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After a rousing all-around success on Wednesday night, Tim Anderson’s return to the lineup looked like it’d keep the party going. He led off the bottom half of the first with a single, took third on Adam Eaton’s single (more on that later), and then scored on Yoán Moncada’s two-out single two batters later.
Alas, the Sox offense couldn’t provide another run until the bottom of the ninth, which they entered trailing 4-1. Lance Lynn made one bad pitch to José Ramírez, and that proved one mistake too many. And yet the Sox kept making defensive mistakes, which didn’t help matters either.
The result is another foiled attempt to get over .500 and a series split with Cleveland. It’s a decent outcome relative to the lack of success they enjoyed in 2020, but the Sox are still far from a well-oiled machine.
The good news is that Lynn pitched well. He carried a shutout two outs into the sixth inning, until a high fastball to Ramírez wasn’t quite high enough, and the 2020 MVP runner-up launched it over the wall in right for a two-run homer and a 2-1 lead. Besides the homer, he allowed just four other hits and zero walks while striking out 10, and in the process became the first White Sox pitcher to record consecutive starts with 10-plus strikeouts without a walk.
Alas, the first two earned runs of Lynn’s White Sox career were enough for the first loss of his White Sox career, because the Sox offense struggled to sequence good at-bats against Aaron Civale and three Cleveland relievers.
You can point to their 1-for-8 performance with runners in scoring position as a problem, but it’s effectively 2-for-8 since Tim Anderson’s run-scoring grounder in the ninth was ruled an error on the shortstop, rather than an infield single. Also, most of those at-bats came with two outs. The Sox only had one 1-2-3 inning, but they also only had two innings where they put a runner in scoring position with outs to spare, and the Sox scored in both those frames.
In the latter of those innings, Luis Robert led off the ninth with his first career triple, a slicing fly that eluded Josh Naylor in the right field corner, bounced up and off the screen and back into play. Naylor thought the play dead, and Robert took an extra base on Naylor’s lack of knowledge of the ground rules. Andrew Vaughn and Jake Lamb both struck out, but Tim Anderson’s soft grounder up the middle forced Andres Giménez to make a play that was too quick for him, keeping the inning alive and bringing the tying run to the plate. Eaton tried to ambush Emmanuel Clase’s first pitch, but a flyout to medium-deep left center ended the game.
The Sox had a three-run hole at that point because the defense degraded. Garrett Crochet allowed the first earned run of his pro career on an infield single that Nick Madrigal double-clutched on the other side of second, and a broken-bat grounder through the left side. A bunt moved them both up, and another soft grounder got an insurance run home. On one hand, it’s a product of bad luck for a Crochet who attacked hitters. On the other, he’s not getting whiffs with his fastball anymore, and he’s subject to what longtime Sox blog folks would call Thornton Luck.
An inning later, Cesar Hernandez sprung a bunt single on Michael Kopech, which Moncada almost worsened with a wild throw. José Abreu compounded matters with a double error, first booting Ramírez’s grounder, then flipping wildly to a covering Kopech, who almost got t-boned by Ramírez as he ran through the bag. Hernandez came around to score and Ramírez took second as the ball rolled harmlessly to nobody in the middle infield. Fortunately, a fine leaping catch by Vaughn of all people on the warning track kept the inning from getting out of hand, but the enough damage had already been done.
Perhaps the game is a slightly different story if Eaton weren’t called out at second trying to stretch a single into a double. He slid headfirst into second as the throw came in, and while his left hand beat the tag, his body ended up wrapping around the leg of Gimenez, who uprooted Eaton from the bag with his knee while standing up. Gimenez placed another tag on Eaton, who was called out by second base umpire Bill Mueller. Eaton protested the call to no avail, then lightly shoved Gimenez to some consequence, as the benches cleared. No punches were thrown, nobody was ejected, and while Eaton was clipped on the elbow his next time up, he kinda dipped his armor into it. There’s a chance he still could be suspended because Major League Baseball is cracking down on those who instigate shoving matches during COVID-19 times.
*Lynn once again came up short of 100 pitches, although not because he was inefficient. He threw 93 pitches over his six innings, 67 for strikes. The bullpen was well rested thanks to recent starting pitching exploits, but Crochet and Kopech were both vulnerable to misfortune.
*Jose Ruiz struck out two in a perfect ninth, for what that’s worth.
*Vaughn went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts at the plate, but Abreu wore the silver sombrero around a walk to provide him some cover.