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In his first game back from the injured list, Yasmani Grandal had a chance to put an immediate stamp on the proceedings when he came to the plate in the first inning with the bases loaded, one out and the White Sox trailing 6-1. Alas, he popped out, César Hernández struck out on a foul tip, and the White Sox failed to capitalize in a momentous way.
But because the Cubs are the Cubs, Grandal got another chance for a dramatic homer. And another chance. And another chance.
He went 3-for-4 in that regard, and 4-for-6 en route to a two-homer, eight-RBI night. And the Sox basically needed all of it despite great nights up and down the lineup, because around Reynaldo López’s five perfect innings lay chaos.
Grandal technically batted sixth, but he encountered plenty of cleanup work because José Abreu, Eloy Jiménez and Yoán Moncada reached base 10 times in front of him, with the latter two combining for five walks.
While Grandal missed out on his first chance, his second such swing swung the game. He strode up to the plate with two on and nobody out after Luis Robert and Abreu doubled, Andrew Romine committed the less hilarious of his two errors in the inning on Jiménez’s grounder, and Moncada singled Abreu home.
Grandal came up to the plate ready to attack, swinging at three strikes and looking at three out of the zone over the course of Adrian Sampson’s first six pitches. Sampson came inside on his seventh pitch, and had he induced a popup with his pitch off the plate, it would’ve looked like fine execution.
Instead, Grandal cleared his hips and let it rip, launching a bomb that didn’t qualify as a no-doubter only because it seemed like it could’ve hooked foul for a second. It stayed well fair and landed in the Goose Island to tie the game at 6. The Sox tacked on three more runs before the close of the inning because Andrew Romine dropped Luis Robert’s routine popup with two outs, which allowed Andrew Vaughn to score, and afforded Jiménez to drive in two with a single before Sampson could get the third/fourth out.
The Sox never trailed again, although four of the five Sox’s pitchers tried their damndest. Dallas Keuchel made the scoreboard match his jersey by it showing “6-0” after the top of the first. He walked Michael Hermosillo to start the game, gave up a punched single by Frank Schwindel, then hung a cutter that Patrick Wisdom socked into the left-field seats for an immediate three-run lead. Just when it seemed like Keuchel rebounded with a routine flyout and a called third strike, he gave up a shanked single on another outside sinker, a Robinson Chirinos RBI double, a shanked infield single to Jason Heyward (maybe Hernández should’ve tried bare-handing it), then a solid single by Andrew Romine.
The sixth run scored because Hernánez definitely committed an error, firing over the head of Grandal on a pickoff with runners on the corners that should’ve ended the inning. Instead, Hermosillo flied out to left in his second at-bat of the game. Only half the margin was due to poor execution, but because Keuchel doesn’t miss bats, this is the kind of inning that can happen.
When Keuchel gave up a single to Schwindel to start the second, La Russa gave him the hook.
OK, that’s not quite true. La Russa allowed Keuchel to throw one pitch to Wisdom, a changeup that generated a swinging strike. After a pickoff throw, La Russa determined that everybody had bought enough time to López to come into the game, and Keuchel departed mid-batter.
Based on López’s results, he can’t complain. López stranded his runner and went 15 up, 15 down, including seven strikeouts on just 60 pitches. It was more than enough for López to be proud of himself, but it wasn’t the overkill performance it seemed while the Sox rattled off 13 unanswered runs.
It was one thing when Mike Wright allowed a two-out solo shot to Hermosillo because it was his job to throw strikes at that juncture. It only made the score 13-7, and the Sox got it back with an Andrew Vaughn RBI single. But Wright didn’t do his job when he walked Wisdom to open the eighth, and La Russa lifted him for Garrett Crochet after a Matt Duffy single.
Ian Happ then greeted Crochet with yet another unimposing Cub hit to right field, an RBI double past Abreu. Jason Heyward then hit a harder grounder in Abreu’s direction, and it ramped off him for a two-run double and a 14-7 game.
Of course, the White Sox had an answer for those three runs as well, courtesy of Grandal’s second three-run blast. That margin made it impossible for the Sox to reproduce whatever the Cubs could come up with in the top of the ninth, which was just as well since Craig Kimbrel allowed a pair of homers in the top of the ninth after retiring the first two batters. Wisdom took him deep, followed by a Duffy walk and an opposite-field blast by Happ that drew the game within a slam. Kimbrel put the game to rest by striking out Austin Romine, but the damage (to his reputation) had been done.
Figuring out whether Kimbrel is any good remains a delicate task, but it should’ve overshadow a crazy night from a White Sox lineup that only struck out twice over the course of 52 batters. Meanwhile, they reached base on 15 hits, nine walks, two HBPs and two errors.
Tim Anderson doubled twice, drew his first walk in 123 plate appearances and scored three runs out of the leadoff spot, and he’s not even one of the three stars of the game. Robert, Abreu and Jiménez also scored three runs, with Robert and Abreu coming up with three hits, and Jiménez drawing three walks around his RBI single.
And then there’s Grandal, who hit two three-run homers, along with a two-run double that accounted for the latter half of a four-run fifth. The three hitters behind him went 1-for-13 with two walks, but perhaps they just realized that Grandal left little meaningful work for them.
*Tonight was the highest-scoring game of the year for the White Sox, whether in terms of total, runs scored or runs allowed.
*At 4:09, it was also their longest nine-inning game of the year.
*Grandal hiked his average above .200 (2.03), which was enough to offset Keuchel’s ERA reaching five.
*López improved to 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA after a rare sort of relief dominance.
*Cleveland lost, so the White Sox are back to leading the division by double digits.
*The Crosstown Cup is no more. The Crosstown Obelisk is here.