If you want this game to be enjoyed by a mass audience, then we’re going to have to cut a bunch of it.
The White Sox led this one 4-1 entering the bottom of the eighth. They ended up winning by two runs in 10, an hour and 10 minutes later. How much of that 70 minutes is necessary?
Granted, it was cool to see Brian Goodwin launch his second go-ahead homer in the last inning of play over the last week. It’s also fun to see Gavin Sheets’ propensity for opposite-field singles come up in an RBI pinch-hitting situation, and a big two-out knock by Tim Anderson to put the Sox up four. But bloat tends to beget bloat, and so you feel like you have to have Garrett Crochet giving up his own two-run blast in the bottom of the 10th before landing the plane. I get the twist you’re going for, but we can cross that one out.
And if we put a big, red “x” through the eighth, then you can save all those 10th-inning stories for another time. Why did Craig Kimbrel need to give up a three-run lead? He hadn’t given up four hits in an appearance in more than 10 years (May 18, 2011, to be exact), so a three-run game-tying homer to Andrew Romine is already implausible enough. The single on his way out the door is overkill.
No, I think you just scratch that part, so you go from César Hernández hitting his first homer in a White Sox uniform to Liam Hendriks pitching a scoreless ninth, and the White Sox win 4-1. Hendriks gets the save, Lance Lynn gets the win, and everybody goes home a lot happier. Four hours and 27 minutes is a lot of attention to demand from an audience.
Now I like what you did with Lynn, grunting his way through six one-run innings in characteristic fashion. I also like that he came to the plate with the bases loaded twice and struck out both times. It’d be easy, crowd-pleasing work to have Lynn clear the bases once, but this isn’t a Matt Christopher book. The National League park presents natural adversity, so let’s use it.
It’s a lot more believable if you limit the White Sox offense to two runs for most of the game, because the crowd will buy into that based on everything they’ve come to learn. You have Andrew Vaughn knocking in a run with the third single over four batters to start the fourth, and that makes sense. Seby Zavala shooting an RBI single through the right side, we can keep that. You went overboard with the three homers last week, but it’s not like you want to keep torturing him, either, so the occasional modest single should be enough. Good job here.
I’m just not sure you want another seemingly invincible bullpen breaking down. You already had some complications with Michael Kopech letting Lynn’s runner score due in large part to walking the first batter he faced in the seventh. Some vulnerability adds depth to the story, but do you want to put your audience through that plot again? More appearances like Kimbrel’s, and they’re going to think you’re out of ideas.
Don’t get down on yourself. We’re keeping most of it, and no dramatic rewriting is necessary. Not at all. Just chop out the bottom of the eighth, refile it and we’re all good. See you tomorrow.
*Eloy Jiménez went 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout before he was lifted for Goodwin after reaching third. Tony La Russa didn’t want him to have to sprint on a contact play, which ended up being required of Goodwin unsuccessfully. (Yoán Moncada committed a blunder by not advancing from second to third.)
*Adam Engel redeemed himself by reaching base four times from the second spot. He went 3-for-5 with a walk and two stolen bases.
*Hernández reached base three times from the eighth spot, although two were intentional walks in front of Lynn.
*Yoán Moncada snapped an 0-for-21 slump with a single through the right side that set up Sheets’ pinch-hit single in the 10th.
Record: 64-46 | Box score | Statcast
In the running for best recap of the year. Loved it. (Also, Liam Hendriks forced a small update to tomorrow’s Sporcle –in the best way possible– for anybody looking for a hint as to the theme of tomorrow morning’s quiz)
Does the sporkle include Barry Jones?
That 8th was when the Sox jumped the shark
Remember this morning how I said that thus far Cesar had given the team everything they could’ve asked for minus power?
Well, now he’s given them some power too.
I really think for next year they might not be much worse off with Cesar than Madrigal, personally. All else equal I’d take Nick, but power helps make up for a gap in batting average.
I have a serious question for the more sabermetrically-minded. Is the contact play really a good idea all the times the Sox put it on? Anecdotally it is not clear to me that it is a good idea but I can be convinced otherwise.
