Since the end of June was focused on Omaha, we'll be doing a Frogs in the Pros Update for each of our MLB Frogs...
It's been just over a month since Matt Purke got the call to join the Chicago White Sox as a closing pitcher. The White Sox are currently tied for 3rd place in the American League Central Division (out of 5 teams). Their pitching has taken a hit with injuries to key RHPs Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam. Add to that the need to start winning if they hope to grab even a Wild Card spot this season, and you have a team that's left scrambling at the mound.
Let's be honest, relief pitchers/closers are brought in for two major reasons:
A) The pitcher is losing his edge, after X number of innings, OR
B) The team is behind and trying to make a comeback.
While Reason A is inevitable for any pitcher, Reason B comes with a whole lot of pressure. Purke has pitched 12 games this season, but is credited with just 1 loss.
In this case, I'm going to discuss pitching rules as they pertain to the losing pitcher. A losing pitcher is the pitcher who allows the go-ahead run to get on base, and the opposing team never relinquishes that lead. In Purke's case, he was brought in June 23 against the Red Sox in the 10th inning, with the teams tied at 7. Mookie Betts grounded into a fielder's choice to third to get on base. Purke then walked Dustin Pedroia to place runners at first second. Xander Bogaerts singled to center, bringing in Betts and ending the game with an 8-7 loss for the White Sox. Because Purke allowed the go-ahead (and game-winning) run on base, he was credited with the loss.
Matt Purke walks Dustin Pedroia, moving the winning run to second base for Xander Bogaerts.— White Sox Talk (@CSNWhiteSox) June 23, 2016
Purke's biggest challenge is that he's generally brought in when the odds are already stacked against him. Like on June 14 against the Tigers. It was 6-2 Tigers in the 4th inning when Purke started pitching. He allowed an additional 4 runs in 4th, but allowed just 2 hits and no runs in the 5th or 6th. While the Sox were able to grab a few more runs, they ran out of time and took an 11-8 loss.
Miguel Cabrera blasts a double off Gonzalez and Robin goes to the 'pen. Matt Purke is on with one out in the fourth. #WhiteSox down 6-2.— White Sox Talk (@CSNWhiteSox) June 15, 2016
On June 18 against the Indians, Purke entered the game in the 3rd with the White Sox down 8-0. He allowed 4 hits and 3 runs in 3 innings pitched, and faced just 3 batters in the 3rd and 5th innings. But the White Sox lost 13-2.
The Sox brought in Purke on June 25 against the Blue Jays for just 2 outs in the 9th inning. They were already down 10-7 and lost the game 10-8.
Purke pitched against the Twins on June 28. He allowed a single walk in the top of the 9th, but the Sox lost 4-0.
Finally, on June 29, the Sox got a win. It was 9-1 White Sox going into the 9th. Purke allowed a double and a walk and was pulled from the game. After utilizing two more pitchers, the Sox hung on to win 9-6.
Unfortunately, Purke just didn't show enough consistency in an already-struggling bullpen, so the White Sox sent him back to AAA Charlotte on June 29.
We're hoping to see more of Purke in the future. And maybe next time he'll have a little more help from his teammates to keep the score under control before he even steps foot onto the field. He ended with a 5.50 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP.