TCS Morning 10: The Sox dress up in funny clothes and still beat the Mariners

1. Those 1976 uniforms sure were fun to look at. Coupled with CSN's compilation of file video from the late-70's Sox and full commitment with disco segue music and cheesy graphics, the Sox mixed a fun callback to rather ridiculous uniforms with a genuine examination of their own history. Let's do something like this every year. Not more than once or twice per year, because uh...

In this screencap from the Sox website, poor Carlos Rodon looks like he ate three rolls of cookie dough per day between his last start and Thursday. The Sox looked like a really well-funded rec league team compared to the Mariners, strutting around in the carefully fitted uniforms we're used to seeing professional athletes compete in.

Then again, the Mariners lost to that rec league team 4-2, which was half the fun.

2. This is becoming comical.

We all thought working with Flowers might stabilize the rookie, but absent overwhelming control problems, Rodon has quickly slid into a stretch of ace-level production. Thursday began and ended with Rodon out of sorts. He walked two in the first inning, then stabilized and slid into brutal efficiency, and was under 80 pitches going into the seventh inning. The five strikeout total seems mild for him, but someone like Rodon just needs to live low in the zone and the liveliness of all his stuff will save him from most harm. He even got a whiff on a kinda wimpy-looking changeup.

Rodon all of sudden lost his release point in an ugly seventh, where he followed up losing control of his fastball and walking Robinson Cano to leadoff by throwing a meatball that Franklin Gutierrez deposited in the right-center seats to break the shutout. At 90 pitches, Rodon still had bullets in the gun, but with six innings in, it wasn't worth sacrificing a good outing and the lead to get him right.

3. Zach Duke saved the day for Rodon after putting it in additional peril. After being brought on to face platoon specialist Seth Smith, Duke gave up a ringing double to the left field corner, to put the tying run on second, but the veteran lefty completely overwhelmed dimmed Mariners prospects Brad Miller and Mike Zunino with that sweeping slider that's seemed so ordinary at other times this season. He sealed the inning by getting a routine flyout from Ketel Marte, and completely dominated the highest-leverage frame anyone dealt with all night. 

I've groused about how underwhelming Duke looks for an big-money reliever signing, but he and Dan Jennings wouldn't have been acquired if the Sox had a good lefty crop working through the system, so perhaps I should just be happy he showing flashes these days.

4. Slightly less fascinating was watching Nate Jones work through the eighth, also pitching over the tying run reaching second base, without any trace of his wipeout slider. Jones has looked mortal his last few times out, but pitched knowingly on Thursday after it was clear he couldn't get his backup slider over the plate. He stole strikes with some sloppy backup sliders early in the count, which allowed him a few shots to pinpoint the outside edges with his fastball as a putaway pitch. He got his first out of the inning by getting a call for a 97 mph heater that caught the shadow of the edge of the outside corner of the zone to get rid of Nelson Cruz, and got some wayward swings on the edges from guys trying to cover his extreme velocity to escape the jam.

We hear "velocity isn't everything" all the time, but it's instructive to see the way Sale and Jones leaned on it hard when the other parts of their game broke down around them.

5. Yesterday, I wrote that the Sox lack of power (lowest ISO in the AL), and dead bottom half of the lineup makes them heavily-reliant on clustering and converting opportunities at the top of the order. Namely, a bad Adam Eaton game puts them in a big hole they're regularly hard-pressed to recover from. 

Thursday night, Eaton reached base four times and scored three times, and even got drilled by Mariners starter Roenis Elias for his exploits in extreme annoyance, which he seemed irritated by but did not seemed interested in revisiting post-game.

Given Eaton's good, but not spectacular season numbers (.267/.343/.408), it speaks to what kind of cartoon numbers he could have if he wasn't worthless for all of April. Is that encouraging because we think he's really a stud? Or discouraging because a bad start derailed the year?

6. Trayce Thompson got another start against a lefty Thursday, and lowered his batting average by going 2-4 with a pair of doubles off Elias after striking out in the first. One of his doubles was just a hard grounder that kicked off third baseman Brad Miller's glove, but the other was a gorgeous frozen rope down the left field line that he kept fair by staying back skillfully on a changeup.

In what might be the only PA vs. a righty I've seen him get in a week, Thompson grounded reaching across on a breaking wall skirting away from him. I'm going to reach a completely damning opinion based on this singular plate appearance.

7. And thank goodness Trayce has done what he's done. Dayan Viciedo is rejuvenated in Triple-A Charlotte; hitting .313/.377/.510 with five homers in 25 games after going deep Wednesday night. He's probably the organization's best option as a lefty crusher with John Mayberry Jr. getting released, and, and...I don't know if anyone is emotionally ready for him right now.

If it helps, he's been playing first base in Charlotte.

8. Jose Abreu is now .297/.374/.568 in 40 games since the All-Star break, with a strikeout rate that threatens to dip below 20%. I have will have no psychic peace until he hits six more homers to finish at 30 for the season, but he's assuaged some of the disappointment of a lesser Sophomore season by flashing a very advanced hit tool that should serve him well through the colder months of Chicago.

9. John Danks has a rematch with Taijuan Walker Friday night. Danks allowed seven runs to the M's last week, and Walker has a 4.73 ERA pitching in Safeco when Seattle probably wouldn't have traded him straight-up for a working time machine three years ago. This is just a reminder that yesterday's top pitching prospect is today's albatross/walking and breathing embodiment of the curse that is our own mortality.

10. The Sox need one win this weekend to resume the greatest tradition of all, beating the Mariners in the season series. Seattle was lauded by preseason WAR projections as the most likely to tie the entire American League to the railroad tracks and laugh while twirling their mustache. The White Sox were predicted to fail to back up their top-heavy roster with MLB-quality talent, and it just goes to show that projections are most accurate when they are foretelling of crushing disappointment and pain.