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Look no further than the past week if you question whether the White Sox are a vastly improved aggregation than the dismal product of the past two rebuilding seasons.
The fellows won five of seven games against the division-leading Twins on the road and the struggling Texas Rangers at home. They now stand at 60-70, not enough to enthuse the most skeptical observers, but only two victories shy of the total for the entire 2018 season.
Pitching led the charge. Delete a two-inning breakdown by the bullpen last Tuesday leading to a 14-4 pasting by the Twins, and you have a tidy 2.10 ERA for the week.
Lucas Giolito turned in perhaps his finest game in a Sox uniform on Wednesday, pitching a complete game and blanking the Twinkies 4-0 on a yield of just three hits. Giolito didn't walk anyone while striking out 12. This against a ballclub destined to set an all-time record for home runs.
Giolito, who will once again face Minnesota Tuesday evening at The Grate, set the tone for his starting brethren, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease, Ivan Nova and Ross Detwiler. That quintet posted a 2.09 ERA last week over 43 innings in which they walked just four batters while striking out 46.
Lopez had a no-hitter going Sunday before he retired after five innings with what has become a polite common ailment, "flu-like symptoms." That covers the gamut of illnesses, but apparently he was given an IV for dehydration after throwing 80 pitches. Just think what he could have done if he was hydrated.
As impressive as Giolito and Lopez were, consider that Detwiler began the season in York, Penn., pitching for the Revolution in the independent Atlantic League. Detwiler was a first-round pick (6th overall) of the Nationals back in 2007, and the 33-year-old has pitched for seven big-league clubs. The Sox took a flier on him last spring after he pitched in just three games with the Revolution. Detwiler started eight more times at Charlotte before he was summoned to the South Side at the end of June.
In six innings of work last Thursday against the Rangers, Detwiler allowed only three hits, one of which was a home run by Elvis Andrus, the only run Texas scored in a 6-1 Sox victory. Detwiler struck out a career-high eight while walking no one.
The return from the IL of Yoan Moncada, who doubled and homered, received most of the headlines Thursday, while Detwiler's post-game comment, "Whenever they hand you the ball, you need to go out there and do your best," was straight out of Crash Davis's tutelage of Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham. But no one would have noticed if Detwiler had gone home and looked for another job when he was unsigned earlier this year. It's a good story - though underreported - of the journeyman ballplayer doing whatever he can to continue to play the game he loves.
The bullpen, aside from the hiccup Tuesday against the Twins, accounted for a 2.12 ERA over 17 innings. For the week, the relievers walked five and fanned 20.
For the season, Sox pitchers have struck out 2.28 more hitters than they've walked. Last week that number was 7.33.
Part of the story can be explained by getting ahead of the hitters. For instance, Giolito, who threw 115 pitches in his three-hit complete game shutout, had 0-2 counts on 11 hitters, of whom eight struck out. The other three were retired on two ground balls and a pop-up.
Lopez and relievers Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, Jace Fry and Alex Colome had similar results on Sunday when they mired 12 hitters with 0-2 counts. One of those batters reached on Tim Anderson's 23rd error of the season, but the remaining 11 all were retired on four strikeouts and a smorgasbord of grounders and flyouts.
Sox pitchers are slowly closing the gap between walks and strikeouts. They now rank 12th in walks allowed and 25th in strikeouts.
Meanwhile, Anderson, despite missing a month with a sprained ankle, has committed four more errors than any other player in the major leagues. Many of his misplays seem to be more a result of poor judgement than a lack of ability. Fielding a ground ball on Saturday off the bat of Andrus, he threw almost underhanded to first, and the ball tailed away from Jose Abreu for an error. Andrus most probably would have been retired if Anderson had thrown overhand.
Submariners have had decent luck as pitchers, but it's not a recipe for success for a shortstop, especially one like Anderson who has a very strong arm. Many of his sensational plays emanate from going far into the hole and throwing across his body to first base.
His manager Rick Renteria and bench coach Joe McEwing both are former major league infielders. They work with Anderson, and one would think they could fix him.
Marcus Semien played a couple of seasons with the White Sox before being traded to Oakland in the Jeff Samardzija deal prior to the 2015 season. Inserted at shortstop with the A's, Semien made 35 errors. However, coach Ron Washington basically taught the kid how to play the infield. Semien hasn't made more than 21 errors since that 2015 season, and he's been charged with just 11 so far this season.
There is the argument that players who have greater range, such as Anderson, are prone to make more errors since they get more chances. However, many of Anderson's boots, bobbles, and errant tosses occur on plays than are made by much-less talented shortstops than he is. So Rickey and Joe need to fix him, and the sooner the better.
As August winds down and Labor Day approaches, the Sox are 14-11 for the month. They've won series' against baseball's elite, the Astros and Twins, while struggling against also-rans like the Angels.
This week will be another test for this fledgling band with the Twins coming to The Grate with revenge on their minds, before the Sox travel to Atlanta where the Braves have an eight-game winning streak and a six-game lead in the NL East. Let's see if the pitching holds up. If it does, these games will be another harbinger of just how far the rebuild has come.
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