. I don't know that Ventura challenging would have resulted in a win, but opting not to challenge is objectively a mistake.
This is the first time since 2012 that Ventura has had a real roster to work with and viable choices to make and he hasn't covered himself in glory over the first ten games of the season. I recognize that it's a long season and people make mistakes, and even making the right decision might not have saved some of these losses - but I am scared that this White Sox team doesn't have much of a margin for error, and Ventura might be enough negative strategic value to tip them from playoffs to not.
Saturday - Win - 12-3.
These are my favorite kinds of games. My mother once confided in me, "Your father is so strange, he wants the team he's rooting for to win by these huge margins. That's so boring!" And I responded, "I want the White Sox to go 162-0 and win every game by 20 runs."
This game had the potential for further frustration as despite having Sale on the mound, the White Sox fell behind 1-0 in the first. Eaton had a throwing error. I was bracing myself for another "offense is MIA and the team makes enough mistakes that they just gradually sink into defeat" game. But then the bats went crazy. Melky went 4/5 (raising his OPS to .500!), Adam LaRoche hit a timely 3-run home run, and Jose Abreu capped it off with a grand slam.
The White Sox would touch up Anibal Sanchez for 9 runs in 3.1IP, which I believe is the worst outing of his career.
Tyler Flowers continued his hot start, going 2/4 with a double, keeping his OPS up near 1.000.
Micah Johnson took a beautiful walk when the game was still close to contribute to the big inning, taking pitches to 2-0, and then taking borderline strikes, forcing Sanchez to try to come back in the PA. He then took a curve to get the count to 3-2, fouled off another pitch, and then took a walk. It was the type of PA I'd expect from Adam Eaton -- who would come up and swing at four straight pitches with the bases loaded. It didn't work out. Fortunately it didn't matter, but this is one of the early story lines that bears watching. His wRC+ is still negative (-8) and his swing percentage is currently at a career high 47.3%. Even worse, he is making contact on 90% of the pitches he swings at out of the zone - i.e. pitches you can't really do much with.
If Eaton isn't patient, he doesn't have much to offer, as he doesn't have any power whatsoever. Still, this is something in his control to fix. The offense is going to need Eaton and Melky to wake up at the top of the lineup.
Sale was solid - I love the fact that going 6 innings allowing 2 runs with a 6:1 K:BB ratio against a very good offense is vaguely disappointing just because he's so freaking good.
With Quintana going against Shane Greene today the White Sox have a chance to move to 5-6 heading into next week.
Follow The Catbird Seat on Twitter @TheCatbird_Seat and Nick @Nick_TCS.