At the end of a normal, 162-game season, I’d normally go through the top 10 White Sox wins, or roughly 14 percent of the team’s victories during their stretch of seven consecutive losing seasons.
The way the 2020 schedule unfolded skews this exercise in multiple directions. The White Sox played far fewer games than usual, and they won a far higher percentage of their games. In terms of quality, the top 10 would turn into a top 13. As for quantity, that the best one-seventh of White Sox winners in 2020 would result in a top five.
Considering I tagged 14 games as “top game 2020” candidates, it feels like it makes sense to cut it down to seven. Here are those seven. Feel free to quibble. Never hesitate to quibble.
No. 7: White Sox 7, Tigers 2 on Aug. 17
The White Sox beat a bad Tigers team nine times out of 10, so this one normally wouldn’t have stood out. It just so happened that the White Sox made history in this one by greeting Detroit starter Matthew Boyd in the same exact fashion in consecutive starts. Never before had one pitcher surrendered homers to the first two batters of the same team in one season, at least until Tim Anderson and Yoán Moncada demanded the services of the authenticator.
PERTINENT: White Sox turn tables on Tigers in lopsided season series
No. 6: White Sox 10, Cubs 1 on Aug. 21
There are multiple games against the Cubs that stand out, but the first was the most cathartic. The White Sox unloaded a dumptruck of regression onto Jon Lester’s property, jumping out to an 8-0 lead on the strength of four homers. José Abreu and Eloy Jiménez added solo shots later to get the Sox to double digits.
No. 5: White Sox 7, Cubs 4 on Aug. 22
When it comes to crosstown clashes, you may prefer a 10-1 thumping over a more tense three-run affair, but since the White Sox ended up going undefeated against left-handed starters on the season, I give a little more weight to the next day’s victory. The White Sox managed to outlast Kyle Hendricks thanks to a three-homer night from Abreu, who hit two the night before. What’s more: All of Abreu’s homers came in the sixth inning or later. The first gave the Sox the lead, and the next two padded that lead. Abreu ended up taking Yu Darvish deep to start the next day to give him four consecutive homers, and it’s the centerpiece of his MVP candidacy.
This was also the first and only time Rick Renteria embraced an alternate-starter strategy, using Reynaldo López and Gio González in a tandem arrangement. It was glorious, but Renteria refuses to make a habit of it.
PERTINENT: White Sox finally make opener strategy work for them
No. 4: White Sox 7, Cardinals 2 on Aug. 16
On the subject of four consecutive homers, that’s how the White Sox turned their season around. They plummeted to a new low the day before by getting swept by the COVID-compromised Cardinals in a lifeless doubleheader to fall below .500. Back-to-back-to-back-to-back dingers from Yoán Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, Abreu and Jiménez was an immensely satisfying response.
The outburst kicked off a seven-game winning streak, as well as a 23-6 stretch that was enough to end both their losing-season streak and their postseason drought.
No. 3: White Sox 4, Twins 3 on Sept. 17
The White Sox clinched their postseason spot and salvaged a season split against the Twins by winning three of four in their last series of the year. Not much about the four-game set was pretty, and the umpiring was the ugliest of everything, but the White Sox managed to endure the elements better than Minnesota. Ironically, one of Abreu’s biggest hits of the year was one of his least impressive: a game-tying infield single. Jiménez’s go-ahead double was more classically impactful.
This game would’ve been cooler had the tiebreaker meant something, and if the White Sox didn’t fall apart under the pressure of Angel Hernandez’s crew a week later. At least they have a positive example to take into next season, even if they couldn’t follow it in this one.
No. 2: White Sox 4, Athletics 1 on Sept. 29
You know the season was worth documenting when the White Sox’s first postseason victory since 2008 takes a backseat to another game. When the White Sox went 14-0 against left-handers during the regular season, Bob Melvin’s Game 1 choice of Jesús Luzardo immediately raised questions from everybody, most notably Tim Anderson.
Anderson (three hits), Abreu (homer) and Adam Engel (homer, double) all made Melvin regret the decision. It was a shame that the Sox couldn’t come up with an encore against Oakland’s righties and bowed out after three games, but it would’ve been worse had the White Sox waited until the postseason to lay an egg against a lefty. Instead, the White Sox finished the season 15-0 against southpaws, the only team to finish a season undefeated against starters of either handedness.
PERTINENT: White Sox ride predictability to series lead
Lucas Giolito held up his end of the bargain by taking a perfect game into the seventh. The chance at history generated mild panic among some writers who had already exhausted their “big prose” supply to recap Giolito’s wild career when he …
No. 1: White Sox 4, Pirates 0 on Aug. 25
… no-hit the Pittsburgh Pirates a little more than a month earlier. One four-pitch walk kept him from perfection, but he struck out 13 batters with his other 97 pitches to make up for it.
On the few occasions he needed his defense, it rose to the challenge. Anderson and Abreu teamed up for a bang-bang play on a shanked bouncer against the shift, and when Giolito’s final pitch was a too-hittable 0-2 fastball, Adam Engel hunted it down with a perfect read on the slicing liner for the 27th out.
Giolito’s wasn’t the only no-hitter on the season — the Cubs’ Alec Mills joined him in September — but he still managed to distinguish himself. His game score of 99 set the new nine-inning record for the White Sox, who also broke a tie with Boston for second place on the no-hitter list. They now have 19.
PERTINENT: Lucas Giolito’s no-hitter a reward for those who kept watching
(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)
“Never before had one pitcher surrendered homers to the first two batters of the same team in one season….” Oh, baseball, the things you make me care about….
It is so nice to see Jim’s talents used in the service of real accomplishments this year. So nice, I won’t mind too much when the converse list involves a fair chunk of the post-Sept 17 schedule (and that damned Cardinals double-header).
“May the dumptruck of regression pass by your block without stopping.”