After a lackluster performance in St. Petersburg, Florida, over the weekend, the Chicago White Sox needed a spark as they arrived in Toronto. They were playing their first game north of the border since 2019 against a Toronto Blue Jays team who had lost seven of their last ten games.
Instead of an offensive breakout, fans were treated to a burly, big-boy pitcher’s duel between Lance Lynn and Alek Manoah. Deciding factor came down to Craig Kimbrel’s adventure in the eighth inning, and thanks to some #WILDPITCHOFFENSE, the Blue Jays win game one of the series, 2-1.
White Sox had a chance to strike first with a two-out rally in the third inning. Manoah walked Cesar Hernandez and Luis Robert to set the stage for Jose Abreu. After getting underneath a 3-1 slider up in the strike zone, Manoah busted Abreu inside with a sinker resulting in a groundout.
In the fourth inning, Eloy Jimenez singled on a floating 0-2 slider from Manoah. After extending his current hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the second inning, Moncada swung through a sinker for a strikeout. Brian Goodwin got entangled in a good battle drawing a seven-pitch walk once again to put two runners on base for the White Sox. That threat ended when Andrew Vaughn flew out to center field, and Danny Mendick made solid contact, but his liner was hit at the right fielder.
Finally, in the sixth inning was when a run was scored, snapping the White Sox 15 consecutive scoreless innings streak. Three straight singles from Moncada, Goodwin, and Vaughn gave the White Sox a 1-0 lead.
Lance Lynn was in a groove, unlike his last start when he was tossed from the game throwing his belt at an umpire but had to throw 88 pitches in four innings. Lynn was only around 60 pitches entering the sixth inning when Reese McGuire doubled to left field. No outs, Bo Bichette hit a grounder at Cesar Hernandez covering second base. McGuire seemed to hesitate in his decision-making and made a late jump towards third base. Hernandez made a perfect throw to Moncada, who applied the tag on McGuire, getting the lead runner out. A terrific defensive play to help Lynn breathe easier.
Lynn had to face Vlad Guerrero Jr. a third time with two outs and a runner on second base. Lynn struck out Guerrero Jr. in their first duel and induced a fly-out in the fourth inning. In this at-bat, Lynn fell behind 3-0. Opting still to challenge one of the league’s best hitters, Lynn tried to get a four-seamer through the lower part of the zone. Unfortunately for Lynn, Guerrero Jr. didn’t miss lining a single to center field, scoring Bichette, and tying the game.
A submariner, Adam Cimber, replaced Manoah. The rookie hurler’s final line was 6 IP 5 H 1 ER 3 BB 5 K. White Sox could get eight base runners on against Manoah but only pushed across home one run. After Cimber struck out Hernandez, Robert reached on a catcher’s interference. That error didn’t hurt the Blue Jays as Cimber got Abreu to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.
Lourdes Gurriel hit his 22nd double of the season in the bottom half of the seventh. A perfectly placed flyball landed between Andrew Vaughn and Luis Robert in the left-field gap. Robert was shaded towards the gap in right field and looked like he had to run at least 50 yards to get close. Meanwhile, Vaughn appeared to look at Robert, hoping he would be able to run it down. Chalk it up to a learning opportunity for the White Sox rookie.
The defensive miscue didn’t hurt because Lynn struck out Randal Grichuk to keep the game tied. At 86 pitches, Lynn still had plenty of gas left in the tank.
After the White Sox went scoreless in the eighth inning, manager Tony La Russa had Craig Kimbrel replace Lynn. A final line of 7 IP 4 H 1 ER 0 BB 4 K is undoubtedly impressive, but Lynn deciding not to walk Guerrero Jr. on 3-0 loomed largely.
McGuire hit a roller into the shift that Danny Mendick couldn’t get, and it was just slow enough that Hernandez couldn’t make the throw-in time. A leadoff single for McGuire, who was lifted for Breyvic Valera to pinch run. Kimbrel struck out Bichette on a sweeping curve, but Seby Zavala couldn’t get in front of the pitch. Bichette was automatically out with a runner on first base, but Valera reached second base.
