TCS Morning 10: Sox look pretty good when the other team doesn't score

1. It was another good night for the 'Hit one big dinger and make it stand up' approach to winning major league baseball game. Thanks to more yeoman work from Carlos Rodon, and Jose Abreu bursting through to subvert an otherwise dominant outing from Astros ace Dallas Keuchel, the Sox pried out a small lead and clung to it even as their defense and relief corps tried to implode in the ninth for a 4-2 victory, sealing the first season series win over the Astros since 2006.

Normally I don't waste a point on here getting all recappy, but this is significant because it's the hard-fought series victory against a winning team that the Sox will have to start stringing together if they want to exit June with their heads above water. The Astros are the AL West division leaders, but are probably actually pretty average or worse and the competition will only get harder.

2. He was cast as the inefficient grinder to his Houston counterpart for much of the night, but Rodon's unyielding confidence even as he delved deeper into pitch count hell (88 through his first four innings, 116 for the night) can take a lot of credit for his delivery of six more scoreless innings Tuesday night. As frequently as he misses spots and get himself into situations where he has to make some real effin pitches with runners on, behind in the count, his aggression never wavers. Getting ahead of him is not a path to more hittable offerings. He doesn't give in. As much as he lacks confidence in his changeup, and is just kind of mashing the 'throw an 80-slider button' until it responds, Rodon's confidence in what he's working with is permanently undaunted, and the stuff he has is repeatedly good enough to reward his faith.

Now, if Luis Valbuena connects on any of those center-cut sliders he got with the bases loaded in the fourth...the narrative flips a bit. Instead, Rodon has allowed three earned runs and struck out 23 over 24.1 innings since getting roughed up in Oakland.

3. Jose Abreu is a strong man. He basically just pulled a knee-high sinker out of the ground and pushed it all the way out to right-center for a two-run blast that seemed like it might be the only significant offensive outburst of the night until the bottom of the eighth inning. A stretch of the season where he turns into a killer again has not come yet, and as Blogfather Dave Schoenfield pointed out last week, the possibility that this rather chase-happy free swinger could be adjusted to and reduced to a mistake hitter has to be considered as a possibility after a while.

But just a reminder, Abreu would be a hell of a mistake hitter.

4. Was this the best game of Melky Cabrera's season? It was the first time he's reached base three times in a game since May 16, and he singled and walked off lefty Dallas Keuchel--a very good lefty!--despite only reaching base FIVE TIMES against a lefty all season. My enthusiasm understandably read as sarcastic, but Cabrera has been so broken all year that any sign he's actually still alive down there and ready to bounce back and be a major league hitter is life-affirming.

He wound up being the hero because his two-run bases loaded double in the eighth was the difference in the score, even if it was just a weird flare to left that only floated over Colby Rasmus' head because:

A) Rasmus was incompetent. Did someone shoot his legs full of arrows right as he started his pivot toward the wall?

B) Cabrera's reputation has collapsed such that Rasmus was playing short left, or reciting a poem to Carlos Correa, or doing something other than preparing for a ball hit three steps shy of the warning track.

5. The Sox nearly coughed things up...mostly because they led off the ninth by letting a pop-up drop between Carlos Sanchez and Avisail Garcia, adding unnecessary purpose to when Zach Duke allowed a moonshot--as he is wont to do--to Carlos Correa (another career-first!). Robertson came feet within giving up another two-run bomb of his own, but he recovered, got some gift strike calls that made George Springer furious, and everything was funny.

Not that Tuesday night was particularly representative, since he stayed in only because it was not a save situation, but we don't need to keep pushing this 'Duke as an elite reliever' thing anymore. He's the only lefty in the pen at the moment with Jennings on the shelf, he needs the help of facing more same-handed matchups to be successful because he's got a below-average fastball and not a very deceptive motion, and Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam--as they did Tuesday night--are acquitting themselves well enough to not be hidden from high-level matchups.

6. Facing Keuchel, Robin debuted a lineup I pontificated about before the season before he made it very apparent that he was old and worn down: Geovany Soto as the DH vs. a lefty starter. Soto mostly took what there was to get in the middle of two rallies, singling in the second and taking a walk to load the bases in the eighth. He also struck out twice, and I think the Sox came out lucky considering how little contact he made and can make. LaRoche, at his age and effectiveness, can definitely keep getting the day off against lefties, because he likely can't do any better, but no lefty-mashers on the bench is likely to remain an issue.

At least they're exploring options.


Gordon Beckham is 0 for his last 16. His walk Tuesday night was the first time he had reached base since the last time Carlos Rodon started. Usually you want your third baseman to get on base more frequently than once per trip through the rotation. 

8. Every time I think it's inevitable that the struggles of Micah Johnson and Carlos Sanchez will force the Sox to just surrender the second pase position to the low-ceiling stability of Emilio Bonifacio, Robin actually gives Boni a start and he goes 0-4 with two embarrassing strikeouts. The first one ended with him blocking Hank Conger and getting Tyler Flowers ruled out on interference when he tried to steal second, and the second came with the bases loaded, where Bonifacio just needed to make contact to bring in another insurance run. 

For all the disappointments there have been, Bonifacio getting $4 million to stabilize the bench and being completely unplayable (His OPS is in the low .400s) is probably fulfilling the lowest percentage of his expectations--because it's 0%. He's going to be looking for an NRI next Spring at this rate.

9. Speaking of good White Sox pitching, Double-A prospect Frankie Montas threw a no-hitter in a seven-inning game Tuesday night, with Tim Anderson kickstarting a pair of double plays to help erase his three walks on the night. Montas is probably a high-leverage reliever in the future if we're being honest with ourselves, but we're not far enough removed from the days of Addison Reed being the top Sox prospect to take joy in seeing youngsters tear it up on the regular.

10. Read Collin's wrap-up of Day 2 of the draft. I have a soft spot for seventh-round pick RHP Blake Hickman being a Simeon product and an alum of the White Sox ACE program to develop ballplayers in the city. It does not appear that the ACE program instilled a deep commitment to throwing strikes to Hickman (that he can touch 97 mph is what got him drafted) but you can't give away every big league secret, I suppose.