1. Let it not be said that the White Sox offense will not pick up their pitching staff if they hold the third-best offense in the NL to one run over 11 innings, including a historic performance from their starter. I don't know whether to be thrilled or bemused by a 2-1, 11-inning win in Cardtown. It's a victory over a great team via some phenomenal pitching dominance, but sprinkled in with enough ineptitude to make it clear how much of a struggle it will be to replicate this.
2. Chris Sale, a eight-foot-tall ghost spider composed entirely of elbow and knee joints, was responsible for the biggest White Sox hit off Lance Lynn, whisking a loopy single over Jhonny Peralta to leadoff the third, scrambling to second on an Adam Eaton groundout, and scoring when a routine Jose Abreu grounder kicked off second base and into the outfield.
And THAT was the offensive support Sale got. Actual Sox position players didn't enter the fray until Tyler Flowers ran into his sixth homer of the season in the 11th off former Sox farmhand--and apparently still loyal org soldier--Miguel Socolovich. This came despite a sloppy and inefficient effort from Lance Lynn that even worried Cardinals bloggers, until they could be assured that the Sox wouldn't capitalize.
3. At the risk of going full grumpfest, there were two defensive miscues that won't show up in the box score but ramped up the degree of difficulty for Sox pitching. Randall Grichuk led off the sixth by lacing a ball toward the left field corner, instead of cutting it off early, Melky Cabrera let the ball back him nearly into the warning track, and Grichuk had a double without slide. Sale retired the next three hitters in a row, including two strikeouts, and pitched over it. In the 10th, the Sox undid the work of Alexei Ramirez catching Matt Carpenter on the basepaths between second and third with their typical laborious rundown that ended with Jon Jay right back on second and in scoring position.
Little things like that are how a bad defense terrorizes a pitching staff.
4. So, as for the actual Sale dominance. Goodness gracious. The Cardinals stacked their lineup like a village anticipating a raid. Lefties Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong were spared the indignity of Sale's eight-inning, 12-strikeout blitz interrupted only by Randal Grichuk hitting an upper deck bomb and collecting three hits off the Sox ace. Between Grichuk, Adam Rosales and Jeff Francouer, maybe one of Sale's winning qualities is selecting the village eccentric as his chief rival. In the middle innings, Sale began opening up and missing up and away to the glove side with his fastball--it didn't matter; he kept getting whiffs. As is typical, Robin left him in to pitch out of high-leverage at the end of his rope, facing the middle of the Cardinals order for the fourth time with the game on the line and runners on in the eighth with his pitch count over 100--didn't matter; he whiffed Jhonny Peralta and induced a groundout to get out of it.
How do you manage a guy who will actually be superman half of the time like a regular person?
5. Sale is not as special as Pedro Martinez...yet. His strikeout streak of eight outings in a row with 10 or more strikeouts in a row has less total whiffs in it during a far more strikeout-crazy era. But that we have to classify that Sale is not quite on the level of an inner-circle Hall of Famer is a testament to just how special what we are witnessing is. Baseball is getting bigger and better all the time, and Sale's inconceivable blend of power, stuff, command and bizarre deception is biggest and baddest death machine running around today. There's widespread lament that Sale is being wasted, hucking his heart out for bad teams that won't vault him to the stage he deserves, but you don't get to pick and choose when the greatest White Sox pitcher you'll ever see in your life comes along, you just have to be sure to stand and watch when he does.
6. Uh, so Chris Sale is the AL Pitcher of the month of June right? I mean, he threw a league-high 44.1 innings, posted a 15.2 K/9 and a 1.83 ERA. Yovani Gallardo and Mike Montgomery had real nice months but had 21 less strikeouts combined than Sale's June total. I was perplexed how Sale could possibly vault himself back into the Cy Young race after his awful start. This is how you pull such a thing off.
7. The worst half-season of offense Alexei Ramirez ever produced before this season was a .628 OPS in the first half of 2012. Of course, that was also the season he hit .336 with runners in scoring position all year, so he had 44 RBI in that half. He can't square up anything anymore, nothing he barrels goes anywhere at all. It's utterly hopeless to watch, and he's tacking on nearly pitching a rundown feed into the dugout to lose the game to boot. There's no defending his play, but it still stinks for this year to be a referendum on his career for those who could never appreciate his skill before now.
And yet I wouldn't write off him having a random good year sometime before he retires. I just don't hold out much hope of it happening here. Or soon.
8. Lt. Dan is back in the fold.
Jenning's ERA is garish (7.83), but is a much-needed second lefty with good LOOGY stuff who has been comically unlucky and asked to pitch over six intentional walks in 23 innings. I am starting to wonder if the bad luck of a guy who decided to make his Twitter handle/nickname the same as a character who loses his legs in war, is robbed of his only wish and purpose in life, and is doomed by circumstances to hang out with a man he despises, is possibly a permanent condition.
9. Hot hitters!
Don't look now but Tyler Flowers hit four home runs and slugged .510 in the month of June (which is mostly just because of the four home runs). The White Sox catcher position might just be a slapfight of veteran mediocrity (as opposed to terribleness) after all!
22-year-old Tim Anderson hit .381 at Double-A over his last 10 games and hit .301/.342/.422 for the month. John Sickels is very enthused.
10. Jose Quintana faces John Lackey in the conclusion of the Sox brush with greatness. I'd whine about him needing to pitch to his peripherals already, but uh, Item No. 3 would be relevant here. The forecast tonight for St. Louis is...what does all these lightning bolt and water drops symbols lined up together mean?
Seriously, this is the one day they don't schedule a getaway day start time?