White Sox 12, Angels 8: Yermín Mercedes redeems everything

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.

Bullet points:

*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).

Record: 1-1 | Box score | Statcast

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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md03

One of the funnest games I’ve seen in a while. Can’t be happier for Yermin, and Kopech was on fire. Was hoping that they backed him up with Crochet but at least they got the W.

Last edited 1 year ago by md03
jorgefabregas

Managing to get the save stat meant bringing Hendriks back in after a protracted top of the ninth + pitching 30+ pitches. That probably burns him for the next game if they’re being reasonable.

GrinnellSteve

I wondered about this last night. At what point in the top of the 9th would they have needed to get Ruiz up in order to have him ready for the bottom of the inning? TLR might deserve a pass based on the timing of everything. I don’t know.

Certainly, though, it’s fair to ask if Tony was managing for a stat in both games. The optimal play on Thursday was to bring Hendricks in to start the 8th. Then either let Hendricks finish or hand it over to Bummer in the 9th.

As Cirensica

No worries, we have secret closer weapon: Garret Crochet. It is a good thing we have a stacked bullpen

GrinnellSteve

When Kopech went out to start the 8th, that suggested to me Tony’s bullpen strategy might be to deploy Kopech and Crochet for 6-9 outs as needed to keep the bullpen from melting down over the long haul. Tonight will be Crochet’s turn for an extended out if necessary.

shaggy65

Vaughn impressed me in left field by never looking like he didn’t belong. He didn’t panic on the one ball hit right at him. But more importantly he looked comfortable picking up singles hit in his direction; he planned his routes well and came up in position to throw every time.

I’m sure he’ll have some hiccups out there and he probably doesn’t have the range of Eloy, but I’ve already seen enough to be comfortable putting Jimenez at DH when he returns and leaving Vaughn in the outfield.

As Cirensica

Edit: Wrong thread.

Last edited 1 year ago by As Cirensica
burning-phoneix

Is it just me or was the Eaton fielding error more like a hit? It looked really difficult into the corner.

Joliet Orange Sox

I thought Eaton’s error was an error. I thought the bad scorer’s decision was saying Ohtani reached on Abreu’s error in the first inning. I would’ve scored it as a triple for Ohtani.

As Cirensica

It was not an easy play, but the way Eaton tackle it was a bad decision.

HallofFrank

Eloy Jimenez: a Wally Pipp for a new generation.

polishwith

Only the 2nd game, and i’m probably overreacting, but I’m worried about Moncada. He was brutal yesterday. I think it’s still uncertain whether all of his struggles last year were COVID related.

Michael Kenny

Well he had two hits and a walk on Thursday. Let’s just overreact to both games so they cancel each other out.

polishwith

haha….fair point

GrinnellSteve

And looked solid in the field Thursday.

Plus a couple of those K’s last night were called strikes out of the zone. He had some bad swings, though.

John SF

Yeah. The Moncada bobble was unfortunate, but he recovered fast enough to still make a strong throw to first and get 1. His other fielding has been very very good so far. And one if not two of his Ks last night came from extremely bad ump calls.

It should have been, at worst, 4Ks and a walk. They weren’t exactly the 3 pitch Ks where he’s swinging at sliders 2 feet off the plate like Robert does either, they were counts he was working and putting good fouls on.

He also looked amazing in spring training. I expect he will be one of our best players this year. And last night didn’t really change that expectation for me.

Last edited 1 year ago by John SF
GrinnellSteve

I think he’ll be the AL MVP unless he shows lingering effects from covid. He seems to be fully recovered. He’s the most complete player on the team.

BenwithVen

Pretty good ABs by Robert. Didn’t really punish anything, but he looked he had a plan up there.

soxfan

Pretty sure Stone said his first out had an exit velocity of 113 mph. That’s a violation of the 8th amendment. Unfortunately he just didn’t have the launch angle he needed.

burning-phoneix

Statcast had that ball at an expected Batting Average of .970. Literally one of the most unlucky swings I’ve seen recently.

HouseOfTheRisingSox

First at-bat was an absolute missile. I considered the possibility the ball went all the way around the world and Upton made the catch on the second time around.

GrinnellSteve

He smoked one to left. 114 MPH, I think. He’s had some hard contact in 2 games.

Red_Hair_White_Sox

Hey Jim, two of the ads in this article were covering up parts of paragraphs when fully loaded. I’m using Chrome on Android mobile.

Everything looks fine on desktop and I haven’t had any issues there!

stopdrop8

If you shift to landscape display on your phone the covered paragraphs should become visible. Happened to me earlier this week too.

Michael Kenny

By the way, who had Yermín Mercedes completely overshadowing Andrew Vaughn’s debut AND a grand slam?

peanutsNcrackerjack

Kopech looked strong and confident. I had no problem with him walking Trout. Good use of Hamilton late in the game.

MrStealYoBase

He almost had him frozen on strike 3, too. Missed by an inch.