Getting up to speed on Chris Sale

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Getting up to speed on Chris Sale

Friday night's White Sox game featured a somber Hawk Harrelson spouting off Chris Sale's fastball speeds as if they were losing lottery numbers. Why? Because they were more reminiscent of the glory years of the Oakland A's' Bash Brothers (88-90) than Chicago summer temperatures (95-97). In addition, our elongated lefty had been relying more on his off-speed stuff more than usual, and he'd had similar problems the previous Saturday in Detroit.

South Side fandom had been holding its collective breath all season long as our phenom racked up innings in numbers his left arm had never seen. Cries of "dead arm" were almost immediate. Let's take a look at the numbers.

For a frame of reference, and for consistency's sake, let's look at Sale's two-seam fastballs over his past four starts (Pitch fx numbers courtesy of the wonderful brooksbaseball.net):

GameAvg. Velocity
Max Velocity
727 @TEX
90.2292.40721 @DET
91.4094.00715 @KC
92.2695.8073 vs. TEX
92.2896.30

That's four straight starts with a dip in both average and max velocity. The Twitterverse is concerned. But is Sale concerned? Not according to his postgame comments: "No, everything is fine. It's getting late in the year, that might be a little bit of it, but that's something I'm not paying attention to. I honestly couldn't care less how hard I'm throwing."

Make no mistake about it, Sale's poise was impressive Friday night in Arlington; he maintained his focus after a rough 28-pitch first inning in which he allowed four Rangers runs. The next three innings were highly economical; 31 pitches, 27 strikes, with just two harmless singles allowed. In the fifth, he rebounded from first and second, nobody out situation with three straight punchouts.

A rocky outing by Nate Jones is what ultimately allowed the fifth run to score, as his HBP and walk which loaded the bases, allowing Josh Hamilton to drive in Sale's runner with a groundout. But despite Sale garnering his 12th win of the season, it was the loss in velocity that was the story.

And the story continues; Jake Peavy will be starting in place of Sale on Wednesday, affording him an extra day of rest. Here's what Sale had to say on the extra rest:

"Nothing terrible, nothing anyone else doesn't go through...We all feel this is something that's going to benefit us and benefit myself, a few extra days off, so the next couple months we can make a push and get after it."

The learning curve will continue through the rest of the season for both Sale himself and for the White Sox coaching staff. It has certainly been a long time since Chicago's American Leaguers have brought along a power arm at such a young age. It has been and will continue to be an important storyline throughout the remainder of the season.

Jacob May gets 'Harambe' off his back with first career hit

Jacob May gets 'Harambe' off his back with first career hit

Jacob May earned his first career hit on Saturday night when he singled up in the middle against Cleveland Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco, ending an 0-for-26 start to his major league career. That lengthy stretch without a hit put a weight on May's back heavier than a monkey, as the cliché usually goes.

Instead, that weight felt like America's favorite deceased silverback gorilla. 

"It was kind of like having Harambe on my back," May, a Cincinnati native, said. "I was in a chokehold because I couldn't breathe as well. Now that he's gone, hopefully I can have a lot of success and help this team win.

In all seriousness, May felt an extraordinary relief when he reached first base. He said first base coach Daryl Boston looked at him and said, "Finally," when he reached first base, and when he got back to the dugout, he was mobbed by his teammates and hugged by manager Rick Renteria.

Before anyone could congratulate him in the dugout, though, May let out a cathartic scream into his helmet.

"I was just like oh, man, I let loose a little bit," May said. "This locker room, every'one has kind of helped me out and brought me aside, and told me to just relax. It's a tough situation when you are trying to impress instead of going out there and having fun. Just kind of got to release all that tension built up."

May only had the opportunity to hit because left fielder Melky Cabrera injured his left wrist in the top of the seventh inning (X-Rays came back negative and Cabrera said he should be able to play Sunday). May didn't have much time to think about having to pinch hit for Cabrera, who was due to lead off the bottom of the seventh, which Renteria figured worked in his favor.

"When we hit for Melky, I was talking to (bench coach Joe McEwing), I said, 'He's not going to have anytime to think about it. He's going to get into the box and keep it probably as simple as possible,'" Renteria said. "I don't think he even had enough time to put his guard on his shin. He just got a pitch out over the middle of the plate and stayed within himself and just drove it up the middle, which was nice to see. Obviously very excited for him."

When May reached first base, he received a standing ovation from the crowd at Guaranteed Rate Field, too, even with the White Sox well on their way to a 7-0 loss to the Indians. It's a moment May certainly won't forget anytime soon, especially now that he got Harambe off his back.

"I kind of soaked it all in," May said. "It was probably one of the most surreal, best experiences of my life."

White Sox scoreless streak hits 23 innings in loss to Indians

White Sox scoreless streak hits 23 innings in loss to Indians

The White Sox haven't scored in their last 23 innings and only have had one runner reach second base in their last 20 frames, a stretch of offensive futility manager Rick Renteria said can be used as a learning experience. 

The White Sox managed just four baserunners and were shut out, 7-0, by a dominant Carlos Carrasco and the Cleveland Indians Saturday evening in front of 32,044 at Guaranteed Rate Field. While the White Sox have run into some top pitching over their last three games — Masahiro Tanaka, Corey Kluber and Carrasco, the latter of whom fired eight shutout innings Saturday — Renteria admitted some of his hitters have been pressing lately, too. 

"For me, it’s about our learning curve now and understanding that (those pitchers) are really executing and doing what they want to do," Renteria said. "And we want to make sure that we give ourselves a chance by staying and trusting with the approaches that we take into the at-bats and try not to focus too much on the results and stay focused on the approaches and we know that the results will take care of themselves. But I know the guys are wanting to get the big hit or wanting to drive the ball out of the ballpark as opposed to just staying very simple. I think it’s a great learning lesson for all of us as a club."

The lone offensive bright spot came in the seventh inning, when Jacob May — pinch-hitting for Melky Cabrera, who jammed his wrist chasing a foul ball but had X-Rays come back negative — connected for a leadoff single, the first hit of his career. The 25-year-old began his career hitless in his first 26 at-bats, and upon returning to the dugout let out a cathartic yell into his helmet and was mobbed by his teammates. After the game, he said it felt like he got "Harambe" off his back. 

Mike Pelfrey, replacing the injured James Shields, allowed four runs (two earned) on four hits with one walk and one strikeout in 4 1/3 innings. The White Sox didn’t want to bring up one of their prize pitching prospects in Triple-A for only two or three starts, so it was the 33-year-old Pelfrey who got the start.

Edwin Encarnacion blasted a two-run home run on a two-out, 0-2 pitch in the first inning, and was tagged for two unearned runs in the fifth on a Carlos Santana double and Francisco Lindor sacrifice fly.

Cleveland tacked on more runs on Michael Brantley’s two-run home run in the seventh and Jose Ramirez’s solo home run in the eighth off Michael Ynoa, who replaced Zach Putnam after the right-hander left the game due to tenderness in his right elbow. The White Sox announced Putnam is day-to-day due to the issue, though Renteria said the issue was more with Putnam's tricep, not his elbow. 

Tyler Saladino singled twice and Jose Abreu drew a walk to account for the other baserunners the White Sox managed against Carrasco.