The White Sox’s first home run of the series came on the last pitch of the game, and most of it wasn’t necessary.
Nevertheless, Jake Burger touched them all after a walk-off grand slam that sealed a very welcome sweep of the Tigers on the most emphatic of notes.
Because he came to the plate with the bases loaded, one out and facing five infielders, Burger only needed to hit a medium-range fly ball, or a randomly shanked shallow one, to get the job done. Burger watched a sinker below the zone for ball one, after which Lange tried one of his curveballs that had induced so many ugly swings and misses this season.
But Lange, 20-something pitches deep into his second consecutive day of work, lost the sharpness he showed earlier. Anderw Benintendi came off the bench and singled to center on one of those curveballs to start the inning, and then stole second as pinch-hitting Gavin Sheets struck out on a full-count half-swing. Yoán Moncada was more successful laying off the junk and drew a walk, and Tim Anderson did the same when Lange didn’t get a coin-flip call on a sinker down and away, which loaded the bases.
So Lange had already logged plenty of high-stress pitches when he tried to get back into the count against Burger with a 1-0 curveball, but it was his worst of the bunch. It hung thigh-high, so all Burger had to do was make sure he didn’t pull the trigger too early. Once he made contact, the only question was whether it was a single or a homer, and it ended up clearing the wall by inches for his 12th homer of the season.
It was an impressive end to an unimpressive sweep, with the White Sox scoring more runs in the ninth inning than they had in either of the first two games.
That said, the Tigers invited the Sox to sweep them after losing their best position player and starter to the injured list, and the Sox saw the job through. They now have a winning record against the Tigers on the season, they’re 15-11 against the Central overall, they’re back to single digits under .500, and they’re just 5½ games back of the Twins. All of this represents the progress they needed to make.
You just have to set aside their performance against Matthew Boyd, who suppressed an offense that usually gives him fits. He struck out nine batters while allowing just three hits over five innings. Fortunately, two of those hits came back-to-back, with Eloy Jiménez’s single following a Luis Robert Jr. double that halved Detroit’s 2-0 lead.
The Robert-Jiménez section of the lineup came through once again the next time up, as they reached on a pair of two-out singles in the sixth inning against Will Vest. With Boyd out of the game, the rest of the lineup stepped up. Andrew Vaughn walked to load the bases, and then Yasmani Grandal slashed a single through the left side to tie the game at 2. Eddie Rodríguez had to hold Jiménez at third, and Clint Frazier flied out to end the damage.
That run got Michael Kopech off the hook, which is good since he didn’t deserve the loss. He overpowered the Tigers for the bulk of his seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out nine. It just so happened that one mistake cost him two runs, as Spencer Torkelson drilled a spinning slider out to left for a two-run shot in the top of the fourth.
Otherwise, Kopech maintained the weekend theme of throwing more strikes against the Tigers. He used just 92 pitches over his seven innings. His one walk could’ve been costly — Javier Baez stole second and third after reaching one out in the sixth — but Kopech stranded him with a strikeout and a groundout.
The bullpen followed suit. Joe Kelly pitched a scoreless eighth with 13 of 17 pitches for strikes, with Robert rewarding him for trusting his defense, and Liam Hendriks pitched a a scoreless ninth, striking out two over the course of 15 pitches. He picked up the win on National Cancer Survivors Day.
*Pedro Grifol used the whole bench, to the point that Vaughn might’ve had to play second if the game went to extras, because Romy González and Elvis Andrus were subbed out of the game.
*Anderson reached base three times at the top of the order, and Robert turned around a disappointing performance against the Tigers thus far with those hits that led to runs.
*Robert also saved a run with running catch that took him from right of center to the warning track in left center in the eighth inning.