TCS Morning 10: Double the ridiculous triumph

1. My heart is not too cold and frozen over to not enjoy the delicious irony of Jeff Samardzija capping his ultimate opus in fan torture last week, only to turn around and twirl a one-hit shutout in his very next start: a 12:08pm CT Monday afternoon start that no one got to watch. That's poetry. That's the dramatic sweep worthy of the great cinema epics of 70's auteurs. That's fine villainry, and I am satisfied that I have spent my summer being tormented by a master; a very, very hirsute version of Colonel Kurtz. 

"How many runs did you give up in your last start?" Samardzija playfully but pointedly shot back at a sideline reporter who dared recap the disaster piece that has been his contract-drive/hired gun for a would-be-contender season. 

Gee, I donno Jeff, it would probably be less than 10, just because I wouldn't be left in to wear it by my manager for so long. To allow 10 runs, someone had to have high expectations for you, and ones they didn't fully abandon even as you were midway through the process of deeply undercutting them.

2. Samardzija credited a lot of his CG, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K, to locating a tell in his delivery that was tipping his fastball, which doesn't really seem to address the "awful cutters" problem from last week, but ok.

If it seems like it's been a long time coming for Samardzija to be sitting down with video coordinator Bryan Johnson to make a crucial adjustment, well, it's not his favorite thing to do.

I try to be an in-game guy. But there are some times where you need to get out there and maybe watch an old game when you did really well or watch the past game and what happened. For me that was the case. I needed to go back to my last couple of starts and see why good pitches were getting tattooed. It’s not a fun feeling so you definitely want to fix it as fast as possible.
— Jeff Samardzija

Yes, yes, as soon as possible. Yes. Definitely very timely.

3. Erik Johnson had his by far most superficially pleasing start since being recalled, and also his actual best one (!) for a doubleheader sweep-sealing 3-2 victory in the nightcap. Despite countering Samardzija's miraculous avoidance of a single three-ball count in his entire nine innings by running into a half-dozen of them, Johnson powered his way through six innings, allowing just two runs (including yet another solo home run), while racking up a career-high-tying nine strikeouts. 

He did this mostly (entirely?) on the strength of a fastball that averaged around 91.5 mph. He threw it get ahead, he threw it as a putaway pitch, he threw to challenge hitters when he fell behind. He just friggin' threw that sucker. There's nothing wrong with Johnson's fastball; it plays better than his velocity when he can hit spots on both sides of the plate like he did Monday night, and he can even put some sink action on it like he showed when he whiffed Miguel Cabrera (!!!). It's just an unexpected trend for guy whose scouting reports raved about the four-pitch mix he can throw at people. He was fastball-slider nearly exclusively Monday, and yeah, why show more than you're forced to show, but it's worth monitoring.

Ostensibly, it's great to see Johnson get swinging strikes (16!), with just small concerns of whether he's pulling a Zach Stewart; wailing on lifeless September lineups with fastball command only. It's not like the Tigers did anything against Samardzija to indicate they're still alive.

4.  By sealing up the ninth inning with a two-strikeout frame Monday night, David Robertson took the Sox back out of a safe place for the Bottom 10 for a protected first-round draft pick, but the Diamondbacks are too close to actually being decent to sweat this too bad. And it was too good to see Robertson revert back to snapping knee-breaking knuckle-curves to worry about not tanking. This is a guy who has been much too standup about wanting to deliver on his contract, overtly cares too much about doing well, and is too much fun when he's going right to wish more blown saves on him for the sake of tanking.

5. Carlos Sanchez had himself a day Monday afternoon, providing almost all of the Sox offense with a 3-3 day, a homer, and double and both of the Sox runs, the first of which came on a brilliant slide to avoid a James McCann tag to score on a two-out third inning single. 

One of the reasons I speculated about Neil Walker moving to third if he came to Chicago--which Matt called "cruel" given his back problems--is that Sanchez has hit .281/.322/.438 with a 17.8% strikeout rate in the second half. That's more deserving of a good shot at a 2016 job than anyone has done at third base, right field or designated hitter.

6. Conversely, the Sox threw every other second base contender (Micah Johnson, Tyler Saladino, Leury Garcia and Gordon Beckham) into the same lineup for the nightcap, and the best results probably came from...Beckham? Best of luck to Gordon on his winter minor league deal hunt, but this is probably the most significant note.

I'm still highly skeptical about the Sox moving Alexei Ramirez out for an internal stopgap, especially since Ramirez's batting line has passed up Saladino's after their respective slow and fast starts, but if they're testing him out at short, it bodes well for Saladino in some way, even if it just is about whether he can be the fifth infielder on his own.

7. We finally got a good Nate Jones outing, who hadn't been any good his last four times out and seemed aimed upon harpooning any notion that Robertson was expendable from this bullpen. Jones is a perpetually tantalizing 'when he's on' guy, because 99 mph with a 90 mph wipeout slider looks pretty impossible when it's all together. He pitched two perfect innings in the nightcap, inducing absolutely hideous swings on his breaker from Miguel Cabrera and friends.

8. Since Samardzija and Johnson combined to eat 15 innings Monday, that should be in line with whatever Robin wanted to allow for someone from the pen to start Wednesday and push Chris Sale back to extra rest. But...who's pitching?

Frankie Montas worked out of the pen on Sunday, yet Robin reiterated that he will get a start before the season closes, he refused to commit to Wednesday. Hilariously, while praising Montas, Robin credited him with tamping down to just 98-99 mph to throw more strikes. So yeah, it would probably be more interesting to see him work than a Scott Carroll start.

9. I have questions for you, reader who is eagerly breaking their fingers to order White Sox-branded wine.

Is this a keepsake? Are you going to drink this? If not? Is this simply about buying anything with a White Sox logo on it? Did you buy the forest face too? You're paying for a wine label, here. The grapes themselves are not imbued with White Sox qualities. If this was wine that was stomped by Frank Thomas' bare feet in 2005, and this was actually how he broke his foot, I would understand, and it would be deeply sad but I would outbid you for it.

But maybe you are drinking this. This is not a great decision. You are paying a premium cost on 2013 Cab Sav because it has a White Sox label on it. And then it's gone and done. If you have White Sox wine glasses, your friends at your dinner party will not only know that you're a shameless cheeseball about the White Sox, to the point of letting it invade seemingly dignified social affairs, but you can somewhat mitigate the embarrassment by buying better wine at the same price.


This is a valid stance. I have much respect for this approach and appropriate fear of you, as you are yelling and clutching a full bottle of wine.

With all this said, when will they be selling wine in the bleachers out of spray hose connected to a backpack, since that's obviously what we're progressing toward.

10. Jose Quintana starts Tuesday night against David Price trade return and van occupant, Daniel Norris. During hungry moments, I find myself thinking, longingly, about that huge skillet of eggs Norris has in the cover photo for that story.

Thanks to an outstanding September thus far (2 ER in 20 IP), Quintana is the rotation leader in ERA at 3.45, and the Sox decided to dedicate all their special promotional efforts toward failed one-year rental Jeff Samardzija. I am clearly very over this decision and not dwelling on it.