1. Chris Sale chugs ever closer toward one of the most statistically jaw-dropping seasons in White Sox, and hell, pitching history, and simultaneously slogs through the most disappointing campaign of his brilliant career.
It's ephemera if Sale finds a way out of his early innings with less damage, but Thursday's night's outing in a 3-2 loss to the Yankees saw him begin the night nibbling and tentative with his fastball, and unable to spot his slider as he racked up hits and baserunners, culminating in a low line drive from Carlos Beltran which snuck over the Yankees stadium left field for a back-breaking three-run homer that wound up deciding the game and marring another start.
Was it a fluke, cheapie Yankee stadium home run or another data point on a second half full of uncharacteristically poor command and Murphy's Law level of interaction with the Sox defense and cluster luck? There's certainly not an answer coming in the next week and a half.
2. Sale struck out eight in seven innings, flashing an ability to get whiffs with all three pitches, hitting the black with 95+ mph fastballs, overwhelming lefties with huge sweeping sliders that looked more slurvey, and even showed his best changeup a couple times. He's three strikeouts short of the single-season franchise record and recorded his 1000th strikeout in the fifth-least number of innings of anyone ever.
And yet, he has a .330 BABIP.
The raw talent is on display every night, which has made the every five days process of seeing what unique way things find to go wrong so torturous.
3. Thursday night was a good night for the "Why not just keep playing Trayce Thompson?" movement. Facing two big, overpowering righties in Michael Pineda and Dellin Betances, Thompson turned-and-burned an inner-half fastball into the second deck off Pineda, and worked his way back from an ugly 0-2 start to a PA against Betances to work a full-count walk.
The swing-and-miss is there, but if he can be smart to wait out wildness, and bash the mistakes we've been watching Avisail Garcia and Dayan Viciedo whiff at, pop-up and jam themselves on for five years, seeing someone make the most around the holes in their game might be a welcome respite.
Plus he didn't run into a wall or drop a ball into his pants on defense, which is part of the fun.
4. Adam LaRoche is back! He singled in his first at-bat in nearly two weeks, but was quiet for the rest of the night and was probably overly aggressive against a wild Betances in the seventh, prompting him to fall behind and get overwhelmed by a wipeout slider, leaving the bases juiced and blowing their last great scoring opportunity.
Seeing LaRoche strand the bases loaded probably triggered plenty of bad memories from the last five months, but how much better could he be expected to be with nearly two weeks off and no rehab? I am trying to be positive about this obviously doomed situation.
5. After reaching base four times Thursday night, Adam Eaton raised his season line to .283/.356/.425, which is good for a 116 wRC+. Last year he had a 117 wRC+. This year he had an awful April, last year he was awful when he returned from a DL stint in May. Last year he got on-base a bit more and made more contact, this year he hit 12 more home runs. It's all regular.
If anything, it's concerning that his defensive performance declined a bit this year, but that doesn't seem to be driven by physical decline.
6. Mike Olt is day-to-day with discomfort in his right shoulder, in case you thought his run of starts was brought to an end by some sort of collision with reality other than the acutely physical.
7. The Royals clinched the AL Central Thursday night, their first division crown in 30 years. I don't believe anyone on this staff thought they could be better than third in the division, but they've been the best team in the league since Opening Day, with only a deadline transformation from Toronto challenging that reality. I am hesitant to crown single teams and single seasons as setting the vanguard for how franchises will operate going forward, but the Royals' bullpen wizardry has changed the conversation on the value of investing an elite reliever staff, and their ability to transition from catching lightning in a bottle to sustainable success has been buttressed by something that has haunted the Sox for a while.
After years of stagnation, the Royals finally were rewarded with plus years from their draft and development projects, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. The growing pains both suffered through earned a lot snark after the overheated "Best Farm System Ever" hype, but the next time the Sox get two seasons this good from D&D hitters, it'll be their first two since they last made the playoffs. Lorenzo Cain become a top-15 player in the league, and Kendrys Morales (who I might not have bet on to outperform LaRoche before this year) have also been big this season, but when you can fill in the middle of the lineup with your own stock, it reduces the pressure for every free agent signing and trade package piece to hit.
The Royals season wasn't perfect. Alex Rios looks done, and Alcides Escobar can't hit, but when you don't have built-in holes, you can stand some letdowns.
8. Juan Uribe forever.
9. U.S. Cellular Field is hosting a Northern Illinois football game in 2016 per the Sun-Times. It's a state-subsidized and maintained stadium that is supposed to be used for the public's benefit and the White Sox pretty much get to use it as their plaything and constantly worm their way out of paying taxes on it, so yeah, might as well play some damn football.
Also, are all Michael Sneed stories written like this? It's both a callback to a 1940's newsreel and also what the TCS Morning 10 will look like in five years if I keep writing it as my free time continually diminishes.
10. Carlos Rodon starts Friday night against CC Sabathia. Rodon has seven-straight starts of six innings or more with two runs or less allowed, in which time he has lowered his ERA from 5.00 to 3.78, even with some extended breaks spliced in. He's thrown nearly seven innings per start during that period, after struggling with high pitch counts earlier in the year, and opponents are hitting .193/.265/.298 against him.
Sabathia is actually also trending up over his last seven times out, recording a 2.56 ERA since the beginning of August. His control has been very shaky and he's averaging less than six innings per start in that stretch, but it's nice to see him do something positive.