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With the Dodgers trailing the Mets 9-4 entering the ninth inning on Saturday, Dave Roberts tried to use Zach McKinstry to pitch. Umpires prohibited him from doing so, citing the relatively new rule that position players couldn’t appear on the mound in games with a margin smaller than six runs.
After the game, Roberts said he had forgotten about the rule, which had been implemented before the original iteration of the 2020 season, then suspended as the pandemic forced the league to play a bunch of things by ear.
The White Sox apparently don’t have to worry about that rule being policed for them. After going an entire month without winning a game by more than five, the White Sox jumped out to a 6-0 lead through two. Any May 10, 2022 game against the Guardians will tell you that the six-run lead is the most dangerous lead in baseball, and the Sox once again proved that time-tested adage correct.
Thanks to a combination of a slightly off Lucas Giolito, a passive Tony La Russa and some poor defense, the Sox saw that lead get whittled down to one run over the fifth and sixth innings. Fortunately, Aaron Bummer, Kendall Graveman and Liam Hendriks stood all as the 7-8-9 combo they’ve been paid to be, and the White Sox can claim the season series against the Rays.
The Sox offense squandered a few opportunities after the second inning, but it only became glaring during the sixth, which started unraveling when first baseman Yasmani Grandal flat-out missed a routine throw from Danny Mendick on what should’ve been a first out that moved a runner to third.
Instead, runners were at the corners with nobody out, and Harold Ramirez drove a run home with a sac fly. Randy Arozarena followed with a drive to the right field corner, and it was one of those flies I referred to in Month in a Box. Andrew Vaughn ran in the correct direction as hard as he could, but he couldn’t close the distance, and it rattled back toward center field for an RBI triple.
Giolito remained in the game after a mound visit, and Isaac Paredes popped out for the second out. But Mike Zunino, who’d made hard contact to too high and too low in his first two trips, figured out the middle ground and launched a 112-mph laser just over the left-field wall for a two-run homer that made it 6-5.
Giolito still remained in the game, and he struck out Taylor Walls on a fastball out of the zone to preserve the narrowest possible margin.
It should’ve been easier, especially after the way the White Sox trashed Tampa Bay starter Ryan Yarbrough. Vaughn had a couple of particularly punishing plate appearances.
In the first inning, he followed Danny Mendick’s single with an 11-pitch battle. He fouled off five borderline-or-worse pitches before Yarbrough missed over the plate with a changeup, and Vaughn pounded it to the left-center gap for an automatic double. When Mendick had to check up at third, Luis Robert popped out and José Abreu walked, it set the stage for one of those bases-loaded disappointments the Sox are known for.
Instead, the team that entered the day 3-for-35 with the sacks packed saw Jake Burger improve those numbers with another drive to the left-center gap. This one didn’t clear the wall like it did on Saturday, but it still scored the game’s first two runs. Grandal then drove in the next two with a checked-swing single that dropped into the first blades of outfield grass on the right side.
An inning later, Vaughn came to the plate with Josh Harrison on second, and he fouled off three consecutive pitches before riding an elevated cutter to right field for a double. Robert then made up for his first-inning failure with a single that scored Vaughn for the Sox’s sixth and final run.
Other opportunities went by the boards. Burger grounded into a double play after the first two reached in the fourth, and Abreu grounded into a fielder’s choice at home with runners on second and third and one out in the sixth. On another day, the Sox could bemoan the 11 stranded runners. On this day, they can say they’re done with the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox for the season, and went 11-8 against them.
*AJ Pollock was the only starter without a hit, as he went 0-for-5 with a strikeout.
*Mendick batted leadoff in an attempt to take advantage of the hot hand, and he went 1-for-5 with the run scored in the first.
*Graveman bounced back from an arduous outing on Saturday by striking out the side on 13 pitches in the eighth.
*Before Grandal committed the error, he did his Abreu impersonation by starting a 3-6 double play that held up after a challenge.