TCS Morning 10: We can't complain about Erik Johnson getting frozen out anymore

1. The White Sox finally got the thrill and satisfaction of plugging a mediocre pitching staff, launching a comeback to rescue the oh so sympathetic Jeff Samardijza from his personal six-game losing streak, and capped a week of destroying Casey Fien's ERA. The moments have been too few and far between, but as J.B. Shuck celebrated his pinch-hit two-run, go-ahead triple in the seventh inning with a huge satisfied hand-clap, followed by the 'stir-it-up,' Pulp Fiction peace sign over the left eye, 'huge cape coming out of my butt,' and 'scarecrow of the damned' series of gestures that I will miss when they are gone, and also miss when they are getting shutout.*

*Shuck, who was not used as pinch-hitter Wednesday night in favor of guys like Rob Brantly, was pinch-hitting for Wednesday's leadoff hitter, Tyler Saladino.

The Sox 6-4 triumph to prevent a sweep in Minnesota didn't improve their draft positioning, but breaks from abject misery can be helpful. It's also cathartic to be at least somewhat of an obstacle to Minnesota sneaking into the playoffs.

2. That said, now they're tied with Seattle for 10th-worst winning percentage in MLB. What are they doing?!?! The Sox are "ahead," because they've played two less games than the Mariners, and statistically they should perform worse than .500 in those games, but we're splitting hairs here. There are six games with the Royals left, and four at Yankee Stadium, but otherwise a heavy slate of the A's, Indians and Tigers makes this month look suspiciously soft., I mean the Sox could make a strong finish! .500 here we come! Prepare the moral victory feast!

3. The Sox hiked Twins reliever Casey Fien's ERA from 3.12 to 3.74 in this series alone, scoring four runs off of him in a single inning of work. Fien has 29 strikeouts in 53 innings in 2015 --a total which he did not add to in this series--and relies on extreme control (six walks on the season).

I don't have much reason to dwell on this other than being cranky and hateful toward the Twins, but the relying on a low-whiff guy like Fien reminds of 2013 efforts to give the highest leverage opportunities to Matt Lindstrom, or last year with Ronald Belisario.  It's also another reminder that you need to be careful with relievers who need larger samples to prove their value when so much of their work demands them to get one hitter, right now.

Anyway, the Twins aren't making the playoffs.

4. Jeff Samardzija did well to get through 6.1 innings despite walking four and giving up a grand slam to Eddie Rosario.

Jeff Samardzija did well to salvage edible portions of that rack of lamb after leaving it out on the balcony for six hours.

Jeff Samardzija has taken good care of the teeth he still has after accidentally striking himself in the face with a ball peen hammer.

Jeff Samardzija did well to inform nearby homeowners to evacuate after striking a three-inch gas line.

Jeff Samardzija was a model inmate after reaching a plea deal for embezzling from an orphanage.

He had an erratic day of command because he hasn't taken well to any of Don Cooper's adjustments, cratered with an awful mistake pitch in an awful situation, then stabilized post-disaster and wound up eating a lot of innings. Where does he want his $100 million delivered?

5. Jose Abreu snapped out of something that resembled a cold snap with his seventh three-hit night of the season, clocking two doubles and reaching base four times. There's no real standard by which Abreu is doing anything better than he did last season, he even had 14 three-hit games last year. There's a small chance that he exceeds last year's doubles total, obviously not good in and of itself.

But, Abreu's reduced ability to smack everything 450-feet has given me more confidence in the vitality of his hit tool. His ability to use the opposite field is a real, reliable strength, and not just something that opens up for him when everyone fears throwing him a strike on the inner half. I don't know if that makes him any better if he's healthier next season, but there's a lot of layers to his performance that keep him from cratering.

6. Apparently I had nothing to ever be upset about the whole time.

What were your favorite moments of 'James rants endlessly about Erik Johnson?' Share your favorite memories with us in the comments!

Not only will Johnson get an opportunity to start, he'll be getting to face a top offense with a genuine potential to tune him up something good. A real test of his abilities. I'm elated, provided this isn't just burying the lede that Sale is hurt.*

*Sale's start was pushed back one day.

7. It was nice how Melky Cabrera rescued his 2015 season from black hole, career-ending tailspin, but he hasn't been actually, you know, good. He's hit .248/.294/.393 since Aug. 1 and is still shaping up to have his worst non-spinal tumor offensive year since his disastrous 2010 in Atlanta. His track record is long enough and he's had enough good moments this season to trust him with left field going forward, and even to have faith in a bounceback, but you can include his name among people who bear the brunt of this season's failure.

I'm saying this now, before he OPS's .900 in the final month against Quad-A pitching.

8. Dan Jennings has a 1.21 ERA in 22.1 innings since returning from the DL on July 5 with 17 strikeouts, four walks and a single home run allowed. Six of his 19 walks on the season are intentional. Lefties have a season-long .291 average against him, but it's an empty average. Three doubles are the only extra-base hits he's allowed to Southpaws. I'm not crazy, you're crazy. Dan Jennings is an OK, MLB-caliber lefty reliever.

Meanwhile, Andre Rienzo has surrendered 9 walks in 12 innings this year - none of them intentional.

9. Now that Samardzija has established himself as dreadful, the Sox have started putting some promotion behind their heartwarming development success story instead of their disastrous rental project. Here's a warm video of Jose Quintana surprising a fellow Colombian fan with a jersey and some personal time.

10. John Danks faces off against Kris Medlen to start off a three-game set at Kauffman Stadium, where the Sox are 0-6 on the year. Danks is 9-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 127.1 innings vs. the Royals. He's their Bruce Chen, and it's hilarious - seriously, check Royals Twitter. Medlen, meanwhile, has had two Tommy John surgeries and is still able to recreate his old arm strength better than Danks.

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