White Sox 4, Twins 3: Three orders of fireworks in the ninth

After everything that transpired tonight, it would’ve been too easy if the White Sox could literally walk off the Twins.

They had to settle for running like hell, but all’s well that ends well.

With the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning, José Abreu appeared to take a Jorge López pitch off the hand to bring home the winning run. While it would’ve been super-satisfying considering López hit Andrew Vaughn on the shoulder with his previous pitch — not to mention his reaction to Vaughn’s displeasure at a second near-beaning in recent weeks, which caused the White Sox’s bench to empty — a replay showed the pitch hit the knob of the bat for strike one.

The White Sox couldn’t reset the fireworks, but everything else had to be restored. Abreu then fouled off an inside-corner sinker for strike two. López’s third sinker was the most hittable of the bunch, but Abreu could only hit a grounder up the middle, which is how the Twins positioned him. Had López let the ball go through, it would’ve been an easy inning-ending 4-6-3 double play, and the game would’ve proceeded to the 10th inning.

López did not let the ball go through. Instead, he deflected it to Nick Gordon’s right, and while he still gloved it and completed the 4-6 part of the equation, Abreu’s hustle reflected the stakes of the play, and Carlos Correa had no chance at the “3” on the turn. Romy González scored a second time, the fireworks went off a second time, and the White Sox are back to .500, just one game back of the Twins and three behind the Guardians.

The White Sox didn’t deserve to win this game by their quality of play, especially if you’re inclined to judge Miguel Cairo’s opener decision harshly.

While Davis Martin was the original starter, Cairo switched to Joe Kelly, hoping Martin would again shine as the evening’s second/bulk pitcher as he did back in June.

Kelly didn’t respond well to the task, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks during a 34-pitch first, although White Sox defense surrendered extra bases that changed the complexion of the inning. For instance, Leury García played a Luis Arraez’s leadoff single into a double, and Yasmani Grandal wasn’t prepared for a Kelly curveball in the dirt that opened up first base when runners were on first and second. In both cases, Kelly backfilled first base with a walk, and maybe he doesn’t if the glovework is better. Then again, Kelly entered this game with a 7.07 ERA, which basically means it’s hard to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Martin followed with five shutout innings in relief, and the White Sox were tied at 2 through six. If you think Martin could’ve done that regardless, then the opener was a waste of time. If you think Martin benefited from starting his evening against the bottom of the Twins order, then the Sox passed the test.

(One additional benefit: When the game advanced into high-leverage innings late, Cairo couldn’t consider Kelly for that work even if he wanted to. And maybe he’d want to, because Kendall Graveman was unavailable after pitching in the previous two games, so maybe Kelly screws up worse later than he did earlier.)

The White Sox clawed back into the game thanks to Grandal, and on both ends of the exit velocity spectrum.

In the fourth inning, the White Sox were on the verge of wasting a Vaughn leadoff double when Grandal shanked a single into left center for the Sox’s first run. It was a 51.4 mph blooper that landed on the infield dirt, only a single because Gio Urshela was playing in for some reason and he couldn’t get back in time. Grandal then came around to score three two-out batters later, with AJ Pollock walking, Leury García singling through the right side, and Josh Harrison successfully selling his own run-scoring HBP on his elbow.

(Like the up-and-in pitch to Abreu, it could’ve been called back. If it clipped Harrison’s armor — and the ball’s spin didn’t change — he still didn’t make an effort to get out of the way until the ball was in Gary Sánchez’s mitt.)

The call stood, and the game remained scoreless until the eighth, when more shoddy Sox defense complicated things, and Grandal righted them.

In the top of the eighth, Josh Harrison’s off-balance throw on Max Kepler’s grounder to the left side went into the Twins’ dugout, putting the leadoff runner on second instead of first. A single and a 4-3 later, the Twins regained the lead, and González’s shot at getting the runner at home evaporated when he bobbled the ball.

Here’s where Grandal stepped up. Billy Hamilton entered the game against Jimmy Lambert and was itching to run, but his attempts to steal second were disrupted by a foul ball and the grounder to second. His break for third wasn’t disrupted, and while he was originally ruled safe, a replay showed that his swim move didn’t work on Harrison, and the challenge eliminated the threat.

