NEW YORK – On a regular basis, baseball serves up odd little things. Sometimes it does this all at once and reminds you that anything you see on one given night might be completely out of sync with everything else you know.
Consider that on Tuesday, the White Sox did not strand a baserunner for the first time since 2007, and for the first time in a win since 1987. Luis Severino became the first Yankees pitcher to have double-digit strikeouts, not walk a batter, and still lose since Mike Mussina in 2002. In New York’s 4-1 loss, the Yankees out-hit the White Sox, 4-3, but none of those hits left the infield. The Bronx Bombers suffered their first home loss in eight games this year, had an eight-game winning streak overall snapped, and took their first loss ever with Pete Kozma in the starting lineup. All of Chicago’s runs came on homers by Leury Garcia and Avisail Garcia, on the same night that their historic Garcia-Garcia-Garcia outfield mate last week, Willy Garcia, homered in Triple-A.
So, what do you read into a night like that? Everything and nothing.
“I know they won their eight before this game, and they’ve been playing really good baseball, and pitching well,” said Miguel Gonzalez, who came two outs from pitching a shutout after taking a perfect game into the fifth inning. “They’ve been hitting really well in key situations. To be able to shut them down is huge, and now we can get ready for tomorrow and try to win a series that’s huge for us.”
Said Avisail Garcia: “We don’t pay attention to whether they’ve won or not. We just try to play the game hard and try to win the game. That’s what we focus on, that’s it.”
The White Sox have played 13 games this year, and they’ve won seven of them. The losses have been by an average of three runs, the wins by an average of 3.7. There have been only two Chicago games decided by one run – one win and one loss last week in Cleveland. So, basically, they’re either really good or not good at all, yet Gonzalez described his squad as one that “never gives up.”
How can he know that already?
“Just the way we played in spring training, it showed,” said the pitcher, of a team that went 16-17 in Cactus League play. “Guys not giving up, and doing their job. I think every individual here has an opportunity to do well, and that’s what we’re here for. It’s fun to be a part of this team, and we’re going to keep going, keep grinding. We have a good ball club.”
Do they really? Probably not, but maybe. The White Sox are 7-6 even though Jose Quintana is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA and Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier have combined to hit 1 home run. Abreu, off to an 8-for-51 start, popped up on a bunt attempt Tuesday night with two runners on, a hilariously-bad decision on the slugger’s part that was immediately rendered moot by Avisail Garcia’s three-run homer in the next at-bat.
Dumb stuff getting brushed aside by three-run shots is the kind of thing that happens to good teams, but the weirdest part of the idea that the White Sox might be good is that the White Sox don’t really plan to be good this year.
“I saw an article recently about whether we’d stick to our (rebuilding) plan if, in fact, we continued to win,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “I think we were 6-5 at the time. We were 23-10 last year, remember? Let’s give this thing a little time to unfold. Look, we’re committed to having a long-term view of what we’re trying to accomplish here. If, for whatever reason, various unexpected opportunities present themselves over the course of the summer, we’ll respond accordingly. But, right now, we remain focused on building something sustainable for the long term.”
A general manager pleading with the media for patience for his team to start losing is a new one. But that’s baseball. There’s always something a little strange, and sometimes a lot.