TCS Morning 10: Chris Sale cannot be restrained by man nor nature

1. A White Sox starter racking up 10 or more whiffs in four-straight games was an absurd notion before this strikeout-crazed era hit the sport, and it was an absurd notion before this franchise employed someone as good as Chris Sale. Weathering two separate rain delays (one beforehand, and another during), Sale filleted the Astros for the second time in two weeks, flashing 98+ mph heat after his intermission, using the punchout to record his 10 of his first 16 outs, and retiring 11-straight hitters at one stretch. The only run he allowed on the night through eight rippling innings was prompted by two defenders slipping on the same play, and Carlos Correa beating out a routine groundball to short for his first MLB hit.

2. Sale's blasted away nearly every trace of his slow start with perhaps the most furious stretch of dominance of his career (there's always stiff competition).

This conspiracy theorist suggests that Sale's slider usage jumping from 9% to 15% to 28% in the first three months of the season could play a factor in him turning into the engine of destruction we've seen over the past couple of weeks. There's probably no one in the league better equipped to live as a fastball-change artist, but now with everything working at full bore, he's a marvel and you should be watching this whenever you can.

3. Speaking of marvels...ok...I don't want to blow it out of proportion, but with this newfound power stretch (three home runs in four games, including the decisive two-run opposite-field clout in the fourth inning of Monday's 3-1 triumph over Houston), Avisail Garcia is providing some much-needed gristle to his hot start. He's still rocking a .361 BABIP, and will have to continue to make his combination of swinging (a ton) and missing (a lot) but still hitting for average approach work somehow, but lifting flyballs and taking advantage of his raw strength takes a lot of the stress out of watching that balancing act.

And now the Sox have two hitters with an OPS over .800. Just like those big-time teams you hear about.

4. The White Sox reached base five times all game Monday against rookie--a very good rookie, mind you--starter Lance McCullers Jr. and two runs!!! This is secretly another Chris Sale point. This is thriving with a thin margin of error.

5. We're not in a position to be hating, and certainly their early-season indicators are a lot better than any stretch the Sox have cobbled together, but this is a contending Astros team? Evan Gattis and Chris Carter are stuck right in the middle of this batting order and neither can get on base at even an average rate. A red-hot start from the talented yet injury prone Jed Lowrie has been cut short by, well, injury, and there's a lot of weight on fresh, albeit very talented call-ups to sustain what they built in the first two months, prior to their current five-game losing streak.

Many posited whether Carlos Correa would immediately become the best AL shortstop upon arrival. Beyond assuming that Correa is magically immune from the obstacles to offensive success plaguing AL shortstops, it ignores Xander Bogaerts--hitting above-average and defending well in his second FULL season--both as a likely superior and an instructive example of a very complete and mature shortstop prospect's learning curve at the MLB level.

6.  It's not super meaningful, but your MLB leader in K%-BB% for all pitchers who have thrown over 20 innings is none other than the man who nailed down his 11th save Monday night, David Robertson. We all knew Dave Bob had electric stuff, and his 37 strikeouts in 24.2 innings are no surprise, but this would be a quantum leap of improved control for him historically. Back in 2011, Robertson walked 35 in 66.2 innings, and was a guy you hoped his raw ability would overwhelm the holes he would dig for himself. This year he's walked three.

It's enough fun when the super-expensive closer delivers what's expected, the 30-year-old Robertson might be having his career year.

7. Amusingly, lefties Dan Jennings and Zach Duke are tied for second in relief innings for the Sox. Jennings' stats look horrendous due to Stephen King novel-level luck, and Robin Ventura asking him to issue six intentional walks (if you even consider those two things separate). Duke has scrapped his way to a respectable 3.52 ERA, but has battled control problems and has been giving up more moonballs than you'd like to see from a lockdown 8th-inning guy. Both could really use a right-handed, late-inning partner to allow them to specialize more. Nate Jones was once that guy, and was reportedly hitting 96 mph at his last rehab update. 

In the mean time, Jake Petricka is showing more consistency, but is still more of a young Matt Lindstrom than a fireman. Someone who might merit more consideration: Zach Putnam has struck out 19 over his 11.1 innings. He's just a splitter-splitter-splitter guy, but he's shaken off a rough start and looks a lot like that spectacle we thought was a fluke last season.

8. On that note, the Sox drafted 21-year-old Vanderbilt right-hander Carson Fulmer Monday night with the No. 8 pick. Fulmer is considered to be very close to MLB-ready, with three quality pitches, but possible command and size issues that could relegate him to the pen long-term if the Sox can't keep him on track. So yeah, they probably won't rush him into the majors, since he's not of Sale or Rodon's caliber, but we're definitely going to be thinking about it the rest of the year.

9. Huh.


And he was still better than Melky has been so far this year!

10. Tuesday night's pitching matchup is Dallas Keuchel vs. Carlos Rodon. If you remember Keuchel, he was the guy who threw a nine-inning shutout with a season-high 11 strikeouts when he faced Chicago almost two weeks ago. He normally isn't a big strikeout guy, but sometimes you just find the right team. Rodon is a big strikeout guy, and the Astros are the right team.