Lost amidst the great wonder of Brent Lillibridge hitting a home run with one arm and Alex Rios springing to life Monday night in a 10-6 extra-inning and extra-rare win, was the first sneak peak and what the latter innings of games will look like for the White Sox now their bullpen situation has fallen down the well. It was pretty damn awful.
We won, but, that had a lot to do with it being Cleveland.
Here's what we know, and can expect
Chris Sale is your best reliever
I guess the only time where this would really be an acceptable statement is 2011, where perhaps Sale would be thriving as a lefty set-up man while remaining locked out of a Jackson-Buehrle-Floyd-Danks-Peavy rotation. But as it stands, we remain in the year that Chris Sale was drafted, and he's broken to the forefront as everyone else has withered around him. It's debatable whether Chris was ever used in the low-leverage situations he initially seem slotted for, but he's certainly shaken out of that by now.
To his credit, Chris has earned his keep by allowing only one run in 9 innings, and striking out a whopping 14 batters, but I don't think anyone envisioned Sale being the first guy out of the pen in his last three appearances as Ozzie tries to create some bizarre Sale-to-Jenks bridge at the end of games. Speaking of which...
Bobby Jenks as an inning-eater seems like a bad idea
I'm all for irrationally attacking Bobby Jenks and blaming him for doing things that didn't happen, but it's hard to come down hard on Bobby's latest blown save given that he's been a one-inning guy and not a pitch more for the last 5 years or so, and he's pitched 7 innings, and 111 pitches in the past 9 days. Jenks has shown a lot of heart, and a lot more willingness to sacrifice himself for the cause than I ever would have given him credit for, but someone whose ability to stay in the strike zone and rack up K's has abandoned him at times, probably doesn't project well to be stretched out multiple innings. But then again...
Every other reliever has completely gone in the tank
Tony Pena had already blown every attempt he'd been given to establish himself as a short-inning reliever, so the 17 ER in his last 18.2 IP doesn't really register as a surprise unless you just couldn't conceive of things becoming that awful.
With the promise he's shown in spurts all season, this really could have cleared its way to be prime Sergio Santos breakout time, but instead he's crumbled to pieces worse than when he learned he made the team on The Club. Ozzie's still very protective of him, and still yanks him at the first sign of trouble, so Sergio's only put out 4.2 innings in his last 6 appearances. During said time, Santos has allowed 5 ER, an even more galling 13 hits, a WHIP of 3.43, and the first two home runs he's allowed all season.....someone's been hanging out with Linebrink.
And that's the worst part, as displayed clearly on Monday by the two innings he tossed to close out Monday's game; Guillen's realized that one of the few choices he has--with the other two pitchers on the active roster being recent call-ups--is to see if Linebrink can earn any of his $5.5 million salary with a strong finish.
A quick glance at Linebrink's stats show a not terrible 4.47 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Much of this was earned when he was stuck in low-leverage work for all of July, but one thing that's held up since his role has been expanded is his control. He's walked only one batter in his last 14.1 innings, and it's easy to see why. Linebrink won't allow himself to fall behind anymore, after going 1-0, or 2-1 Monday night, Scott would simplify things and groove a heater or even a not-that-low changeup down the pipe to get the count back to his liking. This worked fine against the out of sorts Indians hitters, best exemplified by Shelley Duncan inexplicably staring at a 2-2 fastball RIGHT down the middle for strike three. Scott has the type of fastball, one that clocks in at 96-97, that he should be able to challenge guys on the plate even if he does throw straight as an arrow. Clearly he's resolved to no longer beat himself, and force opponents to beat him.
But Scott wouldn't be one of the most hated White Sox players of the decade if his problems were as simple as control. The second-tier of his problems is that opponents can, and will beat him. He actually has less hits than innings this month for the first time since Abe Vigoda's junior prom, but has a VERY large 49.6% fly-ball percentage playing in a homer-ridden ballpark. As a result, he gives up almost two home runs ever 9 innings, and has already allowed 3 in 12.1 innings in August. How many of these homeruns are coming on that get-me-over changeup he should never throw again in life, I cannot say.
To love Linebrink, is to hate thyself.
This group could really be in the position to blow a lot of games relying on just the rookie phenom and overextended Jenks. Thornton is actually suppose to return by Thursday, with no real timetable for Putz and his knee that continues to seem a lot worse than it's given credit for. Even that will leave the White Sox without a competent right-hander but...hey...maybe there's a chance that don't actually need one of those.