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Jon Lester, what with his left-handedness, his soft-tossing, his league-low swinging strike rate and his nevertheless-admirable 2.74 ERA, was going to run into regression at some point in the near future.
Perhaps due to the first element, the White Sox were more than happy to provide it tonight.
Lester served up four home runs to four different White Sox hitters en route to a fourth-inning knockout. He and the Cubs trailed 8-0 by the time he departed, and rather than attempt to make a game of it against Dallas Keuchel, David Ross decided to pull multiple regulars in hopes of more of a fight Saturday and Sunday.
Luis Robert broke the seal on this one in the second, ripping a 2-1 fastball almost through the bleachers in left at 113 mph for a two-run blast.
More big blasts followed. In the third, Tim Anderson doubled over the head of an Albert Almora Jr. who seemed to lose the arc of it in Wrigley’s shadowy center field. Anderson moved to third on a Yasmani Grandal single, and both came home when José Abreu scooped a second consecutive curveball out to left for a 5-0 Sox lead.
The Sox doubled up in the fourth. Danny Mendick ripped an 0-1 cutter on a line out to left to start the inning, and Grandal sent Lester on his way with a back-breaking blast almost all the way up the bleachers.
The Sox tacked on a couple of lengthier solo shots in the last third of the game — 466 feet for Eloy Jiménez in the seventh, and 452 feet for Abreu in the ninth. That gave them six homers for the second time this week, which gives them 24 homers of their last seven days. The White Sox say it’s a record, and it make sense, given that they’ve won six of those games.
Dallas Keuchel benefited from the outburst this time, as he posted his sixth strong start in as many tries. He threw eight innings of one-run ball, only losing the shutout as his pitch count approached a season-high-for-anybody 114 in his final frame of work.
He could’ve lost the shutout earlier, as the Cubs loaded the bases on him in the sixth with two singles (one of them off Keuchel’s leg) and a squibber up the line that Abreu fumbled while paying attention to the runner on third. But Keuchel escaped unscathed with a popout, followed by another comebacker he dodged for a 4-3 double play.
Defensive positioning came up big for the White Sox all night, with Anderson having a particularly active night. He handled five groundouts over the first seven innings, then three lineouts over the last two.
Thanks to the defense, we can say that Keuchel “scattered” six hits and a walk over his eight innings while striking out three. He’s now 4-2 with a 2.65 ERA over what is the first half of his first year with the White Sox. Hopefully he shows no adverse affects from the long leash, but the White Sox do have two off days next week.
*The Cubs, coming off a lot of doubleheaders against the Cardinals, chose to sit Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras and Jason Heyward over the second half of the game, which helped diminish the threat of that potential sixth-inning rally.
*Anderson won the first night of the battle of Chicago shortstops, going 1-for-5 with strong defense. Javier Báez went 1-for-3, but he grounded into a double play and committed an error that put an unearned run on Lester’s tab.
*Luis González got plunked in his first plate appearance, but he now has a batting average after coming to the plate for JIménez in the ninth. He struck out.
*The White Sox only needed Jace Fry out of the bullpen, while the Cubs used four relievers. They do have Kyle Hendricks going Saturday, though.