Old friend Marcus Semien was next, and Kimbrel fell behind 3-0, barely missing plunking the Blue Jays second baseman. Like Guerrero in the sixth inning, Semien swung on 3-0 but only mustered a ground out to Hernandez. Valera moved up ninety feet to third base with Guerrero Jr. batting.
This time the White Sox didn’t even blink and put Guerrero Jr. on with an intentional walk. Kimbrel got ahead of Teoscar Hernandez 0-2 but held on to his fastball too long and sailed past Zavala. Valera beat the toss to home plate, and Toronto led 2-1. During the chaos, Guerrero Jr. ran to third base. Kimbrel was able to recover and get Hernandez to whiff on a slider ending the inning.
Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano got Vaughn to ground out on his very first pitch. La Russa had Jake Lamb pinch hit for Danny Mendick, and the veteran bat couldn’t catch up to 99 mph up in the zone. With two outs, it was up to Zack Collins, who replaced Zavala. After fouling off a few tough pitches with Romano hitting 101 mph, Collins watched a borderline fastball catch the lower part of the zone for a strikeout called looking.
- Yoan Moncada went 2-for-4
- Craig Kimbrel now has a 5.79 ERA in 10 games for the White Sox
- AL Central lead is now at nine games over Cleveland
Record: 72-54 | Box Score | StatCast
If you don’t like uninspired offensive and defensive performances, you don’t like August White Sox baseball.
It was blatantly obvious this game actually meant something to the Blue Jays. The only person who really seemed to care about this game was Lynn. For a team that has been emotional/exciting/fun, they just looked utterly bored last night.
Blue Jays broadcast caught more of La Russa’s interaction with Zavala after the 6th inning.
Yikes…I missed the game, didn’t see that. As a matter of fact, I can’t see any Bluejay’s game due to MLB fantastic blackout rules where I can’t watch Canadian’s baseball teams playing in Canada. A privilege only bestowed to Canadians.
Whatever, they’re playing like the mid 80s win team they were projected to be. If you account for strength of schedule and expected runs they’re something like the fifth best team in the AL (http://claydavenport.com/stats/standings.html). That feels about right.
At this point the entire season is going to be defined by either: 1) A monstrous September collapse or 2) whatever happens in the first 5 games or so of the playoffs. So I get the permeating sense of malaise; I’m certainly feeling it.
What basis is there for even putting a September collapse on the table?
The same basis that winning the division by 20 games: it could happen, but it’s an outlier scenario. The difference being no one would care if they win the division by 20 games and then flamed out in the ALDS. Similarly if they win the ALDS no one is going to care about how much they won the division by.
The 2005 Sox were up 8 games on Aug 24 and that narrowed to 1.5 games at one point. In the past 15 years this team has blown more division leads in September (3) than they have division titles (1 – 2008 counts in both cases). Of course none of these leads will be of the magnitude they’ll likely have this year but the Sox haven’t exactly proven to have been the best team down the stretch in the recent past.
My point is that no matter what this season’s legacy is going to be decided in September or much more likely October so it’s not worth getting too worked up about losing some boring games to good teams in August.
My just general pessimism and attention to small numbers has a tendency to focus on the low frequency, high impact events like not winning the ALC since that’s something we’ll remember much more vividly in 20 years than a four game ALDS flameout. On the flip we will all most definitely remember a trip to the ALCS as well.
Just like the season is long for players, it’s long for fans too. Good not to be too invested in the ups and downs of the season, we are all ADD to some extent giving too much importance and analysis to their bad streaks – or good.
We can only hope that by the 2nd or 3rd week of September, guys are healthy and playing, and that we get a lineup that includes Mendick, Collins, Lamb, and Garcia almost never. If that happens, things can’t help but be better than they have been recently.
I hope they call up Romy or one of their other middle infield prospects. Hernandez looks like he could use a day off, maybe a couple.
I think almost every fan would could improve their mental health by looking at the season though a lens of 7-day rolling averages.
We seemed to be a pretty happy bunch Friday after winning the first game in Tampa. That was only 72 hours ago.
