TCS Morning 10: Dingers will save you

1. Jose Quintana may long for the days of the supposed "dingers or nothing" White Sox offenses, since even that would provide more support than he's grown used to this season. His no-decision last week against the Tigers in an eventual 4-3 win was the first time he had received more than a single run of support in four starts. Help was once again late (the Sox didn't break through until first-time MLB starter Vincent Velasquez yielded after five lively but erratic innings), but three home runs provided enough cover for Quintana's balancing act (one earned run in seven innings), and sealed the Sox first home sweep of the season over the flagging Astros. Houston has now lost seven in a row, right as all the national profiles about how they figured out how to compete are coming out.

"First home sweep of the season" sounds terrifying, but considering the Sox only hot stretch of play came during the Milwaukee and Oakland road trip, it makes sense. 28-30 and three games out of the last playoff spot is close enough to pique interest, or just raise the level of scrutiny if the Sox weak-bat their way out of another series this weekend in Tampa.

2. The first handful of innings seemed dedicated to trolling Quintana in increasingly elaborate ways. He delivered a scoreless first by pitching over a leadoff ducksnort single into short right by George Springer AND Emilio Bonifacio chucking a routine feed into right field. His only run of the game came in the second when a Chris Carter grounder hit the third base bag and caromed over Conor Gillaspie's head for a leadoff double. Pitching over random hijinks put Quintana at over 60 pitches through three innings, and there would be another Bonifacio mangling of a routine play to deal with in the fifth.

While Quintana has a rep for being snakebitten, he garnered a lot of late-game success stealing strikes with his curveball, getting ahead in the count and just keeping the ball in the yard. He's still got a below-average ERA for the year, but Quintana is rock-solid and someone to depend on going forward.

3. Looking at the lineup heading into Wednesday night's game, with J.B. Shuck at the top of the order--who actually played very well--and included the slumping Gordon Beckham and Conor Gillaspie on the left side of the interview, it appeared the Sox would need a power outburst rather than depending on stringing hits together. 

That they did. After doing nothing with four walks from Velasquez, the Sox launched three bombs (two solo shots) off Astros relievers, and came within a bad Adam LaRoche slide of eclipsing five (!!!!!) runs. They certainly didn't look it last night, but this was a fairly successful slate of relievers. LaRoche, who is legitimately meeting all expectations, clobbered his eighth bomb of the year to right-center off Will Harris, who had previously allowed two runs and struck out 32 in 27.2 innings. Geovany Soto turned and burned on an inside fastball from Tony Sipp, an erratic but generally capable LOOGY that the Astros probably thought they could sneak by the aging Soto, and Pat Neshek, a side-arming righty who preys on righties, just threw something way too slow, up and fat to possibly hope to have gotten past Jose Abreu.

That three-bomb outburst pulled them into a tie with the Royals for...last in the AL at 43 home runs.

Since no one has been squaring up anything all year-long, it was great to watch Sox hitters sqaure up mistakes, but all three bombs reiterated interesting things about the players. LaRoche is now hitting .246/.362/.422, good for a perfectly solid 123 wRC+ in today's run drought. Abreu's 11th means he's slugging .500 again, and...

4. Geovany Soto is the starting catcher now, right? He's hit .250/.328/.417 since May 1, which qualifies as a pulse, which is more than Tyler Flowers had all year. He's not Salvador Perez back there, and should definitely be yielding two games per week if only to allow Chris Sale his personal catcher, but we knew he was more talented than Flowers if he was able to recall some of his younger days and stay healthy, and now he's blatantly outplaying him.

5. What would you say you do here, Boni? Fulfilling the secret pact for every White Sox second baseman to somehow play worse than the guy he replaced, Bonifacio provided some A+ veteran instability by biffing two exceedingly routine throws, and going 0-3 at the plate on nine pitches to lower his season OPS to UNDER .400 SOMEHOW. 

This, alongside Gordon Beckham being 0 for his last 19 is doing wonder to legitimize theories that second and third base positions are merely cursed, and their occupiers are just human sacrifices for a vengeful God.

6. Robin Ventura, devoted TCS reader (maybe?), took note of Zach Putnam's increasing worthiness for high-leverage work, and gave him the eighth inning. His reward: three strikeouts and perfect inning. 

Thanks to Nick, this site has been a source of fandom for Zach "Bananas" Putnam and his splitter-heavy approach for a while. But while last year's success jived with his journeyman career (mediocre talent embraces his one plus pitch and survives on groundballs and good fortune), Putnam is just overwhelming hitters so far this year. He's got 30 strikeouts in 19.2 innings, good for a 36.1% rate. And ever since he was unavailable one night for a thumb issue? Nine strikeouts in 4.1 innings and no hits.

There's your right-handed setup guy.

7. Top prospect Tim Anderson was injured Wednesday in truly reprehensible fashion. As Larry from South Side Sox reports, the Birmingham Barons were finishing a series with the Cubs Double-A affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies. Despite a sprinkler valve busting overnight and flooding the infield, the Smokies decided the field was playable after what was clearly insufficient recovery work because, Anderson, the first baserunner to test the surface on a dead sprint, crumpled in pain while rounding second base with a foot or ankle injury and had to be pulled.

The Smokies manager immediately pulled his team off the field, and the game was called after it was decided that the field actually wasn't playable at all, come to think of it. The official post on the Barons website says Anderson slipped, and provides no updates on his condition, so hopefully it's not serious, but for goodness sake, what a screw-up.

8. Robin Ventura is missing the entire Rays series for his daughter's college graduation, and possibly because he wants no part of America's most Kafkaesque state. Nothing about Mark Parent's previous stints as a manger have indicated that the Sox secretly have a buffed-up Sparky Anderson on their coaching tree, but Parent once got tossed while exchanging lineup cards, which at least reflects a deep level of sincerity and force of conviction.

9. Speaking of Robin, and this is a gentle point on his rigidity. The off-day comes at a good time. The Sox are streaking, which is great, but they're a low-scoring team that will continue to play close games. As such, their three-game sweep featured, you guessed it, three David Robertson saves. He could use the day off.

10. Avisail Garcia is hitting .297/.356/.449 through 202 plate appearances, good for a 127 wRC+. He was gunned out stealing after both of his walks last night and is rated so terribly by baserunning and fielding metrics that he has only a 0.5 fWAR, but the bat has been there.