1. Carlos Rodon was pretty solid again Wednesday night. That's probably the most important thing to focus on. In his fifth-straight smooth and efficient start under Tyler Flowers, he floated through the sixth with the only mark against him being Miguel Sano obliterating a get-ahead fastball, which for the most part have served him well since he dedicate himself to throwing them. As Ethan noted, Rodon's slider was lacking a bit of vertical break throughout the night, limiting his swing and miss and leading to an uncharacteristically low total of four strikeouts.
But again, we don't worry about the stuff too much with Carlos Rodon. Seeing him get ahead, throw strikes, and work big innings is wonderful. He got pulled when his first batter of the seventh reached base with him already over 100 pitches in a one-run game, but he's now gone six innings or more in every one of the last five outings with Flowers, covering 34 innings in all. He's now pitched more innings professionally this season than he covered overall between college and the pros in 2014, and looks as strong as ever.
There's no reason to stop him while he continues to make this much progress.
2. Another positive, is that after losing a 3-0 blunderfest to the Twins, getting shutout by Tommy Milone and dropping to 1-8 in Target Field, the White Sox now have the 10th-worst record in all of baseball.
We did it!!!!!
Or at least, we might do it. Being in the bottom 10 would grant the Sox a protected first round pick. This is not the traditional full-blown tanking, but would allow the Sox to continue to be aggressive in free agency this offseason as part of their "three-year window" without mortgaging their future or cutting off their ability to get high-level prospects that will quickly move through their system. They can't seem to beat the Twins, and have two more series against the Royals this month. It's in sight!
3. On the downside for Wednesday night...
Wednesday's seventh inning gave a quick snapshot of how godawful defense has poisoned this entire season. Rodon got charged for two earned runs on the night when a leadoff single to Eduardo Escobar was followed by Tyler Flowers chucking a ball into right field because Jose Abreu charged the infield grass when Flowers wanted to run a quick pick-off on Escobar. That was followed by a single from Kurt Suzuki that would have been easily handled by Carlos Sanchez if he wasn't rushing to cover second for...some reason? Some other ill-advised pickoff play? The resulting pickle put two runs on the board for the Twins in a game that was apparently already out of reach at 1-0.
Obviously it's not Robin's fault for every single mistake, let alone apparent miscommunications or one particular guy missing a sign. But taking issues up with the supervisor in charge is how accountability and chain of command works, since there's limits to punitive measures that can be taken against: the franchise's only elite bat, the only catcher that keeps games from falling into chaos, and the only second base option who has been hitting even occasionally. They play consistently sloppy ball and someone's got to do something about it. If the answer is just "get new position players," well, they've been trying for like, 10 years now.
4. And it's not like this game wasn't a management cluster anyway. Adam Eaton and Alexei Ramirez getting days off are things that should happen this month, but the continued fascination with Tyler Saladino (he batted leadoff) as anything more than a struggling rookie trying to gain a foothold is growing more bizarre. The seventh inning catastrophe featured a callback to 2012 September bullpen management, where Ventura became so dedicated to having the platoon advantage with a bases loaded, no one out situation, that he subbed out his good reliever, Jake Petricka, who had just struck out Brian Dozier, and flipped-flopped pitchers for every batter until he exhausted reasonable countermoves.
It was a thrill to see Dan Jennings, who I still hold out probably foolish hope for, come in and strike out Joe Mauer in something resembling a big situation, even if he might have gotten bailed out by Mauer not being very good anymore, but the follow-up move to that was to try to finish the inning and give the highest-leverage PA to Daniel Webb, who just last night was working a well-deserved garbage-time assignment in light of his being completely awful. Webb, in true form, fell behind 2-0, then floated a cookie fastball to Trevor Plouffe and got hammered for a two-run double, rendering all the tinkering pointless since it ended in a cruddy pitcher facing a good hitter with the bases juiced anyway. Handedness concerns go by the wayside if it ends with you giving the last out in a do or die moment to some guy who can't throw a strike.
To top it off, Ventura managed to get three catchers into the lineup, which would have been fine since he's properly deploying Geovany Soto, but was done too bizarrely to retain credibility. He pinch-hit Adam Eaton for Flowers to start the eighth, then immediately put his replacement Rob Brantly as a pinch-hitter for Gordon Beckham. So he took his catcher's bat out the lineup to end his leadoff man's night off, only to put the Triple-A catcher's bat in the lineup immediately afterward, following up an aggressive move with a bench-emptier,.
5. The biggest problem, obviously, is that the Sox got shutout, and effortlessly shut down by lefty changeup artist Tommy Milone. Milone exploited this lineup--already inept at pulling the ball in the first place-- by getting them to try to pull and roll over everything he threw all night. Milone struck out seven, walked none and allowed just three singles over seven shutout innings that could have been 15 if the Twins wanted them to be.
Even smart adjustments like stacking lefty crushers Soto and Trayce Thompson in the middle of the order were punished with 0-for nights. They say bad bullpens make managers look like idiots, but awful offenses don't do the any more favors. Robin has to scour his roster to find some kind of matchups that actual work for his dreary personnel, and when he falls into something right, they respond with a cold snap.
6. Avisail Garcia, who launched an encouraging moonshot Tuesday night off a hanging cutter, reverted back to the form of the guy who leads the team in groundball rate, striking out once and grounding out twice against Tommy Milone. To be fair, Garcia's decision to roll every single changeup Milone offered him to the left side was part of teamwide incompetence, but when you can't defend the inner half of the plate against velocity, can't tone down your constant aggression, and can't lift the mistakes you get for power, that's too many concessions to have to make and still find success.
At least he got his game-ending pop-out in the air.
7. Frankie Montas made his major league debut Wednesday night, and pitched a perfect inning of relief after the Sox had already effectively blown the game with curiously deployed relievers an inning prior. Montas topped out at 99 mph and sat 97-99 mph with a fastball he got underneath a few times. He struck out the first major league batter he faced when he froze Miguel Sano with a 3-2 slider that snuck over the inside corner. His delivery looked smooth and under control even if his location wasn't during his MLB debut. Pretty good considering the likely jitters that come with such an occasion.
Before the game, Montas told reporters he doesn't care how he's used--in the rotation or in relief--so long as he gets some action, which is funny, because there was a time Chris Sale even said such things.
8. Erik Johnson has a good shot for the 2016 rotation and might see a start during this month, according to Rick Hahn.
"No matter what happens" doesn't sound very committed to getting Johnson a start. Unseating the existing routine is hard, and no organization is more committed to that concept than the White Sox, who at this point can't say for sure if they'll stop giving free agent-to-be Jeff Samardzija and washed up John Danks starts all the way through the end of a lost year, just to give a potential future rotation member a look.
9. This is not really Sox-related, since they rarely have anything worth bat-flipping about, but the New York Times had a fun examination of how collectivism-minded South Korea has embraced bat flips as a fun flourish to brighten up the sport, and freedom-living America still wants to drill people in the neck for publicly visible moments of joy. Torii Hunter, unsurprisingly, is quoted.
10. The White Sox are playing in the afternoon Thursday, with a 12:10pm CT start to conclude this already losing series in Minnesota. Jeff Samardzija starts against Kyle Gibson, whom he has an ERA a full run higher than, even though the last time Gibson was referred to as a "potential ace" was probably in reference to the University of Missouri rotation.
Normally, I don't much care for mid-week daytime starts as a viewer, but A) Getaway day times are good for the players and B) Maybe not centering my night around something misery-inducing would be nice.