1. Shout out to Jeff Samardzija for lowering the expectations such that giving up two dingers and four runs to half of a real Cleveland Indians lineup over 6.2 innings doesn't even trigger a twinge of disappointment. Even this snapshot of recent performance--I'm assuming meant to be shocking to the less grizzled and beaten-down of us--just serves to remind: Oh yeah, Jeff Samardzija did win his last start, didn't he?!
Francisco Lindor finishing a double short of the cycle is one thing, but Samardzija allowed a home run to the still-slugging-under-.300 Jose Ramirez, and six extra-base hits in all. He pounded the upper half of the zone, worked deep into the game on an economical pitch count, and split the plate enough times to get hammered.
If his tenure ended tomorrow it wouldn't be too soon.
2. Indians starter Josh Tomlin picked up the victory in Wednesday's 6-4 loss, perhaps surprisingly, but take this into account:
Tomlin career K/9: 5.9
Tomlin career K/9 vs. White Sox: 9.6.
He's been baffling Sox hitters with sub-90 mph velocity and okay-ish command for years, so at least the Sox had the satisfaction of him falling apart in rapid succession in the sixth inning as Tyler Saladino and Jose Abreu took him deep back-to-back, causing Terry Francona to pull him in a rush. Then the Indians bullpen stomped out the hope of the night.
3. Prior to Saladino going deep--his first home run in over a month--Steve Stone commented that a regular practice for him should be checking if the third basemen fails to step up on him, in which case he should look for the bunt. That's pretty much the state of his offense. Since Aug. 1 he's hit .228/.258/.285 with four walks, 25 strikeouts in 129 plate appearances, and has grounded into as many double plays as he's had extra-base hits.
Which, again, is why Mike Olt is here, being apparently awful and still getting a chance. More on that in a bit.
Also Alexei Ramirez got moved down to put Tyler Saladino at No. 2 again, which would be meaningless if we were confident it wasn't a habit already.
4. After going without any pulled home runs since May, Abreu got an 88 mph heater from Tomlin and was suddenly flipping a ball into the left field bullpen for his 27th home run of the year, putting him "on pace" for 32 on the year. That is not real projection, but an interesting look into just how normal of a year he's going to wind up having, despite looking dead on his feet during much of the middle of the year. Even if this is the baseline going forward, this is a great player, and pretty much no observers believe that it is.
Abreu's homer landed in the waiting glove of Rob Brantly in the bullpen, who apparently was not only thrilled to pieces to catch it, but generally is thrilled to be on the White Sox roster, playing the Indians, in September of 2015. Bless him.
5. Robin Ventura, the same guy who tinkered with his relievers to the point of bringing David Robertson to get a single, bases-empty out in a three-run game the previous night, let Tyler Flowers take the last at-bat of the game with Geovany Soto and Rob Brantly on the bench, right after pinch-hitting objectively terrible Mike Olt for Carlos Sanchez, on the strength of Indians closer Cody Allen--superficially a hard fastball-slider righty--having career reverse-splits.
This is immaterial September bench-handling, but it betrays Ventura's lack of internal consistency. Flowers has been liberally pinch-hit for in the past, often with non-catchers even when Soto is available, but now he's hitting for himself. Reverse splits from a young pitcher are now getting credence, but J.B. Shuck's career-long reverse splits aren't regularly acknowledged, and we keep pretending there's some meaningful evidence of Gordon Beckham success against lefties.
I don't want to scrutinize September tinkering, but you watch enough of these games and this stuff jumps off the page at you.
6. That said, I found myself alone today in my dismissiveness toward the idea that Ventura is in trouble. Admittedly, Hahn's discussion of Ventura's job status, and his disinterest in making any kind of hard commitment, reads as the typical perturbed GM. Hahn is typically, and perhaps even uniquely, evasive in his comments, but even if he were truly beside himself with Robin, the process for getting rid of a tried-and-true organizational soldier requires more than just his whim.
Obviously at a certain point things come to a head, and if the situation is truly unworkable between the two, it will call for Jerry Reinsdorf to decide between the direction and management of his cherished franchise and his desire to give all of his favorite ex-players a job forever. But to purge Ventura, I believe the Sox would need to either have a clear opportunity for a unquestionably superior replacement, or be in a position where they could identify Ventura as the primary element holding the team back, which even I would not assert at this point.
7. Trayce Thompson got yet another start thanks to Adam LaRoche's knee issues, and collected two more hits, including his third home run of the year after turning and burning on a 91 mph fastball from Tomlin. I'll take irrational exuberance about a fringy Sox position prospect if it means he's not immediately falling on his face, but I said the same thing about Saladino and look where that got us.
Defensively, Thompson mixed a very athletic diving catch powered by his correct read of a shanked pop-up off the bat, with a back-breaking error when he whiffed fielding a single to right as he tried to rev up to throw home, plating an extra insurance run for the Indians in the eighth. Rookies are such fun!
8. Scot Gregor had a pair of great nuggets on Wednesday. Going over them in reverse order, here, the White Sox brass don't seem to be that committed to the 'Avisail Garcia is doing just fine' line anymore. Robin Ventura said Garcia has to start elevating the ball, and said of his groundball tendencies that "It's not going to earn him a great living doing that."
He went 2-4 Wednesday night, including a booming double to right that was...pure Avi. He dived across the plate at a low breaker and is so strong that he was still able to drive it over Lonnie Chisenhall's head in right despite not being in a good body position to drive the ball. Just imagine how far he could hit it if he was in optimal body position!
9. The second bit was a check-in on old friend Gavin Floyd, who says he's feeling good again after a Tommy John surgery and two surgeries to repair the same type of fracture in his elbow. Any sitdown interview with Gavin reveals his deep faith, which is surprising, since his face in the dugout often made it seem like he was staring directly into an empty abyss.
Floyd is only pitching relief at this point, but is still just 32 years-old, and is looking to continue with a team in 2016. He's averaging 92 mph out of the pen!
10. I guess there is some solace to the Samardzija deal.