The White Sox hadn’t faced a left-handed starter since Sept. 5, when they ran their record to 13-0 against southpaws by beating Kansas City’s Kris Bubic.
After a string of 18 straight right-handed starters, the White Sox got to see one more lefty for the road, and they hadn’t forgotten a thing.
The White Sox snapped their six-game losing streak by beating Jon Lester for the second time this season. Combined with a Cleveland loss and a Minnesota win, the White Sox are in sole possession of second place with a game separating first and third. They hold the tiebreaker over the Twins and lose it to the Tribe, so they can still finish anywhere from first to third in the AL Central, and third to seventh in the American League postseason.
Unlike the last time, the White Sox didn’t take immediate charge of this game, and Lester wasn’t the main source of the Cubs’ woes. The South Siders were able to mount a second charge thanks to some confused Cubbie defense, and they capitalized on just about every mistake. Chief among them was José Abreu, who gave his MVP case a late push with a bases-clearing double that put the White Sox ahead for good.
The Cubs held a 5-2 lead entering the bottom of the fourth on the strength of a Kris Bryant grand slam off Dane Dunning, but self-inflicted wounds helped the White Sox chip away. James McCann reached when his flare to right field fell well over the head of Jason Kipnis, and in front of Jason Heyward, who seemed to assume Kipnis would catch it. Lester then walked Luis Robert and Nomar Mazara around an Adam Engel popout to load the bases with one out.
Up came Nick Madrigal, who hit a weak chopper to the left side. Javier Báez charged and thought about throwing home. In fact, he went so far as to fake throwing home before turning to first and making an weak, awkward fling against his momentum. Madrigal beat the throw by the step for a 5-3 lead, and Báez hit the deck in pain.
Lester recovered from the second miscue by striking out Tim Anderson, but he then walked Yoán Moncada to bring another run across, narrowing the North Side lead to one. David Ross came out to pull Lester for righty fastball-slider guy Ryan Tepera to face Abreu.
Abreu looked like he’d missed his pitch to hit when he fouled off a 1-0 sinker, but on 2-2, Tepera’s slider hovered over the middle the plate, knee-high, and Abreu scooped a line drive to the base of the left-field wall that brought home all three runs to give the White Sox a 7-5 lead.
Two innings later, Moncada capitalized on a leadoff walk by Madrigal with a two-run blast that gave the Sox some welcome breathing room. It was an inside Jason Adam fastball that Moncada spun on and hoisted just over the right field wall for his first homer since Aug. 17.
A long, strong bullpen effort engineered by Joe McEwing made it hold up. Five Sox relievers held the Cubs to two singles and a walk over the final six innings. Highlights included Garrett Crochet’s first two-inning appearance of his career, in which he pitched around a couple of ground-ball singles while throwing 100 mph for 12 of his 23 pitches. Also, Evan Marshall made his return and threw a scoreless eighth.
Joined by Matt Foster, Aaron Bummer and Alex Colomé, the White Sox relief corps helped mask an ugly start from Dane Dunning, whose control slowly abandoned him after three ground balls in the first inning. He gave up a run in the second, although it was unearned because Nick Madrigal’s attempt to turn an inning-ending double play sailed high and wide of first base, allowing Bryant to score from second.
Dunning had created his own issues by allowing a walk and a single, though, and they followed him into the third. He opened the inning by loading the bases on two walks sandwiching an 0-2 HBP ov Ian Happ. Up came Willson Contreras, whose chopper bounced over Abreu’s glove between first and second and landed on Anthony Rizzo, who was trying to dodge it. Rizzo was out, the bases remained loaded, and Dunning appeared to be on the verge of an unusual escape when he froze Jason Heyward with a good two-seamer for the second out.
But then Bryant strolled to the plate, and when Dunning started him with a get-me-over slider, Bryant put it over the White Sox bullpen for a grand slam that gave the Cubs their second lead of the game.
The slam killed the buzz from a successful second inning for the White Sox. McCann hit an opposite-field solo shot with one out, and Luis Robert didn’t let it kill the rally. He shot a single through the left side, stole second on a strikeout and scored on Nomar Mazara’s inside-outed single through the vacated left side to give the White Sox a 2-1 lead. That one evaporated in a hurry, but the White Sox finally had enough good swings left in them to seize another opportunity.
*The Cubs are starting Adbert Adzolay on Sunday, so barring last-minute changes, the White Sox are the first team in history to go undefeated against starters of a given hand since the mound moved.
*Abreu will average at least one RBI a game, because the double gave him 60.
*McEwing managed because the league suspended Renteria for one game after Jimmy Cordero’s suspicious plunking of Contreras on Friday night. Cordero appealed his three-game suspension.
*Madrigal made up for the error by stuffing the box score elsewhere: 2-for-3 with two runs, an RBI, a walk and a stolen base.
*McCann did the same: 2-for-2, the homer, two walks and a caught stealing.
Record: 35-24 | Box score | Statcast
I feel pretty good about Foster, Heuer, Crochet, Marshall, Bummer, and Colomé. It’s been a long time since I felt pretty good about that many pitchers out of the pen. I felt pretty good about the Sox chances of holding the Cubs after going to the pen so early and the pen held the Cubs scoreless giving up two hits and a walk over 6 innings. Jace Fry has pitched well enough this year that in most years he would be in the top 6 relievers. My hopes for the Sox winning anything in postseason hinge on Giolito, Keuchel, those 6 guys out of the pen, and a handful of bats.
Yeah, it’s really too bad this postseason schedule isn’t more traditional. Usually, there’s an off day every few days, which allows a team to: 1.) use less of their rotation and 2.) naturally rest their best bullpen arms, so they can be used more often. Both of those things would be really beneficial to this Sox team.
The Sox have more reliable relievers than most, so, at least in the case of the bullpen, it should benefit the Sox to get to feast on lesser relievers. It would be nice to have one more reliable arm in the rotation, however,
It’ll be interesting how it works out for the scheduling of starters. I’m trusting Dunning a tad more than Cease for now.
Bullpen looks good, but for pressure innings I’d rather not see Cordero, Gio G, nor Rodon.
Question is: does Lopez leapfrog them both with a good start today?
I suspect not, but he’s the hot hand. Over previous two starts, Lopez has been decent against MIN and CLE (10.1 IP, 9 K, 3 BB, 7 H, 4 HR) while Dunning has struggled against CLE and CHC (7.0 IP, 7 K, 4 BB, 9 H, 2 HR).
Just have McEwing manage the playoffs he can’t be any worse
EE has a .168 average and 638 OPS. What the hell is he doing batting 4th? these games should matter somewhat. Start playing your best lineup, which is a combination of McCann/Engel/Grandal. If I can see it, why can’t they?
You know what’s really crazy? With zero outs and the bases empty, Edwin has an OPS over 1.000. He’s like the anti-Abreu, whenever there’s ducks on the pond or more than 1 out in an inning, he just completely shuts down.
Say hello to lead off man Edwin Encarnacion. The Sox can invent the hitting opener.
This reminds me of the idea someone told Billy Hamilton that they should have a high OBP slow dude bat in his place and then insert Billy as a Pinch Runner and leave him in the rest of the game to take advantage of his speed.
So Encarnacion should lead off?
Thank you Jon Lester for being born left handed.
So what are the scenarios for the last day of the season? What are we rooting for? Who do we want to face?
That’s what I’m writing about now.