Chris Sale throwing 115 pitches in his dominant, 15-strikeout start Monday has led to some talk about whether the White Sox were smart to let him stay in the game that long considering it was his ninth career start and came just weeks after temporarily shifting him to the bullpen amid elbow problems.
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper has a message for anyone questioning the wisdom of extending Sale’s pitch count that far, and that message is basically “you’re an idiot”:
Pitch counts are for people who have never been in the game. … We’re in the American League. We’re not in Little League. But nevertheless, people who bring up pitch counts are people who have nothing else to really know. And it just blows me away. They’re doing that to say, “God forbid if someone goes down, I told you so.” And these are people who are not in the arena and never really played, so what kind of validity does any of that hold? … Stick to whatever their hobbies are, these pitch count (guys).
There’s some truth to parts of that, of course, but the notion that only people outside of the game pay attention to pitch counts is silly. For better or worse every pitching coach and manager in the league makes decisions based on pitch counts, Cooper included. His point is that there’s no need to get worked up about one 115-pitch outing, but the thing is that those “pitch count guys” would almost surely agree with that as well.
It’s also worth noting that Cooper has been the White Sox’s pitching coach since way back in 2002 and Sale’s outing Monday was the first time since 2005 that he’s allowed a 23-or-younger starter to throw at least 115 pitches. Brandon McCarthy was the last 23-and-under pitcher to do that under Cooper and … well, coincidence or not his career has been filled with disabled list stints and arm problems since then.
And in the seven seasons between McCarthy doing it and Sale doing it the White Sox got 78 starts from a 23-or-younger pitcher and none of them involved throwing 115-plus pitches. Maybe that’s a coincidence or maybe–you may want to sit down for this–Cooper is paying attention to the pitch counts of young starters and using them to make decisions.
Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.
Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.
Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.
It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.
After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.
The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.
Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.
The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.
Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.
Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.
After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.
The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.