By: Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
CHICAGO — The Chicago White Sox put a disappointing August to rest Sunday on a high note, ultimately saying goodbye to a stretch that took them out of any playoff aspirations they may have held.
After a 16-10 July that gave the White Sox a sense of purpose, not to mention halting any ideas of moving players by the non-waiver trade deadline, the team went 12-16 in August, with some inconsistent starting pitching the focal point, not to mention an up-and-down offense.
The uneven way the team played in the month was sort of how Sunday’s game unfolded, with starter Jose Quintana lasting just 4 1/3 innings, but White Sox pitchers combining to tie a franchise record with 19 strikeouts in a 5-4 victory over 11 innings against the Seattle Mariners.
The offense had its issues as well, but came to life in the late innings, first whenMelky Cabrera tied the game in the seventh inning with his ninth home run. Down to their last out in the ninth inning, a Carlos Sanchez ground ball turned into a run when Mariners shortstop Brad Miller threw away the potential last out.
As the bullpen delivered 6 2/3 innings of one-run baseball, it set the stage for an 11th-inning uprising that included an Alexei Ramirez single, a Tyler Flowers walk and Tyler Saladino’s game-ending single to right field.
“We’ll end (August) on a good note,” manager Robin Ventura said, preferring to look at the positive that was Sunday’s victory instead of the fact that they lost ground in the wild-card chase for the month as the season grew shorter. “That’s what we are going to go with.”
It had the potential to be so different when the White Sox’s offense not only came to life for the first time all season in July, it turned into a force. But an uprising is one thing. Keeping the momentum is quite another.
“That’s kind of the sort of year it has been so far; consistency is the key,” said leadoff man Adam Eaton, who, like the team, has been inconsistent at times. “I think if we stay consistent in the way we approach the game, we’ll be fine, but it’s just been a real roller-coaster for us and with any team, a roller-coaster is not a good thing.”
The White Sox were caught in an awkward spot when July ended. Their hot run to end the month left the club with some interesting decisions to make. They ended up doing nothing at the non-waiver trade deadline, not only avoiding a sell-off of assets, but not making any additions either.
Stuck in the mud. Caught in the headlights. Unable to react. The criticism of the White Sox’s do-nothing strategy was quick.
But had the White Sox sold off assets such as Jeff Samardzija, Zach Duke and Ramirez, they would have been criticized for not seeing what they might have been capable of doing. And even if they had gone out and traded prospects to bolster the roster, it wasn’t likely they would have caught the Kansas City Royalsin the division standings, so they would have been doing it for a crack at a one-game wild-card playoff.
Ask the Oakland Athletics what happens when bolstering the roster midseason leads to a one-game playoff. They lost last year’s wild-card game to the Royals, of course, and they are paying the price this year with the worst record in the American League.
The A’s might be an extreme example of what can happen when teams put all their eggs in the basket that is one season, but it does show how quickly things can turn.
What couldn’t have been predicted in August was how the White Sox would struggle on the pitching end. The White Sox had steadied themselves in the rotation in July with Chris Sale, Quintana and a game Samardzija, who was on a run of 10 consecutive games of seven innings or more.
Things went backward, though, as Samardzija lost all six of his August starts and Quintana won just once, an Aug. 20 outing against the Angels. Quintana’s 4 1/3-inning outing Sunday was his second shortest outing of the season, behind his third start of the year when he was crushed by the Detroit Tigers in just four innings of work.
“We’ve got to focus day by day,” Quintana said when asked about the team’s disappointing month. “You never know what will happen in the last month. But we’re at the point now where we’re focusing day by day.”
Youngsters Saladino, Trayce Thompson, Carlos Sanchez and Carlos Rodon have provided bright spots. The White Sox are seeing an honest-to-goodness wave of young talent arrive with the ability to do positive things moving into the future.
More reinforcements are set to arrive Tuesday as rosters expand.
Maybe August wasn’t the kind of month the White Sox were looking for, but Saladino’s hit provided a positive and a little optimism as September arrives, even if a postseason berth this year is a needle-in-the-haystack long shot.
“It was awesome,” said Saladino, who has multiple RBIs in back-to-back games for the first time in his young career. “Pulling it out at the end, and the way that everybody played, there were a lot of clutch things that happened: the bullpen and some timely stuff offensively. Just all around, it made for a great game.”
In a 62-68 season that has gone nothing like what was expected, “clutch” and “great” haven’t often been used in conjunction to describe a White Sox game. It was Sunday, though, and it came at the end of a disappointing month no less.
How’s that for a lack of consistency?