Losing games against good teams isn’t great, but Kimbrel is way more alarming. The Sox deadline trades look pretty disastrous….the Kimbrel trade feels like the Tatis Jr. for Shields trade.
Madrigal is never going to be compared to Tatis Jr in his life.
Maybe for duration of IL stints.
I’m personally rooting for Madrigal to try out the bleach-blonde dreadlocks look.
There is no guarantee that using Kimbrel in the 9th would fix him. But recognizing that this is the first time in his career being used as an 8th inning setup guy, and that he has not been good in that role for whatever reason, it’s worth trying him in the 9th. They can’t afford not to try, to see if it helps.
It’s not even that. It was directly stated when we traded for him that we now have 2 closers. Both Liam and Craig would alternate and both would get save opportunities. Hell, Liam said during the FoD game that he doesn’t even care when he pitches, he just wants to pitch. Well guess what? Liam hasn’t pitched since the 20th and Craig hasn’t pitched in the 9th inning with a save on the line. You could write a simple macro for managing the bullpen and accomplish the same thing TLR is doing this season.
That seems like a recipe for blowing games in the 9th instead of the 8th.
The standard approach for dealing with a struggling reliever is simple – use them in lower and lower leverage until they figure it out, not use them in higher leverage. I don’t see why Kimbrel should be any different.
Naw….This guy has a History of being elite in the 9th this year he only really struggled when he was forced to do something he had not done before.
Hence you put him back to where he succeeded. He wasn’t struggling until the Sox got cute with him. You are thinking of a scenario where a closer is struggling and blowing saves so a team slots him down.
No kidding. Why force the issue of insisting he needs to be an 8th inning guy when he has never had that role in his career?
It’s not like Liam has not given up 11 homers and had plenty of struggles and blown games himself also. At least give Kimbrel a 9th inning once or twice to see if it works out better, jeez.
So far, looks like we have 2019-20 Kimbrel. The Cubists sold high. Payback for the Quintana trade?
Until they start using him in the role he has had his whole career, and he fails even then, can’t write him off just yet. Can only hope he will get some 9th inning chances, and that it helps. But they had better try something different with him pretty damn soon.
I think you may be mistaken because 2019-20 Kimbrel pitched mostly as a closer. The comments around here have taught me that Kimbrel has no highs and lows when used as a closer. His only issues come when he pitches in high leverage situations before the 9th inning which is a mountain too high for him to climb.
We managed to both sell low and buy high. And I stick by my deadline day take: as much fun as this team is, I don’t think a second closer makes them one of the two best teams in the AL. We gave up a lot, and I’m not convinced that it changed our chances of winning a series by much.
We are watching a team that has downshifted to neutral. Whether directly or not, the message has been to start looking ahead to the playoffs by resting players and skipping turns in the rotation. The exciting team that always competed and put forth great effort is now resting and jogging to the finish line. I would hope that when they are not resting, that they would put forth maximized effort and compete better than what we’ve seen the last few weeks. Perhaps you can’t have it both ways.
This is no doubt being driven by LaRussa. He obviously has been through this more than anyone so a leap of faith may be in order. However, I am someone who doesn’t believe that a team can just switch on or off. Just hope the strategy doesn’t blow up in their faces by either letting Cleveland back into the race or not recapturing their competitiveness and falling flat in the playoffs.
This is where La Russa’s specific presence in the dugout makes such speculation difficult. Not picking on you, but if I were to write something like “I am someone who doesn’t believe that a team can just switch on and off,” why should my gut feeling about a situation I’ve never come close to experiencing first-hand be more relevant than the experience of somebody with more managerial victories than anybody except Connie Mack?
It’s something I’m wrestling with myself. It’s not that he’s beyond reproach, but when it comes to risking slumps to rest players, it’s hard to say what’s simple regression/slump and 162-game management versus what’s actually detrimental to the team’s ultimate viability, because right now all it takes is a good series to make the hand-wringing an overrreaction.
I think my concern is the overall shift in mindset. This is by no means a veteran team, but that is how LaRussa is handling them. This is a young, hungry group (for the most part) that should not need a couple weeks of cruise control to be successful in October.
