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Entering the eighth inning, I planned on recycling/updating the headline from Friday’s game and applying it to his post: “Big hit still elusive as skid reaches five.” They trailed 2-0 because Dylan Cease didn’t get enough help from everybody around him, including an offense that swung itself out of every potential rally.
And “potential rally” even overstates the threat, because the White Sox only had three at-bats with runners in scoring position all day.
They did go 1-for-3, though, and that “1” was the aforementioned elusive big hit, as Jake Burger hit a pinch-hit two-run shot off Jalen Beeks for a three-spot in the top of the eighth that held up to end that losing streak at four.
Tony La Russa, who entered the game 26th out of 30 managers in using pinch hitters, deployed his bench aggressively in that inning, and it delivered.
First, Adam Engel stepped in for Gavin Sheets against lefty reliever Brooks Raley and won a full-count battle by dropping a blooper in between short and left field for a double, and while Yasmani Grandal followed with a strikeout, Danny Mendick muscled his own flare to right field for an RBI single that cut the deficit in half.
That’s when Kevin Cash went back to the bullpen to call for another lefty in Beeks to face Reese McGuire. Tony La Russa pinch-hit with Burger, even though it cost him the DH (although one might argue there isn’t much of a drop-off between Grandal and a pitcher there). The proactive move was rewarded when Beeks elevated an 0-1 changeup so that it played like an ordinary high sinker, and Burger treated it as such by launching it over the wall in left center for the White Sox’s first lead of the series.
The White Sox then had to hold it, and while Kendall Graveman immediately found trouble because nobody is allowed to retire Yandy Diaz, he was able to work out of a first-and-third, one-out scenario. First he struck out Vidal Brujan, and while he walked Brett Phillips in the midst of an 0-for-21, 15-strikeout slump, he rallied to retire Isaac Paredes on a groundout to short by the slimmest of margins. Mendick had to charge the chopper and get rid of it as quickly as possible, and he couldn’t afford a millisecond’s delay.
Fortunately, Liam Hendriks made much easier work of the ninth, getting a popout and two strikeouts for the save.
The late rally got Dylan Cease off the hook. Cease’s line was bizarre (4.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 7 BB, 5 K), although it was partially a product of a super-tight strike zone. Cease lost about a half-dozen borderline-or-better strikes while getting no pitches outside the zone in return, which extended at-bats long enough for him to labor into his own trouble.
He had particular problems with two outs, as four of his seven walks came in such situations. He issued his final one to Manuel Margot that put runners on first and second, and when Diaz’s grounder to first took a strange hop of Abreu and deflected off thigh into left field (again, Diaz must reach base), the Rays finally took a 1-0 lead. Aaron Bummer relieved him, but he gave up an opposite-field single to lefty Ji-Man Choi to make it a 2-0 ballgame.
Meanwhile, Drew Rasmussen cruised the way talented right-handed starters often do against the White Sox. He allowed just three hits and a walk over seven innings, and while he only struck out two, it limited him to just 81 pitches on the night. He hadn’t even pitched into the seventh this year, much less completed one, and while Rasmussen retired his last seven, the contact had risen in exit velocity, which is why Kevin Cash might’ve felt the need to pull Rasmussen despite the results. Whatever the reason, the White Sox expressed their gratitude.
*Mendick continues to buy time for Tim Anderson, going 2-for-3 with a couple of strong defensive plays from the eighth spot.
*Yoán Moncada also took extra bases away from Randy Arozarena with a slick sliding pick on a grounder inside third base.
*Grandal drew the lone White Sox walk in the fifth inning. Rasmussen didn’t gain any extra strikes himself, but the Sox didn’t let the umpire decide as many of them.
*Diaz is 2-for-3 with five walks over the first two games, and he reached on the Abreu error on the one allegedly unsuccessful at-bat.
*Minnesota and Cleveland both lost, so the White Sox are back within five games of first place, and a half-game out of second.