White Sox manager Robin Ventura has avoided naming a closer or even giving strong hints about which way he’s leaning among Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain, and Addison Reed, but Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun Times reports that “the smart money” is on Thornton getting the job.
Thornton struggled with some save chances early last season before giving way to Sergio Santos as the full-time closer, but Santos was traded to Toronto and Thornton has been one of the elite relievers in baseball for the past six seasons.
During that time he’s thrown 370 innings with a 3.21 ERA and 10.0 strikeouts per nine frames, including a 3.32 ERA and 63/21 K/BB ratio in 60 innings last year. Crain has also been a very good setup man for a long time and Reed is a 23-year-old rookie who projects as a dominant late-inning reliever, but in the short term going with Thornton makes sense.
The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.
After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.
Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.