Baseball is a funny game, where the best team from a regular season can just as easily get swept out by a 2nd wild card who gets hot as win the WS. Not trying to overreact either because ultimately their October performance will decide the success of this season and maybe the current strategy sets them up for a long run. What I am nervous about is that change in mindset from a young and competitive club to one depending on switching it back in October 1.
I don’t think that at 76 years old and 10 years removed from managing prior to this year, that TLR’s track record is as relevant as it might have been 15 years ago. In terms of acumen and energy, I don’t think he brings a whole lot of the things that made him successful a pretty long time ago.
We’ll see how it proves out in the playoffs.
If they keep the pedal to the metal and clinch the division before that five gamer in Cleveland they give themselves just about two weeks of full rest. You really want to avoid going into that series with much less than a seven game lead since that’s enough of a whiff of hope for the ProtoGuardians. We all know how late season high leverage series in Cleveland can go.
Right now there is no pedal, no metal.
I’m still confident their last series with Cleveland will be irrelevant by then anyway. Whether they have any series with home field in October is another matter.
I guess I just don’t understand the deference to the Connie Mack situation. Joe Maddon and Terry Francona have similar overall win percentages and only 1 less WS ring than TLR. They just don’t have the win totals because they have far fewer decades on the bench compared to TLR. As an outsider to those teams though, it feels like they are constantly held to the fire for decisions they’ve made and poor performance of their teams. For a lot of the season, there was a portion of the fanbase that responded to any criticism of TLR with essentially “he knows more than you, look at his record” (that’s not to say that all criticism was warranted). I think it’s pretty damn valid to look at this team that was churning through the season with a bunch of injured stars, has finally gotten healthy, and looks terrible. The talent is still there. It’s possible that all of our players are in a slump at the exact same time I guess. It’s also just as possible that there is a malaise in the clubhouse and that is the responsibility of TLR, whether he was the cause or not. The most fired up I’ve seen him lately is when he was tearing into Zavala last night which I found all the more strange because you have a rookie catcher and a CY candidate pitcher. If Lance wants to throw that fastball in the 3-0 count, what is Zavala supposed to do there?
Exactly. And if TLR doesn’t want a 3-0 strike thrown, intentionally walk Guerero and move on; his choice.
I’m regarding this very specific aspect of his job — managing injuries with vague health issues over 162 games. The two World Series he won with St. Louis were with teams that won 83 and 92 games during the regular season. His 2006 team went 12-17 in September. I’m sure there were a lot of excoriations about their play in the second half that didn’t matter. The randomness and the information asymmetry puts me at a loss of conviction regarding the significant of struggles while this cushion exists.
Regarding Zavala, he’s supposed to look at the dugout if he has an inkling. It doesn’t appear as though he did.
I went back and looked it up. The Sox are 5-6 since LaRussa essentially decided to eat that final game of the series in Minnesota
The one where we were down 1-0 in the ninth and he let Leury hot with two outs with Robert, Moncada, and Tim sitting on the bench. I won’t put all these losses since on that decision, but I do think that was an awful message to send to the team. I think you have to make sure your team is the mindset that every game is important to win.
I watch several hundred hours of baseball each year because I enjoy it, not because I expect to be rewarded with a championship.
I am *really* enjoying this year – it is among my 3 or 4 favorite seasons in the last 4 decades. That will be the case no matter how the season ends. 20 teams will see their seasons end with no playoffs, and 9 will see their seasons end with an “L.” I assume we will be one of the 29 teams that does not win the World Series.
Fixating on the playoff picture throughout the summer has a way of ruining enjoyment and appreciation of the 162-game marathon. As I mentioned in another recent post, I think too many fans want to just fast-forward to the playoffs. Win or lose in October, this has been the most entertaining Sox team in more than a decade – enjoy it!
A weird stat. Kimbrel has not given up an earned run in the 9th inning in 2021. Zero.
I know some will still say it doesn’t matter. Because it shouldn’t matter. If it did, it’s just a mental thing.
Well, maybe it’s a mental thing. There are mental things. We all have them. Didn’t Yogi Berra say that baseball is 90 percent mental, half physical?
They should at least find out.