Tonight, any margin of error would do for Johnny Cueto.
Tasked with waiting out a two-hour, 55-minute rain delay and facing Shane Bieber after an embarrassing loss the night before, Cueto received two single runs of support in the sixth and seventh innings, and the latter proved to be unnecessary. He came within one out of a complete game, and thanks to his effort, the Sox have a series to take the series at Progressive Field despite all the strife of the opener.
Cueto scattered five hits and a walk over 8⅔ innings, and the Guardians needed a two-out error by Josh Harrison to put two runners on base in the same inning. He only struck out two, but he could seemingly dial up a grounder or a pop-up whenever he needed non-threatening contact.
Oscar Gonzalez was the only hitter Cueto couldn’t solve. Gonzalez, seemingly hellbent on proving Tony La Russa right for his intentional walk on a 1-2 count, singled, doubled and walked in three trips against Cueto. When he came to the plate as the tying run with two outs in the ninth inning, La Russa switched to Liam Hendriks, and Hendriks struck him out to end the game.
Bieber was almost as good as Cueto, but he wasn’t his sharpest. The White Sox actually drew three walks against him, and tacked on five hits as well. They couldn’t figure out how to make them count until their third time through.
Luis Robert, starting for the first time since Aug. 12, started the sixth with a single. Two batters later, Bieber spent way too much time over the plate to José Abreu when he’d retired him earlier on pitches outside. When he hung a 1-2 slider, Abreu crushed it to the deepest part of the park. It bounced on the warning track, then off the top of the wall to stay in the park. Had it been an automatic double, the Sox still might be scoreless thanks to more misadventures scoring from third. As it stands, Robert scored easily from first, and the Sox took the lead.
An inning later, Yasmani Grandal led off with a single, took second on a wild pitch, then chugged to third on Elvis Andrus’ single past the shorstop and into center field. Joe McEwing waved him home, which was terrible for so many reasons:
- Myles Straw has a strong arm.
- Grandal wasn’t anywhere close to where he needed to be to score on it.
- There were no outs.
- It had rained on and off even after the delay, so the turf was wet.
- Grandal has been managing knee issues all season.
Sure enough, Grandal was out by 20 feet, and in his effort to attempt to evade Luke Maile’s tag, he ended up wrenching his knee, and he had to be helped off the field.
Andrus managed to salvage the inning by being his own third base coach. He took second on the throw home, stole third on James Karinchak, and while Josh Harrison’s fly to right wasn’t nearly deep enough, Will Benson’s aggressive throw home took a strange hop and hit Maile in the mask. It didn’t bounce that far away, but Andrus noticed that nobody was in an easy position to recover it, and he dashed home to beat Andres Gimenez, who could neither flip it to home or get to the plate by himself.
The Sox needed that run spiritually, because they’d failed to capitalize on a similar situation the inning before. After Abreu doubled, he advanced to third on a wild pitch. But Moncada got aced on a backdoor curveball for a called strike three, and Gavin Sheets grounded out to right to end the threat.
No matter the frustration, the White Sox gained a game on both Cleveland and Minnesota, which had its four-game winning streak halted by the Rangers. The Sox are back to a game behind the Twins, and 2½ behind the Guardians.
*While Moncada went 0-for-4 with a K at the plate, he did make a few slick picks to support Cueto in the field.
*Robert went 1-for-3 with a walk in his first game back. His follow-through is one-handed, but his plate appearances were good enough to keep playing.
*Cueto lowered his ERA to 2.58, and he’s averaging 6⅔ innings a start. He could get down-ballot Cy Young support if this keeps up.
*The official word on Grandal is left knee discomfort, but Carlos Pérez is on his way to Chicago.