Chicago White Sox

Yoan Moncada plays role of hero twice late as White Sox sweep Astros

Yoan Moncada plays role of hero twice late as White Sox sweep Astros

He’d never had a game-winning hit before at any level so Yoan Moncada might have been surprised by what all his White Sox teammates threw at him late Thursday night.

“Everything,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “Gatorade, ice — they ripped my jersey, too.”

The White Sox rookie was all cleaned up by the time he addressed reporters following a 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros in 11 innings. But for a good period of time, Moncada was soaking wet and later likely covered in any usable substance teammates could find after the biggest game of his career. After previously striking out twice with the tying run aboard, Moncada belted a game-tying solo home run in the ninth inning and then singled home the winning run to set off a celebration unlike any he’d ever been at the center of before.

“It was something indescribable,” Moncada said. “I think that my feelings, all my emotions, were to the roof when I hit that ball and then when I was running the bases. It was something unique.”

Having had a chance to scout Moncada when both played at Triple-A Charlotte in June, White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodon has a sense that Moncada’s breakthrough moment won’t be his last. Rodon, who earned a no decision with eight sharp innings (two earned runs and nine hits allowed with no walks and four strikeouts), is very impressed with the second baseman’s approach.

While Moncada brought a .688 OPS into Thursday’s game, he carried a .366 on-base percentage thanks in part to 13 walks in his first 71 plate appearances. Rodon and the White Sox figured it would only be a matter of time before Moncada, the top prospect in baseball, started to put the ball in play more often and do some damage.

That moment arrived in the ninth inning against Astros closer Ken Giles, who fell behind Moncada 2-0 in the count. Moncada looked for a fastball and drove the 98.7 mph pitch from Giles out to the opposite-field. It was only the third blown save in 25 tries for Giles.

Two innings later, Moncada came to the plate with Leury Garcia at second and no outs. Garcia singled off Astros reliever Francis Martes and advanced to second on Jake Marisnick’s error in center. Moncada then ripped a 97-mph fastball from Martes past the dive of shortstop Marwin Gonzalez into center to begin the celebration.

“He battles up there and it’s about time,” Rodon said. “He’s got a good bat. Just a special player, man.

“For a young guy, just real patient. He’s aggressive sometimes, but he’ll wait it out and has good at-bats and strings them along and makes the pitcher work.”

[RELATED: Yoan Moncada's son celebrates dad's walk-off hit in adorable fashion]

White Sox manager Rick Renteria hoped any of his young charges would have an opportunity for redemption after their earlier struggles with men in scoring position. Moncada struck out to end the fifth with a man on second base in a 1-0 contest. He also struck out with runners on the corners in the seventh inning and the White Sox trailing by one. Yolmer Sanchez and Tim Anderson also missed out on key opportunities.

But Moncada bounced back, first against Giles and then against Martes. His composure is another reason why Renteria believes Moncada can excel in the big leagues.

“We were just talking about 'OK it's time for them to have an opportunity to redeem themselves in the game of baseball,'” Renteria said. “And see what they take from the previous at-bat in terms of how they were going to approach it. He did a nice job and got a pitch he could handle and hit it pretty hard through the infield to be able to get it out as far as it did.”

Afterward, Moncada was rewarded appropriately. Teammates threw ice at him halfway between first and second base, where Moncada wildly pumped his fist and jumped up and down.

Teammates raced from the dugout bearing gifts. Some brought ice while pitcher Derek Holland delivered a full bottle of Gatorade. They then mobbed Moncada and ripped his jersey, after which only the top button remained fastened.

“This is my first time that I hit a walkoff hit to win a game,” Moncada said. “I feel very excited.”

The White Sox made sure Rob Brantly's father celebrated retirement from Air Force in style

The White Sox made sure Rob Brantly's father celebrated retirement from Air Force in style

The surprise that Master Sergeant Robert Brantly received on his final day of work is one he’ll never forget.

The father of White Sox catcher Rob Brantly, the elder Brantly was honored on the field on Monday night as the team’s Hero of the Game and joined by his son, who presented him with an autographed bat. The 37-year Air Force veteran, who also celebrated his 56th birthday, wasn’t informed he would be recognized by the White Sox on the field with his son until late Sunday.

“When I saw my son there and gave him a big hug and he told me I was his hero, it meant the world,” the elder Brantly said. “I can’t express it any other way than just gratitude for this organization, this team and my family putting up with me being away for so many different occasions with the military.

“I will never forget coming here to Chicago.”

The White Sox backstop said he informed the club that his father, an Angels fan, would be in town on his final day of employment in the Air Force. Brantly’s first day as a civilian is Tuesday.

“It’s a pretty emotional moment for me just knowing that my dad in the service he put into this country for almost 40 years fighting for our freedom, but also fighting to give me, his son, every opportunity in the world to succeed and he gave me this opportunity to be here and to be able to play Major League Baseball not only as a service man but as a father teaching me everything to know about baseball and the passion that comes along with the game,” the younger Brantly said.

“He would tell me he puts on that uniform every day so I don’t have to. It carries a lot of weight. To be able to do something like that for him and to finish off his career, his first day of retirement, tipping his cap to a Major League Baseball crowd giving him a standing ovation, it was a special moment for him and our family. I was glad I was able to be there to share that with him.”

Will James Shields stick with 'different' look in 2018?

Will James Shields stick with 'different' look in 2018?

Ever since James Shields dropped down his arm angle, the strikeouts have increased considerably.

The White Sox pitcher struck out eight more batters in Monday night’s 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. Shields, who pitched seven innings to earn a victory, has averaged nearly a strikeout per inning since he began to throw from a three-quarters angle in the middle of an Aug. 5 loss at Boston. While Shields still hasn’t perfected the new look -- he’s not even sure he’ll bring it back in 2018 -- it has caught the attention of opposing hitters.

“That was definitely a different Shields,” Angels outfielder Mike Trout said. “He was moving the ball around tonight.”  

Shields might consider sticking with the lowered angle. The veteran often insists the adjustment is a work in a progress, though his results have continued to improve (he’s got a 3.51 ERA in his past four starts).

Overall, since Shields made the switch he has a 4.33 ERA in 60 1/3 innings, nearly two points below the 6.19 ERA he produced in his first 56 2/3 frames. Shields has also seen a reduction in home runs allowed per nine innings from 2.38 to 1.79.

But the most drastic change has been in strikeouts. Shields has increased his strikeout-rate to 23.5 percent, up from 16.6 percent. He’s whiffed 59 batters since making the adjustment after only 44 prior.

“He already curls, he closes off,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He's got a cross-angle delivery, so you see his back a lot. But I think the variance in velocities, the breaking ball, he'll run the fastball, sink it. He's doing a lot with it, there's a lot of action going on so it's going to both sides of the plate. But the variance of velocity, especially with the breaking ball, sometimes it pops up there as an eephus or something. He's doing a real nice job.”

Shields has one season left on his current deal and seems likely to return to anchor a young White Sox rotation in 2018. Whether or not he’ll stay with the current setup remains to be seen.

“We’ll see,” Shields said “I’ll make some assessments in the offseason, and see how that works out, see how my body is feeling. Over the last month and a half, it seems to be working out. we’ll see how it goes.

“I’m revamping every year man. This being my 12th season, you’re always trying to refine your game every year, no matter what, whether it’s a pitch or mechanical adjustment. The league makes adjustments on you. I’ve faced a lot of these hitters so many times. I think Robbie Cano I’ve had almost 100 at-bats in my career against. But at the end of the day, you always have to make adjustments.”