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With Oakland optioning Christian Pache to the minors earlier on Friday, Leury García took over as baseball’s worst regular hitter.
If that’s what it took for García’s season to start trending upward, so be it. With two outs in the ninth inning of a scoreless game, García delivered the game’s only run with a single off Giants closer Camilo Doval for a sorely needed win after midnight. Sure, every win feels critical right now, but it mitigated the damage from Byron Buxton’s walk-off homer against the Orioles earlier in the evening, and so the Sox remain 5½ back of Minnesota in the Central, and four back of second-place Cleveland.
The situation was one of those innings that García has snuffed out so many times before; a rally that got to him because nobody could put a bigger dent in the inning. He was the fifth batter to come to the plate against Doval, as Gavin Sheets reached with one out when Brandon Belt led Doval too far with his feed on a stiff attempt at a 3-1 putout, after which Adam Haseley pinch-ran. Yoán Moncada struck out, but AJ Pollock’s normally unremarkable grounder had the fortune of kicking off third base for an infield single despite Jason Vosler’s best attempt at corralling it, keeping the inning alive.
That’s when García came to the plate. He took a slider for strike one, followed by a 101-mph cutter and another slider out of the zone. Doval returned to the zone with a slider García swung through, but when he went to the pitch once more on 2-2, the third time ended up being the charm for García, who roped a liner through the right side. It led Mike Yastrzemski right into a strong throw to home, but Haseley beat it with a neat slide behind the tag for the game’s first run. Kendall Graveman made sure it was the game’s only run.
From starting García to saving Graveman for the ninth and ever decision in between, La Russa avoided getting burned by calls that seemed suspect in real time.
For instance, Lance Lynn took the mound for the sixth with 90 pitches and nobody immediately warming. He fell behind Joc Pederson 3-0 to start the inning, which is when the bullpen started to stir, but Pederson used the green light to fly out to left, and that put Lynn on much better footing to finish the frame.
Joe Kelly pitched the seventh, which was fine, but Tanner Banks handled the eighth. He walked two batters, but he erased the first with a double play, and aced Belt after the two-out walk to emerge unscathed. He also pinch-ran Jake Burger for Andrew Vaughn after Vaughn’s two-out double in the eighth inning, which didn’t seem like that great of an upgrade. Luis Robert tapped out to the mound to negate the speed advantage, but Vaughn’s spot didn’t come up again.
In the other dugout, Gabe Kapler was more proactive, partially because he had better choices. He lifted Alex Cobb after five innings and 67 pitches because the White Sox offense started hitting him harder. He went from John Brebbia to Taylor Rogers to Dominic Leone, all of whom were appropriate choices for their innings. His team lost with their most imposing relief arm on the mound. As much as the White Sox have scuffled, the Giants are in a similar kind of funk as of late, and the White Sox were the less movable object.
As for Lynn, he lowered his ERA to 4.50 with six shutout innings. He issued both of his walks in the first inning but struck out Tommy La Stella to leave ’em loaded, starting a run of 12 consecutive batters retired. He didn’t look overpowering, but Oracle Park is a comfortable place to give up well-struck fly balls, and on a cold and foggy night, he took advantage of an environment that turned deep drives by Yoán Moncada and José Abreu into warning-track flyouts for the other side.
*Banks picked up his first win for his inning of work.
*The White Sox only gave the Giants two shots with runners in scoring position, and neither were successful.