TCS Morning 10: Chris Sale's worst is still really, really good

1. Nate Jones is mortal. I don't particularly agree with the way he announced it--allowing an eighth-inning two-run bomb to Boston first baseman Travis Shaw by placing a fastball in the lefty down-and-in dinger Bermuda Triangle--but sometimes you really have to grab people's attention for them to really take in your message.

The man pitching for the White Sox is Nate Jones, a great reliever recovered from Tommy John surgery, not a cyborg made in Nate Jones' image. Lesson learned.

2. Obviously when you lose a game 3-0 to fresh-off-the-DL Rick Porcello, there are more issues than just the bullpen going on. This lineup is....half of a lineup. As excited and satisfied as we are with Jose Abreu, there's not really a .950+ OPS monster skulking around to drag this offense above its shortcomings every night. So I don't know if there's anything more I'm taking from another crap offensive game than:

--Rick Porcello, laughable contract and all, has always been capable of pitching in US Cellular and being successful.

--The Sox offense is starved for power and are in a bad way if they can't cluster activity up at the top of the order. Adam Eaton went 0-4, so they were pretty much in a crisis after that.

--Ok, maybe they should have drawn more than two walks in three games against the Red Sox pitching staff.

3. Wednesday night was definitely a big night to be out on Avisail Garcia. He went 0-4 with two strikeouts, but what was worse was that Porcello didn't do anything fancy, or anything that he himself is particularly good at to exploit Garcia. He went high and hard repeatedly, which for Porcello is 92-94 mph, and Avisail could neither lay off or make contact. Laying off is out of the question for Garcia because his approach is to just try to barrel anything in the general vicinity of the zone, but there's a big hole in his coverage that makes his hit tool useless up and in, and to see the Rick Porcellos of the world pick this apart as easily as one would follow instructions to make instant pancakes doesn't bode well.

4. Chris Sale pretty much looked like trash and pitched seven shutout innings, allowing five singles (no extra-base hits), two walks, and striking out seven. When I say he looked like trash, obviously that's relative, given how the numbers look. Sale looked uncomfortable by his own standards. He overthrew frequently, he missed badly on pitches where he wasn't attempting to anything more than grab strikes or challenge hitters, put himself behind in counts needlessly, and seemed to rely on blowing people away with 95+ mph heat when he couldn't find anything else. Which is a nice trick to pull out, to be honest.

With all that's gone on this year, it's nice to see his ERA drop for any cause (now 3.20), but the frequency with which we've been forced to acknowledge that he's "just doesn't look himself" has been unnaturally high this year. There are reasons for some of the bad stretches; adjusting to his rushed recovery from a broken foot, getting struck by a liner in Boston, and it will be curious to see what comes out of the post-mortem--or perhaps not until Spring of next season--about what factors were troubling Sale throughout this season. Something has not been right.

Oh, he's totally breaking the franchise single-season strikeout record this year.

5. Alexei Ramirez was doing some kind of work up the middle Wednesday night, highlighted by a ridiculous sprint into short-center capped off by a spin-and-fire still delivered in time to gun down Brock Holt, the second batter of the game. He had a second rush up on a ball up the middle later in the game that was spoiled by Adam LaRoche not being able to make the pick on the shorthop, but in a game where Sale was frequently digging holes for himself, Ramirez turning 50/50, or even 40/60 plays into outs was a big difference in keeping the contest scoreless through seven innings.

A critical reading of Ramirez is that he rises up for the opportunity to make flashy plays, so chances to show off early in the game get him engaged more than he might be other nights.

6. Zach Putnam returned to action Wednesday after missing the weekend with a groin strain. He allowed a run and a walk, but recorded another strikeout in a season that has seen him strike out 55 in 41 innings, despite being a splitter-heavy right-hander who rarely gets above 91 mph.

Putnam's become an integral part of the Sox bullpen's late-inning core, but without the pedigree and upper-level potential of Jones and Jake Petricka, he's probably the guy to include as a pot-sweetener in an offseason deal. Putnam has admirably maxed out his ability, but we've seen both him and Petricka lose their command for stretches this year, and the guy who could still throw his bowling balls at 94 mph was more palatable.

7. The White Sox spent the day hyping the accomplishments of Trayce Thompson, who at this point in his career is still being hidden from Rick Porcello's sinker, and has 25 plate appearances. It's ridiculous and we're probably too early to invest much in stories about how Daryl Boston gave him confidence when he first arrived in Chicago (which was like, two weeks ago), but it speaks to the recent history of White Sox positional prospects that someone coming up and having any kind of positive momentum still makes them a small sensation.

Thompson, for his part, says he's ready to hit righties. Beyond the guesswork of when to start Trayce's adjustment process to right-handed MLB pitching, the larger struggle is whose at-bats you give to him. I don't have a great answer to that right now. Adam LaRoche is under contract for 2016 and you're trying to get him right for some reason, whether for play or trade.

8. Don Cooper assured that he intends to remain as the White Sox pitching coach past the end of contract that runs out at the end of 2016.

Why is this a question? Did something happen? Is everything OK? What's going on!?!?

Cooper also said that he thinks his job is the most important one of the organization, so perhaps he's just happy ruling his fiefdom with unquestioned autonomy and authority. He probably is fooling himself, but given how much the Sox leverage on being able to coach up pitching, there's an argument.

This also heightens my suspicion that he's more responsible for leaving starters in until the morning sun rises than we previously thought.

9. The Sox are bad. I have accepted this truth and taken it into my heart. But, but, but, if after all this, with the Blue Jays becoming supercharged and flying away from the pack, the Twins (65-61, and in SOLE possession of a playoff spot) still wind up going to the playoffs because the second Wild Card race is a highly obtainable mediocrity slap-fight...that will be upsetting. "Vague competence" is a low standard to be unable to meet in a win-now season.

10. Thursday is the day. The White Sox are wearing their 1976 throwback jerseys as they face the Seattle Mariners. Thursday night's starter, Carlos Rodon, was born 16 years after these jerseys were last worn. In fact, not a single member of the active roster was alive when these jerseys were worn. Adam LaRoche (born in 1979) comes the closest, and well, it shows.

(UPDATE: Confused child James Fegan was unsure of how long the uniforms were worn. Thankfully, unfrozen TCS elder Matt Adams correctly inserted that they were worn through the 1981 season, at which point not just LaRoche, but the surprisingly old Alexei Ramirez had been born. The birth of Thursday starter Carlos Rodon was still a decade off)

There's rumors that the coaches might don the infamous shorts, which I take to mean that Joe McEwing will absolutely be wearing shorts beyond the shadow of a doubt.