Powell: White Sox Lose In Extra Innings, But Power Surge Continues On Opening Day

White Sox Home Opener, 2018. (WGN Radio)

Listen to Episode 5 of the Powell at the Park Podcast here

By Kevin Powell

The White Sox and Tigers played the bulk of ten innings under a light snowfall, as Opening Day brought “Bear Weather” to the South Side. And thanks to another strong game at the plate, the Sox took a 7-4 lead into the ninth, only to see it vanish after Joakim Soria couldn’t close things out. The Sox eventually lost, 9-7, in ten innings.

“Today we fell just a little bit short,” manager Rick Renteria said after a four hour game in nasty conditions.

It’s a loss. But at the end of the day, none of us can say we’re really all that surprised. Does it sting? Sure. But this season isn’t about wins and losses.

Individual growth. Small victories. That’s what the Sox have been preaching in the first phase of this rebuild. And for the most part, the Sox have been interesting in the opening week. Thanks in large part to a power surge from the offense, they’ve held a lead at some point in all six games.

“The more runs we score, the better, we’re definitely in favor of that,” general manager Rick Hahn said in his pregame meeting with the media. “From an offensive standpoint, we do have some fire power in there….but there’s certainly still room for improvement.”

Improvement will come with reps. But entering Thursday’s game, the Sox led all of baseball with 14 homers and had the highest OPS at .898. And if not for the wintry mix of weather in the opener, that total would be even higher considering Matt Davidson put one off the top of the right field fence for a long double – a likely homer in warmer conditions.

Even without any homers in the opener, they still notched six extra-base hits, including two triples from Yolmer Sanchez.

“I think our at-bats, the approaches are pretty good across the board,” Renteria said following the loss. “I think that they’re giving themselves a chance – trying to grind the best they can.”

The Sox haven’t been able to generate a ton of power over the last few seasons. In 2017 they ranked 25th with 186. The year before that they ranked 22nd with 168. And in 2015, 26th with 136. But this season could be much different.

“I can’t tell you that a guy goes up there trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark,” Renteria said.  “I think he tries to go out there and get a good pitch he can handle and put the best swing he possibly can. And as a result – if he’s able to drive the ball – these guys with the strength they have, are able to hit the ball out of the park.”

And outside of the strength, there have been improvements in plate discipline. Guys like Davidson and Tim Anderson preached walking more this season. On Thursday, Anderson walked twice, bringing his season total to three. He had just 13 walks all of last season. Davidson’s walk total is up to four.

Yes, it’s early, but so far we’ve seen steady at-bats, walks and power from the Sox’ offense.

PROSPECT INJURY UPDATE

General manager Rick Hahn talked with the media for about ten minutes ahead of the opener and provided updates on prospects Eloy Jimenez and Alec Hansen.

On Jimenez: “Eloy’s injury, he has a mild pec strain. He sustained it while lifting weights at Camelback Ranch. We expect he’ll be playing in extended (spring) games by next week. And after he gets a few of those under his belt, he’ll rejoin Birmingham. Mild issue, unfortunate because you don’t want to see any guy miss any amount of time, but we view it as mild.”

On Hansen: “He has a forearm muscular issue. It’s actually similar to something he went through in high school, so it wasn’t a shock to him that he was experiencing this. And obviously it turned out out to be something he can put behind him. We wanted to make sure he was one hundred percent healthy and pain free before we started ramping up the throwing program, which we’ve now done.”

Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720