White Sox 6, Blue Jays 1: A relief to see Toronto’s bullpen

The White Sox had basically one good at-bat through seven innings.

Then they had about seven good at-bats in the eighth.

Thanks to Carlos Rodon’s “Hard Karl” mode and a bullpen that stood taller than its counterpart, the White Sox were able to wrestle a win away from the Blue Jays in the opener of what could be a very fun season series.

What if the White Sox solved Robbie Ray by embracing his unsolvability? That is, they made facing him look like such a daunting task that it left Andrew Vaughn, the guy responsible for Aroldis Chapman’s only earned run of the year, no choice but to take another tough lefty deep to the other way to tie the game.

This homer knotted the score at 1 and chased Ray from the game, after which the White Sox strung together their only two scoring opportunities of the night. The first one ended with Yoán Moncada looking at a Rafael Dolis sinker for strike three, but Trent Thornton posed even less of a challenge in the eighth. The Sox immediately loaded the bases on singles by José Abreu and Yermín Mercedes and a walk by Yasmani Grandal.

Vaughn almost hit his second homer, but his warning-track fly was sufficient for providing the lead, and the wall crumbled from there. Tony La Russa swapped out one Adam E. from Ohio (Engel) for another (Adam Eaton), and the latter muscled a blooper over the drawn-in Toronto infield for another run, Leury García dropped a fly ball inside the vacated right-field line for a two-run triple, and Tim Anderson scored him with another sacrifice fly that made Liam Hendriks’ ninth-inning appearance utterly unnecessary.

It was a rewarding experience for fans who witnessed a game with postseason intensity, albeit maybe not with postseason strategy. Rodón probably wouldn’t have gotten a chance to cross the 100-pitch mark before the fifth inning came to an end by challenging Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with a base open, but it made for fantastic theater.

Rodón ended up walking Guerrero, and after a mound visit by Ethan Katz, fell behind 3-0 to Teoscar Hernández. With Rodón’s fastball ebbing from 100-mph heights earlier in the inning, Hernández tried to take advantage of The Most Fastball Count, but he flied out to deep-but-harmless center to end the threat.

Rodón and Ray were basically made from the same mold, but Toronto’s pitcher had his slider immediately, whereas Rodón spent the first few innings feeling for it. Rodón had to dig deep in the first inning to strand runners on the corners with a pair of strikeouts, with another pair of strikeouts leaving a pair of runners in the second. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays were able to tag him for a sac fly for the first out of that inning, which stood as the game’s only run through six.

Ray, meanwhile, struck out 13 White Sox against zero walks over 6⅓ innings. The 14 whiffs on 46 sliders doesn’t sound that impressive, but that doesn’t quite capture the demoralization of seeing Ray bombard White Sox hitters with breaking balls until they capitulated.

Ray’s only flaw was that he threw 46 sliders, when maybe he shouldn’t thrown a 47th. He had Vaughn on the ropes with a 1-2 count when his back-foot slider failed to get another ugly swing. With the count 2-2, catcher Riley Adams set up inside for a fastball. Ray left it just off the outside corner, and Vaughn stayed on it and barreled it out to right. That got Rodón off the hook, pushed Ray out of the game, and put the White Sox on a path to victory.

Garrett Crochet ended up picking up the win with his 1-2-3 eighth, and he had the easiest inning of anybody. José Ruiz worked around a one-out walk in the sixth, and Evan Marshall survived his own encounter with Guerrero by striking him out with two on and one out. Marshall then found out how to leave on a high note. Before he threw a pitch to Hernández, he picked off Marcus Semien at second base to kill the threat.

Bullet points:

*Grandal had a really nice night behind the plate blocking Rodón’s sliders. Only one pitch got past him, and it was a changeup.

*The Blue Jays went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, while the White Sox with twice as many hits in half the at-bats.

*Nick Madrigal was told to take a base on a high-and-tight pitch that clearly hit his bat. It was quickly overturned.

*The White Sox maintained a four-game lead over Cleveland, while Minnesota fell 13 back.

Record: 37-23 | Box score | Statcast

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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karkovice squad

Crochet made a concerted effort to pitch down tonight. He’d worked the bottom of the zone in other appearances but not as heavily or with as much consistency.

It’s an interesting change because even with the reduced velocity and spin on his fastball, statcast data says it actually has better carry. Possibly due to better spin efficiency and extension with his new release mechanics. So you’d expect him to keep throwing high strikes.

But maybe working the bottom of the zone syncs the pitch up better with his secondaries.

karkovice squad

Ruiz should probably also use that high curve more often if he can keep hitting that spot. He’s flashed it infrequently but it could get some more play to steal strikes.

mikeyb

Nice to see an opposing manager give us a helping hand. Not that it mattered much in the grand scheme of things, but if you’ve got a righty you trust ready to go in the bullpen, why leave Ray in there for one more batter (Vaughn), when that batter cannot hit righties? Seems that bullpen management is a struggle league wide.

texag10

When Vaughn came up in the 7th, I told myself that this is the exact situation he tends to do damage: third time facing a lefty that everyone else seems to be struggling against. I’m glad he didn’t disappoint.

burning-phoneix

When the outfield is more fleshed out, just bring in Vaughn to pinch hit whenever a lefty is on the mound and there’s RISP.

Soxfan2

Vaughn’s sac fly had an expected batting average of .770

lifelongjd

Nice, hard fought win. Toronto looks like the real deal. Should be fun to watch the Big Fella pitch against that lineup on Wednesday.
The Sox are one game ahead their win total through 60 games from last season. It’s been quite a ride, but this team is just so fun to watch. I couldn’t turn the game off last night, even though it was a long one with all the Toronto baserunners. You just knew the Sox would put together a rally or a big hit to pull it out, which is a much different vibe than in the past when I would wait for them to blow it.

calcetinesblancos

That was an impressive win in every sense, but Rodon was amazing because it looked like it was about to come off the rails the entire time. He really stuck with it.