The White Sox and a shift for Pujols

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The White Sox and a shift for Pujols

Generally, when teams shift their infield for a pull hitter, they do it for a lefty. David Ortiz, Jim Thome, and Adam Dunn have grounded out plenty of times to short right field.

It's much more rare to see a team shift against a right-handed hitter, though. But that's what the White Sox did Tuesday when Albert Pujols came to the plate.

The Sox aren't the first team to shift for Pujols -- Milwaukee did that last year. Dusty Baker's also employed it for a few years now. But what's interesting is how far Adam Dunn played off the first base bag -- that looks like about a 30, maybe 40-foot sprint he'd have to make to get to first, not leaving him with a ton of time to find the bag, even with Pujols' footspeed. But moving Dunn any closer to first base would've opened up a massive hole through which Pujols could poke a single.

Danks ended up walking Pujols in the sequence, although he did try to work inside with his cutterfastball and outside with his changeup. Unfortunately, neither pitch was really there for Danks on his first start of the spring.

But this shift does show the Sox are going to be a team that takes a good look at spray charts (Pujols' chart from 2011 can be found here). Not to say the previous regime didn't, but it would've been somewhat surprising to see Ozzie Guillen, Joey Cora & Co. implement this shift.

Either way, it's nice to see the on-field management be forward-thinking.

Starters help White Sox bullpen maintain health for lengthy stretch

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Starters help White Sox bullpen maintain health for lengthy stretch

The White Sox are at another point in their schedule where every inning is precious.

So even though they only managed a split in Monday’s doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians, the White Sox have to feel good not to have taxed their bullpen.

Mat Latos and Erik Johnson combined for 12.1 innings pitched and five relievers combined for another 5.1 on Monday for the White Sox, who are in the midst of a stretch of 17 games in 16 days. Given they have Chris Sale and Jose Quintana scheduled the next two games, the White Sox feel pretty fortunate at the midway point of their lengthy run.

“We didn’t really abuse anybody,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “These doubleheaders can kind of get away from you and both sides probably had that. You get out of these things without having to use anybody in both games and extending anybody.”

With the way things had recently gone for Latos and Johnson’s command issues in his last start, Monday’s doubleheader could have been trouble for the White Sox bullpen.

Latos hadn’t completed six innings since April 24 and posted a 7.84 ERA in his last four starts. And in his only major league start this season, Johnson allowed four earned runs in five innings against the Boston Red Sox on May 5.

Not only do the White Sox have two more here against the Indians, they start a four-game series in Kansas City on Thursday and then head to Citi Field for three against the New York Mets. Only then do they have another day off.

Johnson made two early mistakes, but mostly followed in the footsteps of Latos, who delivered six innings in the opening game before he departed with a 6-3 lead courtesy of a three-run homer by Brett Lawrie.

While Johnson left a 3-0 fastball up to Rajai Davis and he ripped it for a two-run homer, which put Cleveland up 3-1 in the fifth, he faced only five over the minimum through six innings.

“EJ did a good job for us, we just weren’t really getting anything going,” Ventura said.

Johnson — who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the start — entered the seventh inning at 93 pitches. With his team trailing by two, Ventura hoped to steal another inning from his right-hander. The Indians took advantage as Juan Uribe homered and scored another run off the combination of Johnson and reliever Matt Purke, who allowed a hit in 2.1 scoreless innings.

“You want to help the team out and save the bullpen as best you can, especially on these nine and nines,” Johnson said. “That’s your job as a starter for a regular nine inning game, whether it’s a doubleheader or not.

“I’m thankful for the opportunities and if they keep coming I’m going to keep coming back here.”

For now, the opportunity belongs to reliever Tommy Kahnle, whom was added as the 26th man before the doubleheader. By optioning Johnson to Charlotte, the White Sox will employ an eight-man bullpen.

Preview: Chris Sale targets 10th win as White Sox battle Indians on CSN+

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Preview: Chris Sale targets 10th win as White Sox battle Indians on CSN+

The White Sox continue their series with the Cleveland Indians tonight, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet Plus. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (9-0, 1.58 ERA) vs. Josh Tomlin (6-0, 3.56 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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White Sox offense struggles, drop Game 2 to Indians

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White Sox offense struggles, drop Game 2 to Indians

Jose Abreu continues to struggle and the White Sox offense followed suit in the nightcap of a doubleheader Monday.

Cleveland Indians starter Cody Anderson struck out nine batters and helped his team avoid a doubleheader sweep as the White Sox lost Game 2 by a 5-1 count at U.S. Cellular Field. Anderson wiggled out of a first-inning jam by retiring Abreu and limited the White Sox — who put 18 men on base in a 7-6 win in Game 1 — to five hits in seven innings. Erik Johnson allowed five runs, including three home runs, in 6.2 innings.

“He’s got a nice fastball, but the changeup/breaking stuff was much better than we’ve seen it before,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Their guy was up to it.”

Abreu doubled in nine at-bats in the doubleheader and stranded seven runners on base, including three early in the second game.

Anderson, who entered the game 0-3 with a 7.99 ERA, didn’t give the White Sox many opportunities. They had a shot at him early as Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera both singled with two outs in the bottom of the first inning and no score. But Abreu quickly fell behind 1-2 in the count, fouled off a pitch and weakly grounded out to first to end the threat.

Abreu also stranded a runner in scoring position in the third inning with the score tied at 1.

Frazier doubled with two outs and scored on Cabrera’s game-tying single and advanced to second on a Jose Ramirez error. Abreu, who stranded a pair twice in the opener, struck out to end the third. He went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position in the doubleheader and is now hitting .236 in 67 plate appearances with 18 RBIs.

The strikeout of Abreu was the third of the inning by Anderson, who retired the final 13 White Sox hitters he faced.

“It was just one of those games where good pitching it will beat good hitting any day,” outfielder Austin Jackson said. “He was using all of his pitches. You really couldn’t sit on one pitch up there. We really didn’t get anything going to get those timely hits.”

Looking for a lengthy start, Johnson kept the White Sox competitive for six innings. He allowed a solo homer to Ramirez in the second inning. Rajai Davis jumped on a 3-0 pitch in the fifth inning for a two-run homer to put Cleveland ahead 3-1. Juan Uribe blasted a solo shot off Johnson to start the seventh inning, the first homer he’s hit against the White Sox in 26 career plate appearances.

Johnson allowed five earned runs and six hits with three walks in 6.2 innings. He struck out five.

“Certain situations like the 3-0 to Rajai, where you have an open base, you have to be smarter than that than to throw one right over the plate,” Johnson said. “Just a few pitches I wish I had back. For the most part, I’m thankful for another opportunity to help this team out as best I can. If those opportunities keep coming, I’m more than happy to keep rolling out there.”