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Yermin Mercedes picked a good night to make major league history, because the White Sox’s first victory of the season had some twists and turns few of their fans will want to remember.
Mercedes became the second player in MLB history to collect five hits in his first start, and Mercedes became the first to have a perfect night in the process. He went 5-for-5 with four RBIs, stealing the show from a José Abreu grand slam earlier in the game.
Abreu’s blast off Andrew Heaney in the third inning wasn’t quite as satisfying, because it turned out the White Sox needed to score a lot more runs. The Sox led 7-1 entering the bottom of the fourth with Dallas Keuchel on the mound, only to see the gap narrow to 7-6.
Keuchel’s cutter didn’t do much, he lost command of his sinker, and when Matt Foster appeared to bail him out by retiring Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon in the fifth with two runners already aboard, Adam Eaton dropped Rendon’s fly down the right field line to add two unearned runs to Keuchel’s tab, making it a 7-6 game.
Tony La Russa managed the game as though he anticipated a slim margin. He used Michael Kopech for two innings and a batter, which was a wildly successful reintroduction except for the inning-opening walk to Trout in the eighth. He was the first of three pitchers used, with La Russa intentionally walking Albert Pujols for Evan Marshall’s third batter in order to bring in Lian Hendriks to face Jose Iglesias. (The tactic wouldn’t have been necessary if Yoán Moncada didn’t bobble an easy double play ball, settling for one out instead.)
Fortunately, Mercedes and the Sox found five extra runs in the ninth. Tim Anderson opened with a solo shot off Angels closer Raisel Iglesias, and the rest of the lineup teamed up to thump Steve Cishek, capped off by Mercedes’ two-run double to the left field corner.
And even then, Hendriks gave up a two-run shot to Ohtani in the ninth to give everybody one last thing to grumble about.
Despite the way it unfolded, the White Sox are still undefeated against left-handed starters since the start of the 2020 season. After a couple ugly turns against Andrew Heaney in the first two innings, they remembered they went 14-0 against left-handed starters last year, and the quality of at-bats jumped accordingly.
Mercedes delivered a two-strike single with one out in the third. It was his first career hit, but more importantly, others followed his lead. Nick Madrigal lined a single to left on a 1-2 count, and while Anderson grounded out to third, Luis Robert was able to survive his own two-strike count by drawing a seven-pitch walk.
That set the stage for Abreu, who waited back on Heaney’s first-pitch changeup and launched it over the wall in right center for a grand slam in a 4-1 lead.
That lead expanded by three in the fourth with another strong sequence of at-bats. Andrew Vaughn led off with a walk for his first time on base, and took third on Yasmani Grandal’s single through the right side. Eaton had similar luck with a grounder more toward second base for an RBI single, and that chased Heaney from the game.
Junior Guerra’s first pitch put runners in scoring position after bouncing away from Max Stassi, and his second resulted in two runs as Mercedes delivered his second career hit.
*Moncada struck out five times and fumbled a double-play ball to boot.
*Andrew Vaughn went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in his MLB debut, but he drew a walk, scored a run, and drew no attention to himself in left field.
*La Russa replaced Vaughn with Billy Hamilton after Vaughn made the last out of the seventh. Hamilton ended up coming to the plate in the ninth, where he drew a walk and scored on Mercedes’ double.
*Although Foster carried the lead across the ffith inning, the scorer awarded Kopech the win for his two perfect innings (and the Trout walk).