TCS Morning 10: A Chris Sale Day was had

1. Apparently it was Chris Sale Day for the offense too. 

Nick Ramirez is a middling MLB talent and early-season ERA has been overhyped and long overdue for being dragged in the mud, but who would have thought it would be the White Sox attack, or Carlos Sanchez? The initial premise of the second inning: starting pitcher wades into trouble and has to cut his way out of the bottom of the order. A hit batter and a pair of singles gave the Sox the bases loaded with Tyler Flowers and Carlos Sanchez up in the second, which read like the type of the situation that has typically unraveled in the first two months, especially after Flowers struck himself out on pitches out of the zone. Instead, Sanchez waited as Martinez's control problems persisted, and sprayed a 3-1 waist-high fastball into short left like we always envisioned he'd be capable of. From there, the other elements were an unfamiliar lucky break of left field Jake Smolinski letting Adam Eaton's flare sail over his head to plate two more runs, and Jose Abreu looking like himself again and pounding a fly ball to center that never came down. Just with that, the Sox had one of their biggest outbursts of the season. All it took was some luck and some sustained execution from up and down the lineup.

Martinez was chased one out into the third, with his ERA up to 2.89, still about a run better than his ability.

2. For a nine-run offensive waterfall, there were only a few redemptive performances involved. Sanchez's two-run single was the only bright spot of a 1-5, two-strikeout night. Melky Cabrera and Alexei Ramirez also both went 1-5 with just a single base-hit. The biggest batting lines belonged to Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche, who have been powering the attack for a while now, Adam Eaton, who's been competent since an abysmal April and Gordon Beckham, who has needed to be starting everyday for a while now. Despite screwing up a rally, this was random great Tyler Flowers game, who hit a garbage-time home run, and finished a triple short of the cycle.

As much as Flowers peppering in major league performances should become a more frequent thing, this performance displayed that the Sox can have all their bad hitters be bad, and should still be able to breakout more frequently than they've been doing.

3. So Chris Sale tortured some folks, dicing his way to 13 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings against a Texas lineup that only had one lifeboat and used it to evacuate Prince Fielder before the killing began. He now has a 3.27 ERA on the season and currently sports what would be the highest K/9 of his career. What a slow start he has had. I mean, he's really struggling out there.

That this performance came on the same night that Sale clipped his cleats on the mound and fell over like both his knees had given out, which precipitated about an inning and a half of awful control, including a moment where Shin-Soo Choo hollered at him after getting buzzed three times in one plate goes to show how undeniable Sale is when his stuff is working.

4. Speaking of stuff working, with a lefty-heavy Rangers lineup just asking for abuse, Sale ramped up his slider usage, throwing it 32 times (possibly 30 of those were to poor Joey Gallo) after previously going easy on it all season. Post-game, Sale acknowledged the shift to Scott Merkin, but gave an unexpected explanation. It wasn't a health consideration at all, but instead concern that it wasn't as effective as he wanted it to be the first several weeks.

I worked on it in bullpens, flat ground and stuff like that. It wasn’t just really that good of a pitch early on, so just try to mix it in as much as I can and still not trying to overthrow it.
— Chris Sale

Sale himself wasn't very good early in this game. He allowed a hit to Delino DeShields Jr. and walked Choo each of the first two times he came up, and needed double plays to escape the first and third innings. But after sputtering like an oil-starved engine, Sale suddenly shuddered and whirred into life, and struck out nine of the last 12 batters he faced in four perfect innings to close the night. There's settling in as the night goes on, and then there's snapping into perfect game mode 10 minutes after falling on your face. Sale did the latter.

5. Speaking of death engines coming to life last night, Jose Abreu's 410+-foot home run to dead center was the fun callback to last Summer's reign of terror that we had been waiting for. Gallo is is a tremendously strong dude who makes us wonder what 80 power looks like if he doesn't have it, but even he possesses a strong uppercut stroke aimed at lofting the ball in the air. Abreu is a lot more even, resulting in a lot more of these blasts that seem like deep drives that carry far longer than they have business going. It's not necessarily better, but damn if isn't unique, and my most trusted indicator that the big man is fully operational again.

6. Speaking of Gallo, he transitioned from feasting on Samardzija's upper-half mistakes to ducking out of the way of Sale sliders, only to see them wrap around and tap the inside corner on him. The kid bounced back from the rough transition, though. After Sale struck him out three times, Gallo went and hit another moonshot off Zach Duke in his final at-bat. The Sox have another series against the Rangers this month. There's a chance this guys face John Danks soon.

7. He isn't the most underperforming player on the roster, but with Gordon Beckham appearing in the last nine games, starting eight of them, and pushing his reverse split-fueled batting line to .284/.350/.432 on the year, Conor Gillaspie may be the most redundant. If neither third nor first base need the help he can provide. Trusting Beckham has it's obvious and probably inevitable pitfalls, but if Gillaspie isn't out-hitting people, he ain't doing much.

8. Mark Trumbo went to Seattle last night in a six-player trade. As Ethan suggested, the time for doomed teams to part with half-useful players may already be at hand. If the Sox still want to push for the playoffs, the time to make a meaningful addition may already be at hand. They've already showed minimal willingness to pick at their prospect core for this year--beyond AL MVP Marcus Semien--and the slow start might not be encouraging. But someone completely on his way out with their current org, like Aramis Ramirez, or a bench bat that can actually hit a lefty, shouldn't take much.

9. Carlos Rodon starts for the White Sox Thursday night, coming off of that huge triumph in Houston where he didn't walk anyone. Obviously this Rangers lineup has been scoring runs, but they batted Elvis Andrus third last night due to the lefty starter. It's hard not to see them as Choo, Fielder, DeShields, Gallo, Moreland and a sack of clams, and four of those guys are lefties. It could be a day for Rodon's slider to play up.

10. Rangers starter Yovani Gallardo is not a disappointment or on a steep decline if you realize he was never particularly great. His single best season of ERA+ was 121, and that was in a 110-inning rookie season. His career mark is only 109, and he's never finished a season with a mark lower than 3.50. Now you might bring up that he's lost 2 mph of velocity since his peak, his strikeout rate has collapsed, and he's flashed several moments of virtuosity that mean more about his ability level than his full-season results. Oh well, he's mediocre but this season has been terrible, so anything goes.