It might just be because it is spring, but right now the Flowers Sale is red hot on the south side of Chicago. The Chicago White Sox battery of Chris Sale and Tyler Flowers are giving Sox fans something to smile about already this season as the Southsiders finished their first full week of action with a 3-3 record, currently good for third place in the seemingly stacked American League Central.
Sale, the Sox’ ace left-hander, defeated the Kansas City Royals and their young phenom, James Shields on Sunday to give him two of the team’s three wins. The career 33 game winner is 2-0 with a 1.76 earned run average this season. He also has rung up 14 strikeouts in 15 innings of work. The four-year pro pitched eight scoreless innings on Sunday and would have pitched the ninth inning if needed. The White Sox scored four runs in their half of the inning for a 5-1 cushion allowing Sale to save his arm for his next start as he had already thrown 111 pitches on the day.
The 25-year-old pitcher out of Lakeland, Florida is trying to rebound from a 2013 season that saw him post an 11-14 mark despite a respectable 3.07 earned run average and 226 strikeouts. Last season Sale was the victim of a lack of run support. In five games against the surprising Royals last season, for example, the Sox gave him a grand total of one run. So far in the young 2014 season this has not been the case. Along with the five runs they scored in the victory Sunday, Chicago also supported Sale with another five runs in the Opening Day victory over the Twins.
Calling the excellent games behind the plate for Sale has been the resurrected Flowers. The right-handed catcher from Roswell, Georgia is hitting .571 this season on an 8-14 tear at the plate. The five-year pro has been with the club since his rookie season in 2009, but only last season did he see significant playing time with the release of fan favorite A.J. Pierzynski. Flowers has always been more than capable defensively, but his offense has been suspect. The catcher hit just .195 with 10 home runs last season and holds a career average of .210. He dealt with shoulder problems for the better part of the season last year and this upset both sides of his game. The catcher decided to undergo surgery in the fall and worked his way back tirelessly to regain both strength and comfort in his throwing shoulder, and it appears to have paid off.
Of his eight hits this season, Flowers connected on seven of them consecutively in successive games against the Twins and Royals. It marked the first time in Chicago White Sox history that a catcher recorded seven straight hits. The catcher says that he feels completely different this season in every aspect of the game. His shoulder is no longer bothering him. He changed his batting stance, and he even changed his swing at the plate. Along with feeling good physically and mentally, Flowers says that he is just trying to keep everything simple. He is focusing on trying to be consistent, and making every at bat that he takes a quality at bat. So far so good.
Commentary by Jeremy Mika
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer for the Chicago White Sox