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White Sox Fri May 16 2014
When Chris Sale strained his flexor last month, there was no timetable for his return but it seemed like he would only miss a few starts. Instead, it's been nearly a month since Sale's last start (April 17 against Boston) and he's just now pitching in rehab games.
Sale will be back soon enough. Since he's the team's best pitcher and most important player and someone who's been considered a risk for arm injuries, the White Sox will take it slow with him.
The rest of the team has weathered this pretty well. When Sale was placed on the DL, during the afternoon of April 21, the Sox were 9-10. As of today, the Sox are 20-22, meaning they treaded water during Sale's time out. Really, this is pretty remarkable. Other than Sale, only one Sox starting pitcher (Jose Quintana) has an ERA and FIP under 4.00 for the season.
Despite punting one of the major areas of the game, the Sox have still played decent ball. But how? A few reasons:
• The bullpen. Five of those 11 wins were by two runs or less. While the team's reliever ERA is still above 4.00 for the season, the regulars in the pen have put together a pretty good last 28 days. Matt Lindstrom and Scott Downs have been good, but Zach Putnam, Jake Petricka and Ronald Belisario have been awesome. Putnam and Petricka have sub-2.00 ERAs and Belisario has allowed one walk and zero runs in that span.
• Run production. The Sox haven't had to grind out every win. They've scored six runs or more seven times since the Sale DL assignment and they're 6-1 in those games.
• Jose Abreu. The offense as a whole has been pretty good this season, but Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez have regressed a bit over the last few weeks. But not Abreu. He has 11 home runs and a 1.106 OPS over the last month as the main hitter in the Sox lineup.
• Jose Quintana. Other than a bad outing against Texas, Quintana earned a quality start in every game. He's not flashy but he gets the job done. (Of course, in typical Quintana fashion, his offense never picks him up when he pitches and he's 1-3 this year. Whatever.)
• Clutch hitting. There's debate as to whether clutch hitting exists or not, whether players indeed rise to the occasion or if typical stats just extrapolate to the situations. Whatever the reason, the Sox have been getting some big hits in big spots late in games. The Sox are towards the top of the league in many major offensive stats accumulated after the seventh inning and the stretch without Sale has produced a few seminal moments.
Marcus Semien hit a grand slam that took the Sox from down two to up two to beat the Tigers. Abreu hit a walk-off grand slam to beat the Rays. Semien hit a two-out double to take the lead in extras over the Cubs. Viciedo hit a ninth-inning three-run for a one-run win over the Indians. And just two days ago Abreu smacked a three-run shot that led to a 4-2 victory over the A's.
The Sox haven't imploded since losing their best player and they have enough talent and production to stay competitive until Sale comes back. As long as it's relatively soon.