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With Bob Melvin using a lefty starter against the White Sox with plenty of right-handed backup in the bullpen, the most direct path to a White Sox victory required damage early, then hoping for some mistakes later. That’s a viable strategy as long as Lucas Giolito could hold up his end of the bargain.
Everybody delivered. The White Sox homered twice off Jesús Luzardo before the bullpen arrived, then tacked on a solo shot off Joakim Soria in the eighth. Giolito went out and retired the first 18 batters he faced. Rick Renteria left him in one or two batters too long, but they had the cushion to endure that blip, and now they’re a win away from advancing to the divisional series.
Giolito relied heavily on his all-fast outfield for the first few innings, with Luis Robert, Adam Engel and Leury García all answering the calls on a variety of well-struck flies. When the middle innings arrived, so did the swings and misses. He only got two whiffs over the first three innings, but the command steadily improved, and by the sixth, he got five misses on seven swings.
While Giolito’s dominance made Rick Renteria’s job easier, it created the possibility that he might be a little too lax in going to his bullpen. Renteria had the right idea when he activated the bullpen after Tommy La Stella ended Giolito’s perfect game bid to start the seventh, but when Giolito finished the inning, Renteria relaxed again.
It’s debatable whether Renteria made a mistake in letting Giolito start the eighth, but he definitely pushed it too far when he visited the mound after a Mark Canha leadoff walk and departed without pulling Giolito. He came right back out after a single put runners on the corners, with Evan Marshall coming out from the bullpen. He got a run-scoring fielder’s choice and a lineout, but when he gave up another line-drive single to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of the lefty La Stella, Renteria rediscovered his timing. He called for Aaron Bummer, and Bummer got another fielder’s choice to defuse the lone Oakland threat.
Alex Colomé closed it out with a 1-2-3 inning, assisted by a nice pick by Yoán Moncada. White Sox pitchers limited Oakland to three hits, which matches Tim Anderson’s total. It also matches the number the White Sox posted in the home run column.
The White Sox threatened early off Luzardo, and the sustained that menace. Luzardo worked around singles by Tim Anderson and José Abreu for a scoreless first, but he served up a solo shot to Adam Engel on an 0-2 challenge fastball in the second.
When the top of the order came back around, Luzardo found more trouble. Anderson led off with a single for the second time in three innings, and while Moncada and Yasmani Grandal grounded out, Abreu wouldn’t let Luzardo close the door.
Or maybe Luzardo didn’t find another exit. Instead of pitching around Abreu after falling behind 2-0 to take advantage of the open base, he came at Abreu with a 2-0 fastball. Abreu responded by homering to left center over the same line that Engel showed, and the White Sox led 3-0. Luzardo might’ve been more frustrated by the fact that he struck out James McCann on three pitches afterward.
Engel ended up chasing Luzardo from the game after a one-out double in the fourth, and the Oakland bullpen met expectations. JB Wendelken, Yusmeiro Petit, Soria and Jake Diekman limited the Sox to just three hits over 5⅔ innings, while striking out six. Fortunately, one of those hits was a Grandal solo shot off Soria that gave the Sox a 4-0 lead, and a little more breathing room everybody appreciated.