WARR baseball writer Kevin Luchansky writes about the Cubs and the White Sox each week
Also, check out Kevin’s daily baseball betting picks on NorthSideWire.
After a real loud off-season that saw general manager Rick Hahn creatively re-tool his South Side squad with a number of free agent acquisitions, the Chicago White Sox bats were mostly quiet throughout their season opening series in Kansas City.
The defending American League champion Kansas City Royals, albeit with a slightly different look and feel than last year’s squad, had no problems sweeping the Sox by a combined score of 21-7 in three games at Kaufman Stadium.
The Sox starters for the series — lined up as Jeff Samardzija, Jose Quintana and John Danks with ace Chris Sale still sidelined — each struggled with their control to a certain extent and none were able to keep runs off the board.
Samardzija’s start was probably the most disappointing of the trio’s starts, as his struggles in keeping the ball in the park in spring training poured over into last Monday’s game. The would-be ace understudy allowed a big home run to Mike Moustakas and surrendered five runs in just six innings, striking out only one batter and walking three on Opening Day. Quintana’s start was only slightly less uninspiring two days later as he allowed five runs on nine hits in five innings of work.
The majority of the damage Quintana allowed came off the bat of Eric Hosmer with a three run blast in the bottom of the third, a killer for the Sox who had just taken a 3-1 lead, their first of the season. On the bright side, Quintana had a 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio, something he’ll need to build off or at least maintain this season for continued success.
Scoring more than one run once in the first four games (including the 6-0 home opener loss to Minnesota) certainly wasn’t the offensive start this team would hope for, especially after listening to baseball analysts and pundits talk about how improved the early and middle part of the Sox order would be this season.
Of course, it’s far too early to make any rush judgements on these hitters. Personally, I’m a big fan of the changes the Southsiders have implemented. Unfortunately, the added excitement about the potential damage this set of 1-6 hitters can do to opposing pitchers probably added to the letdown.
It took until Saturday before life was found in the Sox bats when they grabbed their first victory of the season that afternoon by a score of 5-4 on the back of J.B. Shuck’s pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Pitching Saves Weekend
Chris Sale’s dominant return to the mound Sunday helped the Sox take the series from the Twins in the rubber match by a score of 6-2. Sale’s eight strikeouts set the tone for the day and Sox fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief, as there didn’t appear to be any lingering issues from the foot injury he sustained back in the spring.
Sale’s return to the rotation allows Samardzija and Quintana to fall back into the Nos. 2 and 3 slots respectively where they fit more appropriately and could be more effective match-ups against opposing rotations.
Even in an underwhelming 0-4 start and a not-encouraging current 2-4 record, the Sox had a few bright spots in Week 1. A few of the club’s free agent acquisitions began their work on improving a bullpen that was one of the worst in the majors in 2014. One of those relievers, veteran lefty Zach Duke, has already made three appearances, coming up big in two spots — he grabbed the win on Saturday and stranded a few runners in Sunday’s win.
Avisail Garcia has also had an impressive start. The highly-touted prospect that came to the organization two years ago in a three-way trade with the Red Sox and Tigers had an injury-riddled 2014 season that started with a devastating sidelining in the first week of that campaign.
Things are much different now, Garcia is hitting .368 through his first 19 at-bats, he hasn’t left the yard yet, but two of his five hits went for extra bases and Garcia already has stolen a base, giving us a little glimpse of his power and speed combo.
If the top of the order produces at or near what’s expected of them, Garcia could be the X-factor in this lineup, with a solid performance overall this season potentially making the difference in a few wins.
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