After a couple of losses against the Yankees that had the White Sox kicking themselves, the opener of a four-game series against Oakland acted as a palate cleanser.
At the plate, the White Sox were able to put the ball over the fence at least once. While their other nine hits were all singles, they were able to take the extra base with regularity, and even scored via the squeeze.
On the mound, Dallas Keuchel recovered from a scary second to throw five, Michael Kopech served as a one-man bridge to the closer cabal, and while Craig Kimbrel endured a rocky eighth, Liam Hendriks struck out the side in the ninth to recover from his pair of shoddy outings.
In the dugout, Tony La Russa avoided the temptation of pushing Keuchel one inning too long, deployed a challenge on a Luis Robert stolen-base attempt, and was rewarded for being proactive both times.
Add it all up, and the White Sox posted a well-rounded effort to secure a very nice 69th victory of the season.
For about two innings, it looked like Keuchel might justify the presence of Mike Wright in the bullpen, because he was lucky to limit Oakland to two runs. Matt Chapman lined a rolling slider over the left-field wall for the game’s first run with one out in the second, after which Keuchel loaded the bases on a HBP on a 1-2 count, followed by two walks on a total of nine pitches.
Mark Canha then ignored conventional wisdom for profit, lining the first pitch he saw to left for an RBI single. He hit it too hard for another run to score, with Eloy Jiménez returning the ball quickly enough to keep the bases loaded. When Starling Marte bounced the mound, Keuchel got the force at home, and while Marte beat the throw to first, Keuchel persevered and struck out Matt Olson on a 3-2 borderline checked-swing call that went in his favor.
Over the next three innigns, Keuchel faced the minimum, erasing the lone single with a double play. He needed just 26 pitches.
With Oakland’s offense stalled, the White Sox got to work after seeing former South Sider Frank Montas one time through.
Seby Zavala opened the third with a single, moved to third on Tim Anderson’s single, then scored on César Hernández’s well-struck sac fly to cut the Oakland lead in half.
In the fourth, after Andrew Vaughn grounded into a double play two batters in, Luis Robert propped open the door with a two-out single, followed by a Brian Goodwin walk. Zavala then came through with his second hit in as many innings to score Robert and tie the game.
Goodwin ran into an unnecessary out to end the inning by assuming the throw from left would go through, but Anderson started his own rally in the fifth with a single through the left side. Hernández sprung a bunt on Matt Chapman, who tried to pounce with equal aggression on the play by the line, but an uncharacteristic bobble gave Hernández his own base hit.
Two batters later, Eloy Jiménez again tested the Gold Glover Chapman with a line drive, and it deflected off his glove and into shallow left field for a go-ahead single.
Robert then took it upon himself to add insurance. In the sixth, he led off with a single, stole second successfully after La Russa’s challenge, took third on a Goodwin groundout and scored on a perfect safety squeeze by Zavala.
And then after Kimbrel survived his own scare in the eighth by stranding two runners with a pair of strikeouts, Robert increased the cushion with a solo homer to left.
Robert went 3-for-4 with three runs scored, backed by Zavala, who turned the lineup over with a pair of singles, and pair of RBIs and a run of his own.
Their efforts were more than enough for the kind of performance expected from the revamped White Sox bullpen. Kopech struck out three over two hitless innings, working around a walk. Kimbrel allowed a leadoff HBP and a one-out ground-rule double to put the tying runs in scoring position, but rallied with a pair of K’s to strike out the side.
Hendriks then struck out the side in order, relying on his slider after his fastball had been getting spanked.
*Keuchel only threw 78 pitches, but La Russa learned from previous sixth-inning cave-ins.
*Zavala had a passed ball with Keuchel pitching, which was the lone defensive goof.
*The White Sox went 3-for-3 in stolen-base attempts.
*The A’s are the only AL contender worse than the White Sox against teams with a winning record, and they’re now 22-32. The Sox improved to 17-21.
*The Twins beat Cleveland in 10, so the White Sox lead the Central by 11.
Record: 69-50 | Box score | Statcast
WS take Margalus advice on Keuchel. Result: victory
Dallas Keuchel gives me anxiety.
