After opening the second half with one of their flattest performances of the year, the White Sox showed the capacity to prevail in a great ballgame.
It took Tim Anderson turning a 6-3 double play on a ball up the middle, with the shard of Sean Murphy’s bat trailing in its wake, to keep the tying run on third from crossing the plate, but the White Sox ended the Braves’ 11- game home winning streak, while handing Spencer Strider his first loss since May.
This could’ve been a disheartening loss at so many points. Lance Lynn immediately lost each of the first two leads the Sox offense handed him. The Braves answered three runs with three runs in the bottom of the third inning, and one run with one run in the fifth.
The Sox built a third lead, and White Sox pitchers held that one just long enough. Jake Burger’s 20th homer of the year put the Sox back on top 5-4 in the sixth, followed by a textbook manufactured run in the seventh. The Sox bullpen then survived scoring threats of increasing intensity over the final three innings to carry it across the finish line, and they can go to bed grateful that 28 outs isn’t the norm.
The White Sox showed resilience for once. Strider struck out 10 White Sox over six innings, but that doesn’t reflect his difficulties in putting hitters away. The White Sox stung him for eight hits, and five of them came on two-strike counts, including several successes from the bottom of the order.
Perhaps a better game in left field would’ve flipped the outcome, but the Sox aren’t in a position to refuse gifts.
The Sox directed three run-scoring hits Eddie Rosario’s way. In the third, Andrew Benintendi flared a single in front of Rosario to score Zach Remillard, who led off with a single on two strikes and advanced to third on Oscar Colás own single on a two-strike count. Two batters later, Luis Robert Jr. looped a fly ball that Rosario misread, and Rosario failed to block the ball after it bounced in front of him for a two-run double.
Rosario then had a similar issue with Andrew Benintendi’s opposite-field drive in the fifth. He got caught in between on a line drive and experienced in-between consequences. The ball leaked behind him and Seby Zavala scored all the way from first to make it a 4-3 game. A Rosario misplay was involved in half the White Sox’s runs, and he ended up leaving the game with right hamstring tightness, which feels like a very White Sox order of events.
Nevertheless, the Sox tacked on the final two runs by themselves — Burger’s opposite-field shot in the sixth, and a fundamentally strong sequence of a Colás double, Zavala sac bunt and a Benintendi RBI single over a drawn-in infield in the seventh, and that proved to be the difference.
In order to provide that proof, the White Sox bullpen had to weather three separate jams.
In the seventh, Gregory Santos gave up a one-out single by Ronald Acuña Jr., who then stole second and advanced to third on a groundout. Santos then fell behind 3-0 to Austin Riley, but got a nubber on a 3-1 slider for an easy 1-3 putout.
In the eighth, Keynan Middleton alternated between safe and out, starting with Matt Olson leadoff double. Fortunately, the other two “safe” outcomes were walks, which merely loaded the bases around a pair of strikeouts. He then fell behind 2-1 to Michael Harris II, but got a popout on a changeup to leave them loaded.
In the ninth, Graveman immediately put the cushion to use by surrendering Acuña’s second homer of the game. and then Ozzie Albies singled and stole second. He struck out Riley before giving up an opposite-field line drive to Olson.
Credit Benintendi for doing what Rosario couldn’t. He committed to catching it well enough to force Albies to freeze, then abandoned the plan early enough to block the hop with his torso. Keeping the ball in front of him kept Albies at third, and that’s when Graveman shattered Murphy’s bat. Were Aaron Bummer on the mound, the ball would’ve kicked off him for a game-tying infield single. But because Graveman does not suffer BummerLuck, the ball cleared him and found Anderson, who cleanly fielded the ball. Remillard stood on second, but vacated the base once seeing Anderson’s intent, and Anderson saw it through with an on-target throw to Vaughn to end the game.
The effort not only locked in a rare loss on Strider’s tab, but it also preserved a win for Lynn. Lynn has two forms, and tonight was “Ugly 5-6 innings.” He gave up a pair of homers, and lefties accounted for five of his nine baserunners and two of three extra-base hits (Acuña’s two-run shot in the third was the exception), but he carried the game past the halfway point. I probably would’ve gone to the bullpen to start the sixth rather than risk giving Lynn a third lead as he approached 100 pitches, but fortunately the first sign of trouble was only a one-out single, and when Pedro Grifol went to the pen, Santos pitched past it.
Lynn neither boosted nor hurt his trade value with the start tonight, assuming the league appraises him as an innings-eater.
*The last four spots in the White Sox lineup went 6-for-15, turning leadoff man Benintendi into a cleanup hitter (3-for-5, three RBIs).
*Benintendi was cut down at third by Rosario after his fifth-inning double, a rare mistake on the basepaths for him.
*White Sox pitchers issued five walks. White Sox hitters did not draw one.
*Lynn struck out Matt Olson on pitch clock violation in the second inning, which took one at-bat against a dangerous lefty out of play for him.
*Acuña is up to 23 homers and 43 stolen bases. He is terrifying.