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So much happened in between Jake Burger’s error that allowed the Cubs to score the game’s first run in the seventh inning and his walk-off single that mercifully ended the game in the 12th. Most of it was awful.
A win’s a win, but a win isn’t much of a win when it offers little that can be emulated against better opponents. Still, on a day that saw Tim Anderson helped off the field due to a groin injury that’s sending him to the injured list, at least the White Sox got something out of it.
Perhaps Burger shouldn’t have been in a position to have to block P.J. Higgins’ grounder inside the third-base line, because Tony La Russa once again was intent on having his starter finish seven innings despite diminishing returns toward and past the 100-pitch mark. Cease had thrown 18 pitches to three batters in the seventh, the last of which was a two-out walk. After a stolen base, Cease intentionally walked Nico Hoerner. Kendall Graveman was warm, but La Russa stuck with Cease, who allowed Higgins’ grounder to the left side. Burger tried to backhand it, and it deflected off him and into left-field foul territory for a run-scoring error.
Redemption came a bruising and woozy five innings later. After Matt Foster kept the Cubs off the board in the top of the 12th, the White Sox only had to push Manfred Man and Anderson replacement Danny Mendick across home plate to call it a day. It only took three pitches, with Andrew Vaughn inside-outing a grounder to the right side that moved Mendick to third, and Burger muscling a line drive over a five-man infield to score Mendick.
The action in between provided an inventory of failure on both sides:
Seventh inning: José Abreu reaches on a throwing error by Nico Hoerner, moves to second on a Yasmani Grandal single and takes third on Gavin Sheets’ deep flyout. Adam Engel walked to load the bases, after which Reese McGuire hit for himself and struck out on three pitches. Josh Harrison then lined out to second to end the threat.
Eighth inning: With two outs, a runner on first and a 3-2 count, Abreu half-swings at a ball four well inside and taps back to the mound to kill the rally.
Ninth inning: After Liam Hendriks strands a leadoff double, David Robertson comes in and offers a personal contribution to the 2016 vibes with a blown save. Sheets sliced a double inside third base against the shift, followed by Robertson firing wildly to first on Engel’s weak grounder to the left side, and #WILDPITCHOFFNSE through the wickets of Higgins that scored pinch-running AJ Pollock to tie the game. Engel advanced to second, but groundouts by Yoán Moncada (finally pinch-hitting for McGuire) and Harrison stranded him.
10th inning: Reynaldo López fields Higgins’ leadoff bunt with plenty of time to get Manfred Man Hoerner at third, only to find that nobody’s there because Burger loped toward the ball. He then rushes a throw to first that scores Hoerner and allows Higgins to replace the runner at second. He later scores on a Christopher Morel single for a 3-1 Cubs lead.
Yet the Sox tied it up. Mendick moved Harrison to third with a single, Vaughn cashed in one run with a sac fly, and after Burger walked to move Mendick into scoring position, Abreu tied the game with a single. A pair of flyouts couldn’t get the winning run home.
11th inning: Aaron Bummer allows an easy stolen base to take the bunt out of play, followed by a sac fly that gives the Cubs yet another lead. The White Sox were able to answer within three pitches, as Engel singled home Pollock to tie the game at 4.
Up came Leury García with the intent of bunting Engel to third. The bunt would’ve accomplished it, but García was ruled out for running inside the baseline on a throw that hit him and deflected away. Engel had to return to second, and then Engel got himself out when he broke the wrong way on Harrison’s comebacker. Over the course of two outs, the Sox lost 90 feet.
Throw in a Mendick sac bunt attempt that resulted in an easy out at third base on a fine play by Marcus Stroman, and the White Sox were fundamentally terrible all day. Fortunately, Cease bounced back with an excellent start, allowing one unearned run over seven innings to keep the Sox in the game. Four walks were the blemish, but he pitched around the first two, and he probably shouldn’t have been around to issue the fourth.
The Sox had to stomach a costly injury to Anderson while Cease kept the Cubs at bay. In the fifth inning, Anderson ranged to his left to handle a Higgins grounder, and while he successfully made a cross-body throw for the 6-3, he injured his ground during it, and hit the ground in short center after a couple of hops. La Russa said an injured list stint is imminent.