It’s hard to say three plays ended up deciding a game when the talent disparity between the White Sox and Braves is so drastic, but maybe whenever the White Sox are done rebuilding, this is the kind of game they won’t lose.
No. 1: James McCann can’t catch a pop-up by the screen.
Despite an ugly four-run second that included a three-run homer by Tyler Flowers (of course), Iván Nova is on the brink of settling in when Ozzie Albies hits a pop up toward the near side of the third-base dugout. McCann and Yoan Moncada converge on it, and Moncada gives way since McCann has no rail in his direct path.
If McCann catches it, Nova has a 1-2-3 inning on five pitches. Instead, the ball glances off the tip of McCann’s mitt for a hard-luck error. Albies stays alive, shoots a line drive to right that Leury García plays into a double with an unsuccessful sliding attempt, then scores on a double by Freddie Freeman to make it a 5-0 game.
No. 2: Aaron Bummer doesn’t get strike three.
Thanks to a pinch-hit three-run homer by Welington Castillo, the White Sox score four in the seventh to turn a 6-1 snoozer into a 6-5 thriller. Bummer comes in and immediately creates trouble for himself with a pair of walks, but gets a lineout to center and a popout to second to get him back into a groove.
Up comes Flowers (of course), who locks horns with Bummer into a 2-2 count. On the sixth pitch of the battle, Bummer appears to ace him on the inside corner, but home plate umpire Brian Knight doesn’t give him the call. In Knight’s defense, it was the classic definition of borderline, and when Bummer walks Flowers to load the bases, he ultimately had nobody to blame but himself.
Rick Renteria comes out for a pitching change and excuse to get thrown out, and he accomplishes both. Evan Marshall comes in to face Adeiny Hechavarria and gives up a muscled single to shallow center. Two runs score, and the Braves lead 8-5.
No. 3: An awful rundown.
With the score still 8-5 in the bottom of the eighth, Alex Colomé had already saw it stretch to 9-5 thanks to a leadoff double by Albies and a Freeman single to left that got past García for a two-base error.
Colomé then issued Josh Donaldson’s fourth walk of the night, but finally found footing with a lazy fly to right. Ryan Goins, looking like a right field, got into position and made a strong throw home. Freeman held up, but Donaldson expected the throw to go through, and thus was caught in a pickle when Jose Abreu cut it off. Abreu fired to Tim Anderson then retreated to cover first, where Yolmer Sánchez was already covering because Abreu cut off the throw home.
Anderson ran Donaldson toward first, but flipped to Abreu before Donaldson had wholly committed to the bag. When Donaldson doubled back, Abreu had to run him down because nobody was covering second. Anderson, Sánchez and Abreu were all at first, and Yoan Moncada had to keep Freeman honest at third. Abreu managed to tag Donaldson with a dive, but once Freeman saw Abreu lay out, he took off for home and scored Atlanta’s 10th run.
That run loomed large because the Sox eventually scored two off unpopular former teammate Anthony Swarzak in the top of the ninth, forcing him out of the game for closer Mark Melancon. In a two-run game, Tim Anderson would have represented the tying run instead of Abreu on deck. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered since Anderson struck out on a curve in the dirt, but a lot of things that might not have mattered in isolation certainly added up tonight. The White Sox have now lost four in a row.
*The Sox offense looked pathetic against Max Fried early, with Fried retiring the first 13 he faced, including eight by strikeout. However, his breaking balls lost their power, and the Sox ended up tagging him for four runs over six innings.
*Flowers continues to torment his former team, as he went 2-for-3 with a homer, double, walk, three RBIs and two runs scored from the eighth spot.
*García really struggled, giving up three extra bases in the outfield — a misplay in each corner — and striking out in each of his first four times up. He did deliver an RBI single through a vacated left side to remove Swarzak from the game and save some face.
*Moncada also met his match against Fried, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
*Nova gave up as many earned runs tonight (four, over four innings) as he had in his previous five starts in August (four, over 33 innings).
*That convoluted rundown gave Goins his first career outfield assist.