TCS Morning 10: Trade deadline gets intense as White Sox keep winning

1. I suppose the important element of the past 24 hours as far as a White Sox blog is concerned, is that for the third night in a row the White Sox stepped on the field at Fenway Park, and instantly overwhelmed the Red Sox. They battered their pitching relentlessly, trashed their bullpen for the next night (Rick Porcello left in the third), and improbably climbed another game closer to the Wild Card slot.

Unlike the pre-All-Star break hot streak, this now seven-game win streak stretch has distinguished itself for not being an improbable spree of one-dimensional brilliance, but daily annihilations. They've outscored opponents by five runs per game during the streak, scored 52 runs total, and looked the part of a team that needed to be all-the-way different to push away not just the setback of their awful start, but our conception of their talent level.

2. With this insanity, the Sox have roughly cut the number of teams they needed to leapfrog for their absurd playoff bid in half, and climbed within 2.5 games of the Twins--who are probably flukes--and look to move up again Thursday with Chris Sale going against the Red Sox Thursday in a very lopsided pitching matchup.

Going forward, the teams to worry about are the Blue Jays and Orioles, both of whom are within two games of the Sox, with the Jays even being a game behind in the loss column. Even if we're still fairly convinced of the Sox badness, their alarming closeness to the race is undeniable.

3. The chaos of this sudden turnaround has quieted already limited trade speculation to a whisper. Jeff Samardzija was the only major trade piece with any kind of rumor momentum behind him, and the most recent talk around him Wednesday was mostly resignation that the Sox are way too close to contention to hold out hope for a deal.

The latest mention I saw of him on Twitter Wednesday night was when Bruce Levine tried to cram two more interesting updates into the same tweet.

What's also not coming around is any mention of additions to a Sox lineup that would probably need help once it cools down and enters into a two-month duel with the Blue Jays. The chances for a playoff run this season are probably too low for a rental to be appealing unless Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton came very cheap, so a bat add that helps more than the next two months of the three-year window is more justifiable. Yesterday we pitched acquiring Carlos Gonzalez with Tim Anderson, Frankie Montas and a pile of money, but Wednesday night's dust settled with Carlos Gomez still floating around and he should be gettable with a stripped-down version of that Gonzalez offer.

Anything that could replace Avisail Garcia would be welcome.

4. Perhaps we're getting ahead of ourselves, since the Red Sox are an unmitigated disaster giving us false hope. $82 million man Rick Porcello was the third-straight Boston starter (and the second-straight who had already signed a contract extension this year) to throw straight-up batting practice to what was previously the worst offense in baseball. Porcello was clearly doomed when he began his first PA with all his pitches in the top-half of the zone, but the Boston defense put two more White Sox runs on the board because their All-Star Brock Holt couldn't do things like a catch a throw back from the outfield, or because Alexi Ogando took an easy double play ball and threaded a lollipop perfectly between Holt and Xander Boegarts, who had barely moved by the time he swiveled for a feed.

The Sox caught the Indians, a team with plenty of talent but definitely having a bad year, playing flat and incompetent enough to sweep them for four games at home. And yet, the Red Sox are still playing far worse than that. It's hard to imagine there's a worse club in the league at this moment.

5. That said, what a righteous caning that was. A 9-2 demolition that was effectively done as a contest after 45 minutes, but still selfishly lasted nearly four hours. It followed the same model that's been in place all week, where Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera and Carlos Sanchez combined for nine hits, with their unique foibles included

--Eaton hit his ninth home run of the year to lead off the game, and is now tied for second on the team. I'd say he's an easy bet to overtake Adam LaRoche, but Eaton has already hit his career season-high so far.

--Cabrera looked like an unstoppable monster left-handed, and uncomfortable to the point of striking out three times when left-handed relief came in and turned him around to the other side, so the platoon issues may still be around.

--Sanchez is legitimately playing great all-around ball, as shocking as it is to see. In addition to driving the ball to left field all night, he's becoming more assertive in the field, and recorded a beautiful assist when he charged upfield to received a relay from Avisail Garcia, turned and fired a missile to just catch Pablo Sandoval at home plate.

6. Jose Quintana really didn't have that much after his season-high 120 pitch effort his last time out. His typical command on the inside wasn't on full display, his curveball wasn't overwhelming, and he mostly took his substantial lead and pounded the zone with his fastball for 6.1 innings with little consequence. It was a good strategy for dealing with a dead-on-their-feet Red Sox team, and fun to see Quintana enjoy the privilege of pitching with a margin for error for a change..

7. Alexei Ramirez is in a similar position as Carlos Sanchez, where a recent slate of success at the plate has coincided with a rejuvenated effort in the field. Ramirez lifted his fifth home run of the season over the Green Monster Wednesday, but stood out with his aggressive play at short, charging and barehanding slow-rollers, letting hot shots take him deep into the left field hole and trusting his ability to swivel and fire with accuracy, and generally reclaiming his role as the stud shortstop who ranges after everything in sight.

He wasn't perfect--he just wasn't able to pick a grounder up the middle at the lip of the infield grass, and when he tried a sliding stop of a Rusney Castillo missile in the seventh, it slammed off his foot and kicked into left field, but aggression and confidence were woven into both plays. For someone as toolsy as Ramirez, that's how he has to play to get the full benefit.

8. Adam LaRoche returned to the lineup Wednesday--he had to eventually--and wasn't in too deep of a funk to get fooled by Rick Porcello. He nailed a wall-single to left in his first at-bat, and was plunked in his second time up to drive in a run. He went dark for the rest of the night, but he was facing lefty relievers in a blowout.

Any acquisition that lessens his workload beyond platoon duty would be helpful, but that's always been true.

9. Emilio Bonifacio's injury Tuesday night--which looked like an oblique strain--has been diagnosed as an oblique strain, and put him on the 15-day disabled list. In the mean time, Leury Garcia has come up to provide the same redundant services and likely be just as much removed from any real playing time as Bonifacio, though Gordon Beckham has been so awful that Leury would at least be a different look.

From all the solutions that Jim Margalus mulled over yesterday, Garcia is the least interesting, and the least indicative of any sort of increased efficiency in lineup arrangements.

10. The White Sox have cut up Boston with impunity all week, but Thursday is the true mismatch they had been waiting for. Chris Sale is squaring off against knuckleballer Steven Wright, a 30-year-old with eight career starts who was back in the pen until the middle of this month, and almost started warming up Wednesday during the blowout's peak. Maybe the change in pace will cool White Sox bats enough to get to the bullpen, or maybe this is another demolition in the making.