The last several games have looked just like the playoffs probably will. Sox get 5-6 innings out of their starter and turn it over to the bullpen. With the arms we have back there, it is more likely that they will shut down the opposition as they did yesterday, as opposed to the disasters of Thursday and Saturday. The bullpen of Crochet-Tepera-Bummer-Kopech-Kimbrel-Hendriks is deeper and stronger than any other bullpen in the AL. Hahn has done his job of getting the best players possible. Now it’s up to those guys to do their job.
I’d really love to see Kimbrel put out there in the 9th, just once. Let’s see what happens when Liam pitches the 8th and Kimbrel gets the save opportunity.
I tend to agree with that. I’m sure he will get some chances. But I think they would be more effective with Hendriks in the 8th and Kimbrel in the 9th.
I would like to see this is well. I want to see maximum flexibility in the bullpen.
If LaRussa is rigidly going to stick to Liam in the 9th and Kimbrel as a set up man I think that is a bad plan.
I agree. Might as well try everything before it matters.
I’d rather Kimbrel face the meat of the order, whether it’s in the 8th or the 9th.
Wasn’t there something about Kimbrel’s option being guaranteed based on saves? If so I figure they want avoid that just in case he blows arm at some point this season, but in the playoffs I like Liam in the 8th because if he is on and has a quick inning then you can him finish the 9th as well.
Kimbrel would’ve needed 110 games finished between 2020-21 to trigger his 2022 option. Last year, he only had 11, although it counts as 28 when prorated to a 162-game schedule (IIRC, that’s the convention MLB is using for cases like this). This year, he has 37. That leaves him 45 GF (110-28-37) short of triggering his option, which is impossible at this point. Also, while moot, there’s a health clause precluding his option from triggering if he suffers a non-temporary injury.
The only financial consideration is if Kimbrel reaches 53 GF this year, his buyout increases by $1M. But realistically, it’s hard to imagine the Sox not exercising his option (barring a major injury or prolonged meltdown). Even if Hahn weren’t keen on allotting $29M combined to Kimbrel/Hendiks in 2022, he’d still pick up Kimbrel’s option and then trade him for prospect capital.
I’m not advocating for Kimbrel to close, but financial reasons wouldn’t be a hurdle to it happening.
Solid point. It’s not just because Liam had a couple bad games, I’d like to see if Kimbrel looks better in the 9th than he has pitched so far.
The only thing that concerns me is the lefty contingent in the bullpen. I know Bummer has been much better of late, but him and Crochet just don’t make me feel comfortable. Perhaps they flip Keuchel into the bullpen which would be an interesting move. Going soft tossing lefty with all the fire ballers would be a real change of pace.
I guess I get what you are saying because Crochet and Bummer both can’t seem to get a 1-2-3 inning
However, Croceht’s only allowed runs (earned and unearned because does it really matter?) in 10 of his 37 outings (27.3%). You take out his disaster in Pittsburgh and Crochet is running a 1.64 ERA on the year.
Bummer has allowed runs in 12 out of his 44 outings (27.3%), he just seems to allow multiple runs if he allows anything at all.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume you are comfortable with Hendriks coming in to the game and he’s at 14 out of 51 appearances (27.5%). I get that leverage might matter but allowing runs is allowing runs and our lefties are as consistent as the back end of our bullpen or moreso (Kopech is 9 out of 29 or 31%).
Don’t forget that Tepera is essentially another lefty, because he destroys left-handed hitters.
Keuchel would make a decent third lefty out of the pen for October. Look at the relievers that other teams like the Yankees have thrown at us and their numbers. Keuchel may not be great but he isn’t worse than some of those guys, especially if he doesn’t have to go through the order multiple times out of the pen.
The one problem with that is that he’s been worse against lefties than righties this year:
vs. RHB: .251/.319/.438
vs. LHB: .286/.333/.448
It’s hard to know how to use a guy like that in the middle of a game.
But that includes the TTOP right? Does the analysis change if we only look at the first time through since as a reliever he wouldn’t be facing guys multiple times?