Before tonight’s game, manager Tony La Russa told the media he wanted to take it inning-by-inning with starting pitcher Jimmy Lambert. Filling in for Carlos Rodon, La Russa hoped for “two quality innings” from Lambert as the White Sox bullpen was well-rested. A quick start from the White Sox offense against Oakland starter James Kaprielian would help reduce the White Sox magic number.
The first inning was very promising. A leadoff single from Luis Robert followed by a double from Yoan Moncada added pressure on Kaprielian. After hitting Jose Abreu with a pitch, Kaprielian had the bases loaded with no outs facing Eloy Jimenez and Yasmani Grandal. Unfortunately for the Sox, they only mustered one run thanks to Grandal walking, but a missed opportunity to put up a crooked number.
That one-run lead didn’t last long. Josh Harrison doubled down the left-field line to greet Lambert. Deep flyouts from Starling Marte and Matt Olson, Harrison scored to tie the game. Lambert faced five batters in the first inning tossing 22 pitches.
While Abreu got hit in the knee in his first plate appearance, Jimenez joined him in a much different manner. During Andrew Vaughn’s second-inning at-bat, he fouled off a pitch that screamed into the White Sox dugout. The Oakland Coliseum is one of the few remaining dugouts without a protective railing. Vaughn’s liner hit Jimenez in the knee while he was sitting on the bench. Luckily, Jimenez was not seriously hurt and was able to stay in the game.
Oakland started the second inning against Lambert with a walk and single. Facing Yan Gomes, Lambert was able to stay in the strike zone and picked up his first strikeout on a high fastball. Elvis Andrus saw a similar pitch against Lambert, but he hit into the inning-ending 6-4-3 double play instead of striking out. Thirty-eight pitches in, and Lambert kept it tied.
White Sox had a two-out rally in the third inning. Grandal walked again, and impressively, reached third base on Gavin Sheets’ single to center field. Leury Garcia continued the night’s theme as he reached the painful way of getting hit by a pitch. Vaughn was next, but his horrid bad streak of producing with runners in scoring position and two outs continued. A harmless foul pop out to first base ended the threat, and Vaughn in 55 PA with RISP and two outs still only has two hits this season.
Kaprielian didn’t last long. White Sox hitters grinding out at-bats forced Kaprielian’s pitch count to 92 after four innings but only scored one run. Southpaw AJ Puk was the first reliever out of the Oakland bullpen, and he allowed back-to-back singles to Jimenez and Grandal. While a promising run-scoring situation, the splits were not in White Sox favor with Sheets batting. Against left-handed pitching, Sheets had been 0-for-13 with five strikeouts and no walks.
Had is the keyword because Puk hung a slider that Sheets lined into center field for a single. Jimenez didn’t have the best jump dealing with the sore knee, but that didn’t prevent third-base coach Joe McEwing from sending him home. Jimenez’s slide at home plate was just in time to be called safe, and Sheets’ RBI single gave the White Sox a 2-1 lead.
Cesar Hernandez had a tough start to the game. Yan Gomes made a great defensive play in Hernandez’s first at-bat to steal away an infield single. Second at-bat, Hernandez hit a deep fly that Mark Canha could run down before reaching the outfield wall. As the saying goes, the third time’s the charm for Hernandez. With two strikes, Hernandez waited back and singled to right field, plating two more runs. Athletics manager Bob Melvin saw enough from Puk after just 0.1 IP allowing 5 H 3 ER.
Meanwhile, Lambert was on cruise control. After a concerning start to the second inning, Lambert posted four consecutive scoreless innings giving more than La Russa imagined. In 70 pitches, Lambert threw 47 strikes allowing just one run on three hits and two walks while picking up two strikeouts. Even though Lambert generated just four whiffs, he got the job done.
White Sox’s offense continued to string together good at-bats. Moncada battled for nine pitches before hitting his second double of the night in the eighth inning. Abreu walked, and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Oakland went to Jake Diekman with Brian Goodwin batting .107 versus left-handed pitching. On a full count, Goodwin singled to right field, driving in two more runs.
That Goodwin base knock came in handy. Ryan Burr was given the eighth inning to work with a five-run cushion but gave up two hits, which compounded Robert’s fielding error. La Russa pulled Burr out for Craig Kimbrel to face Starling Marte. Marte singled on a 0-1 pitch, and the White Sox lead was cut to 6-3.
A Save situation set the stage for Liam Hendriks making his return to Oakland. His first appearance at the Coliseum since he signed with the White Sox. Matt Chapman worked the count to his favor 3-1 after Hendriks kept missing high in the zone but only managed a fly out to right field. Mark Canha, on his first pitch, hit a fly ball down the right-field line. Abreu gave chase, which was impressive in its own right, getting hit in the knee earlier, and made a terrific over-the-shoulder sliding catch.
Hendriks wrapped up the evening, striking out Skye Bolt for his 33rd save of the season. With the victory and Cleveland’s loss to Minnesota, the White Sox magic number is now 15.
- Yoan Moncada and Leury Garica both had three-hit nights.
- Yasmani Grandal went 1-for-3 with two walks.
- Andrew Vaughn’s homecoming didn’t go as planned with an 0-for-5 night.