Interesting question. Regardless, I like being aggressive. It gives the defense/pitcher more to think about. I agree it is risky. Kind of like playing blackjack with multiple decks.
I didn’t mind it on this occasion because in either scenario, Cesar likely gets walked regardless, so May as well force the defense to make a play.
I think it makes more sense in a scenario when they assume Moncada will replace the runner on third. When he didn’t, that kinda made the idea look worse.
Yoan Moncada continues to expend the absolute minimum amount of energy to produce slightly above average production.
We start chopping like Gordon Lish and Lance Lynn might end up with the efficiency of Greg Maddux.
I go days sometimes without seeing Gordon Lish cited on a sports blog …Thank you, Sox Machine….
Can we have two pitching coaches? Just have Coop watch over the Bullpen please.
No thanks…The game based Coop by
Truly entertaing writing, Jim. Thank you.
The reason Kimbrel had such a bad 8th might be partly because he has 370 career saves and has been used as an 8th inning guy almost never. Not all closers do well in that role.
Liam on the other hand sometimes comes into games in the 8th inning, so he should have no problem. They might want to seriously consider whether Liam might be better suited to adjusting to a setup role than Kimbrel.
Closers have the best job in baseball. They get paid the most of their peer group, but they carry no expectations for competency outside of a very narrowly tailored role that requires everybody else to succeed in front of them.
Yeah, the one argument I think may make sense is maybe Kimbrel gets some extra adrenalin pitching in the 9th, and Hendricks would get sufficiently pumped up pitching in a pickup softball game.
Given the increase in recent years of closers being expected to pitch multiple high leverage innings, you wonder if guys like Hendricks will be the norm in a few years whereas guys who can only pitch the 9th with a lead will go the way of the spitball.
True. In any case, Kimbrel has given up more earned runs in his short stint with the Sox than he did in 39 games with the Cubs. If he falters in the 8th again anytime soon, I would not hesitate to switch him back to the role he has had for his entire career. Setup and closer are not universally interchangeable.
As a counterpoint, Kimbrel pitched the 8th inning in the series finale against Cleveland last Sunday and was fine.
I don’t mean to sound crass, but to me, the idea that a guy can only be effective pitching the 9th inning with the lead is a figment of the imagination or myth or whatever you want to call it. The best high leverage relief pitchers should be able to be effective no matter what inning you bring them in.
So to say Kimbrel was bad yesterday because he was brought in in the 8th instead of the 9th to me seems like an excuse being made for someone who just had a bad outing. Pure and simple.
What you say sounds logical and should be the way it works. Yet it doesn’t always. Kimbrel has been used exclusively a closer his entire hall of fame career. This is the first time in his whole career that he has been asked to be a setup guy. This is Liam’s 2nd full season as closer plus 2020. Liam has 300 less career saves, and is used to being used in the 8th as well.
The Sox got Kimbrel because has has been lights out all year. I am fine if he dominates from here on out in the 8th inning, maybe you are right and it was just one bad outing. Hopefully that is the case. But if he struggles and looks mysteriously ordinary, it costs them nothing to make the switch, and Liam has already proven he is effective in the 8th or 9th. I can’t recall a specific example but know there have been closers who have not done well when switched to setup roles. I hope that is not what we will see with CK, and there is a very easy fix to try if it appears to be the case.
The Hefty Hurler by Matt Christopher
A top-shelf Roger Angell imitation, Jim. At least this is what I guess his editorial correspondence sounded like.
What about Seby’s great at-bat with two outs to set up Cesar’s heroics? That’s gotta get some supporting actor nods come awards time.
How much longer will teams continue to shift on Gavin Sheets before they realize that he’s too good a hitter?
I hope throughout his career with the White Sox.
One nice thing, though out of necessity, was using Hendriks in a tie game on the road in the 9th. Maybe this game influences TLR to not save his better pitchers for the save situation that may never come. Again, I’m sure he had to do it, because Hendriks was the only one warming when he had to unexpectedly get Kimbrel out of the game in the 8th. I’ll be curious to see what happens the next time a game is tied in the 9th on the road, and it’s not forced due to what happened the previous inning.