Moncada boosts confidence with rocket HR

Line-drive shot comes as Sale collects 300th K with Boston

Moncada boosts confidence with rocket HR

CHICAGO -- While the White Sox were dropping a 4-3 decision to Houston on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park, Chris Sale recorded his 300th strikeout of the season some 1,450 miles away in Baltimore.

That piece of history came on pitch No. 111 for the Red Sox southpaw, with the Orioles' Ryan Flaherty becoming his 13th strikeout over eight innings against zero walks. White Sox fans put forth social-media applause and congratulations for Sale, arguably the most dominant pitcher in the franchise's history.

But with all due respect to the affable and supremely talented Sale, he's the past in White Sox lore. The focus now is on the future, of which second baseman Yoan Moncada and right-handed hurler Michael Kopech, who were acquired from Boston as part of the Sale deal, play a tremendous part.

Kopech finished his first White Sox season at Triple-A Charlotte, compiling a 2.88 ERA in 25 starts with 172 strikeouts over 134 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Moncada, though, continues to get things done at the big league level.

His two-run home run off Houston starter Brad Peacock gave the White Sox a brief lead in the fourth inning Wednesday. The blast to right had an exit velocity of 107.3 mph and a hit percentage of 89, according to Statcast™.

"Try to be aggressive in the strike zone," Moncada said of being more comfortable at the plate, through interpreter Billy Russo. "Swing at good pitches, but mostly it's about being able to make adjustments."

Moncada was hitting .179 as recently as Sept. 9. In 10 games since, the 22-year-old switch-hitter is 18-for-45 with three home runs, eight RBIs and 12 runs scored. The early slump never seemed to affect Moncada, who only has 209 career plate appearances in the Majors.

"There probably was a point where people were concerned," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said of Moncada. "When you see that talent that these kids have, you recognize their skill set is going to play up. It's just a matter of them getting the repetition in terms of work and then getting to see the pitching that they are going to see for the next 10 to 15 years of their career."

An abundance of raw talent certainly exists for Moncada. That 375-foot home run carried down the right-field line into the Minute Maid Park area unofficially dubbed by White Sox fans as "Blum's corner" for pinch-hitter Geoff Blum's 14th-inning home run off Ezequiel Astacio to give the White Sox a 7-5 victory in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series on their way to a four-game sweep.

Wednesday's home run served as nothing more than the only hit off Peacock in six innings. But the White Sox are hoping for future postseason contributions from developing players such as Moncada.

"It's important for my confidence, especially thinking about next year," Moncada said. "With this run, I've been able to have more confidence, believe in myself. That's something that I can carry to the next season."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.