July 5: Rays 8 White Sox 3

The White Sox took one on the chin tonight, but not before making things interesting. Down 8-1, the Sox scored two runs in the top of the ninth and had the bases loaded when Alejandro De Aza grounded out to end the ball game.

Here’s some of the key points….

Phegley Debuts

The much awaited debut of Josh Phegley occurred tonight, as Sox fans have been clamoring for the AAA All-Star catcher for about two months or so.

After a rough first at-bat in which he struck out on three pitches and chased a curveball in the dirt, Phegley was productive. He got his first career hit and RBI in the fifth inning when he singled to the right side and drove in Gordon Beckham, and he also smoked a ball to center field for a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning. On the day, Phegley was 1-for-3 with two RBI and two strikeouts.

Phegley’s production is obviously a good thing, but it’s just good to get some new blood injected into this White Sox lineup. Phegley had a nice day, and Blake Tekotte also singled and played some terrific defense out in center field.

Robin Ventura said pre-game that Phegley wasn’t called up to sit on the bench, and that he would split time with Tyler Flowers to provide some competition. If Phegley hits anywhere close to what he was doing down in Charlotte, that whole time-splitting concept may not last long.

Axelrod’s Continued Struggles

While it’s exciting that Phegley is up, the story of the game was Dylan Axelrod’s poor outing. He had his worst start of the season tonight, allowing five runs on nine hits in just 1.2 innings. For the entire time Axelrod was in the game, he left pitches up in the zone. When you lack dominant stuff like Axelrod does, your margin for error is so much smaller, and you won’t have success if pitches are consistently belt-high or higher.

Tonight’s start represents a disturbing trend for Axelrod, as his ERA has risen a by more than a full run over his last five starts. He’s now 3-5 with a 4.97 ERA on the season, and it’s shaping up for him to be the odd man out of the rotation when Jake Peavy returns from the disabled list.

Beckham’s Night

Gordon Beckham continues to put together his best season as a pro, driving in another run tonight and adding two hits to raise his average to .328. He also made a terrific play in the field in the third inning, making a diving backhand play to rob Yunel Escobar of a single.

However, the most interesting part of Beckham’s night didn’t happen at the plate or at second base. For the first time in his major league career, Gordon Beckham played shortstop. Alexei Ramirez was lifted from a game for the first time this season in the seventh inning, and Beckham moved over to the left side of the diamond. Only one ball was hit to Beckham: a pop-up in short left field.

While the timing for Beckham to experiment at shortstop may seem strange in the middle of a game, I can understand why Ventura decided to test him there in a blowout rather than to begin a game. Yes, the season is likely over, but you still don’t want to suffer a loss because you started a guy at shortstop who you didn’t know whether or not he could handle the position. It was weird timing, but I understand the decision.

Simon Castro, David Purcey make White Sox Debuts

A pair of relievers also made debuts in White Sox uniforms: Simon Castro and David Purcey.

Purcey took the hill first, entering the game to start the fifth inning after 2.1 innings of Ramon Troncoso. He didn’t impress, allowing one run and walking three with a bevy of control issues. The AAA All-Star tossed two wild pitches as well.

Castro, on the other hand, was impressive. In his major league debut, the right-hander pitched himself out of a jam in the sixth and sailed through the seventh and eighth innings. All in all, he went three innings, allowing no runs on two hits, two walks and four strikeouts. It is very apparent that he had big league stuff, and it will be cool to see how the youngster pans out in this bullpen for the rest of the season.

Sale v. Moore

Tomorrow night’s matchup is a re-match of two pitchers who provided one of the best games in the MLB last season. Chris Sale and Matt Moore combined for 25 strikeouts, Sale recorded a career-high 15 K’s, and the Sox defeated the Rays 2-1 on May 28 of last season.

Given that, it should be another terrific game on Saturday night despite our 34-49 record.