CHICAGO -- Freddie Freeman's walk-off homer on Tuesday night clinched a National League playoff spot for the Atlanta Braves, meaning former White Sox hitting coach and current Braves hitting coach Greg Walker will be going back to the postseason.
Gordon Beckham, one of Walker's former pupils and still good friends, congratulated Walker on Wednesday, while also addressing the ridiculousness of blaming a hitting coach for an offense's shortcomings.
"Anybody that criticizes a hitting coach in any [situation] .. it's just unfounded," said Beckham, who mentioned the rejuvenation of Jason Heyward under Walker and assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher as an example of their work. "All they can do is provide information and a hitter has to take it and use it well or let it go in one ear and out the other.
"People made too much out of that. He was really the scapegoat of a lot of different things. I don't think he deserves that."
Beckham pointed out that other factors worked in Atlanta's favor, such as a solid starting rotation and a closer in Craig Kimbrel who "looks like he throws a million miles per hour," according to Beckham. But the second baseman was happy to see Walker's success.
"He's a great coach who is very knowledgeable and it showed," Beckham said. "Good for him."
Sale in line to pitch tiebreaker or playoff opener
CHICAGO -- When the White Sox rearranged their starting rotation to give extra rest to Jose Quintana and Jake Peavy, moving him from Wednesday to Thursday, staff ace Chris Sale's spot was not changed.
Sale originally was set to start Sunday, when he would have had five days between starts after throwing 118 pitches in Monday's no-decision. But after the White Sox dropped Tuesday afternoon's contest to the Indians, Sale was moved back to his regular day on Saturday. That move also aligned Sale to start a potential Game 163 tiebreaker at Comerica Park on Thursday or Game 1 of the American League Division Series if the White Sox win the AL Central.
What will not be happening is Sale coming back on three days' rest to pitch in the regular-season finale Wednesday in Cleveland, even if the season is on the line.
"Game 3 against Cleveland?" said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper of Sale. "No, he won't come back early."
The White Sox have carefully watched Sale all season in his first year as a starter. While they won't push him on short rest at 188 2/3 innings, the club isn't worried about keeping him in regular rotation after Sale's extended seven-inning workload Monday.
"Listen, worry is not the right word," Cooper said. "It's always concern, but we are where we are. He's held up nicely.
"I do think most pitchers and most players in the American League are a bit worn after 154 games. That's just the way it is. Every club deals with that."
Cooper wouldn't commit to a Sunday starter in the regular-season home finale against the Rays, with Quintana and Francisco Liriano both looming as possibilities. He also indicated that another starter could be needed on Tuesday, meaning Peavy might be held back until Wednesday.
Cleveland has a 16-35 record against left-handed starters, so Hector Santiago could get another start at Progressive Field. Peavy didn't ask for the extra day, but understood the southpaw matchup against the Indians and is ready for the Rays.
"Any time you get an extra day, you feel a little more recovered," Peavy said. "You do more stuff in the training room and make your body feel better than it did in the four days, but it still not a problem pitching on four days by any means.
"They just made a decision and just let me know. That's how I found out about it. There was no dialogue. I do understand it, the thought process behind it, because of the numbers."
Playoffs wide open if White Sox can get there
CHICAGO -- With seven games left in the regular season and the American League Central standings featuring the Tigers leading the White Sox by one game, it's far too early for the South Siders to think about possible playoff matchups. But the players on this team truly believe that if they reach the postseason, they certainly can be dangerous.
"Because we can pitch and our offense has the potential to run up some big homers," said White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy when asked why he believed his team could contend with other top squads. "If we hit some homers with some guys on base, with the pitching staff and the bullpen evolving the way it's evolved, and we have a few starters that can get on a roll."
Peavy pointed out that the White Sox previously swept the Yankees at home and did the same to Texas. The White Sox have a 6-3 edge on the Rangers as their high-water mark against a potential playoff team and are 6-12 against the Tigers on the lesser end.
Against the Rangers, Orioles, Angels, Yankees, A's and Tigers, the White Sox have posted a combined 25-31 ledger.
"We can play with any team in baseball on any given day," Peavy said. "I'd love to have a chance to be in the playoffs."
Third to first
Cleveland closer Chris Perez walked pinch-hitter Dan Johnson and Alexei Ramirez in back-to-back at-bats with two outs in the ninth inning of Tuesday's 4-3 loss, only to have Gordon Beckham swing at the next pitch and ground into a game-ending fielder's choice. Beckham defended that move on Wednesday.
"The ball was right down the middle. I got a good pitch to hit and I missed it," Beckham said. "The shadows were starting to creep in. I got a fastball and I thought that was the best chance I had because I didn't want to get down in the count and have to battle out of it.
"If I got a good pitch to hit, I was going to hit it. I didn't even think about it, to be honest. I know he walked the two guys but I wasn't thinking, 'Well, maybe I should take a pitch here.' I was hitting the whole time and as soon as I saw that pitch, I thought I had a good chance. I thought I took a relatively good swing and I ended up chopping it up the middle as opposed to driving it."
Remaining calm with seven games to play and sitting one game behind the Tigers atop the American League Central could be a White Sox reflection of the even-keel demeanor shown by their manager, Robin Ventura, but Ventura sort of laughed at the notion.
"No. They'd be very boring if they did that. Hopefully, they have more energy than that," said a smiling Ventura. "They've been that way all along. We've had bad stretches before and have been able to get out of it and play well for stretches as well. You continue to play, be optimistic, enjoy, have fun and see where it goes." The White Sox are hitting .123 (8-for-65) with runners in scoring position and have left 58 runners on base over the last nine games. Hector Santiago owns a 2.92 ERA over 12 1/3 innings as a starter this season. Nate Jones has thrown 22 straight scoreless innings over his last 20 appearances.