In the bottom of the eighth, Grandal was either ready for Caleb Thielbar’s first-pitch curveball, or he had enough time to readjust. It came in at 73 mph, and while Grandal had to break his swing into two parts in order to stay back, he still put good wood on it. It only left his bat at 95 mph, but it carried 345 feet in the most useful direction, down the left field line. It ended up in the White Sox bullpen, and Grandal’s first right-handed homer (and first home homer) of the season tied the game at 3.

Cairo then called for Liam Hendriks to preserve the tie for the bottom of the ninth, which he did around a one-out single. López couldn’t do the same in the bottom of the inning. He started by hanging a slider that González singled to left, and then Elvis Andrus inside-outed a two-strike pitch into right field. López then threw a first-pitch sinker off Vaughn’s shoulder, and that set the stage for three kinds of pyrotechnics over the course of one batter.

Bullet points:

*Miguel Cairo was the lone person ejected in the gathering at the mound in the ninth inning. He didn’t seem to get especially physical, but he was in the middle of it, and Rocco Baldelli appeared somewhat surprised by Cairo’s furor.

*Martin as the second pitcher this year: 15⅓ IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 11 K

*Eloy Jiménez preceded Grandal’s game-tying homer with a pinch-hitting appearance for Gavin Sheets against the lefty Thielbar, but he grounded out to third and started hobbling more than halfway down the line.

*Andrus started a rare 6-3-6 double play by making a runner head back to first, but throwing to the bag in time to get the force before returning to second in time to apply the tag from Andrew Vaughn’s throw.

Record: 66-66 | Box score | Statcast

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Jim Margalus
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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Right Size Wrong Shape

Hey, you’re going to win 66 and lose 66. It’s what you do with the other 30.

Greg Nix

That’s pretty insightful. Have you been in baseball for all or part of 8 decades?

shaggy65

When Eloy came to the plate I said “Oh yeah, why wasn’t he playing in such an important game?”

When he “walked” back to the dugout I said “Why was he playing?”

As Cirensica

I think he will never recover this year. He seems to need a couple of weeks off and the Sox won’t do that, so he will DH all the way until the end of the season.

chipporter

I was impressed with Andrus’ thinking and execution on that 6-3-6 DP and also with Harrisons tag at 3B on the high chopper. Those were both veteran read and reactions.

Yolmer's gatorade

Baldelli screamed at Miguel Cairo, so I approve of Cairo screaming back. Probably pointless, but it was nice to show some emotion. Vaughn also got hit near the head, so I don’t know what Lopez could’ve said except sorry.

Last edited 25 days ago by Yolmer's gatorade
Olssox

Kelly starting obviously didn’t work well tonight, but I find it refreshing trying stuff like this.

charlie

So happy with the win but Kelly is the last guy I would’ve started.

itaita

I like the idea of the Kelly opener. It seems to work for Martin and while Kelly did not hold up his end of the bargain it might’ve been worth from a “Lets see if this works for him” standpoint. Also that Grandal HR had to be one of the uglier HR swings of the season.

If anything we’re seeing the difference in a manager who isnt at least in his 70’s.

StockroomSnail

That was a fun play by Elvis and I forgot how much I hate the twins.

Baldelli chaps my ass, I always see him bitching.

Both of these teams suck but eff the Twins.

HallofFrank

Um this team doesn’t suck, they are 3-0 in games managed by Miguel Cairo that weren’t originally supposed to be managed by Tony La Russa.

GrinnellSteve

Undefeated in games where Tony was never in the building.

StockroomSnail

Kaskade really should’ve been named manager

StockroomSnail

Your small sample size intrigues me

BenwithVen

ngl, seeing Cairo being the most pissed off person on the field got me amped.

ParisSox

I’ll put this here to revisit in October. Fine, let Cairo interview for the manager position, but please do a thorough search and if he’s the best one, then fine.

Don’t just hand over the keys without a professional process.

(Yes I also liked the idea of trying to use a struggling reliever as an opener for Martin. )

GrinnellSteve

For 2 years Cairo has been almost invisible among Sox coaches. Even if he leads us to the World Series, there still needs to be a fully fleshed out search process.

I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing, but it’s a small sample size.

gibby32

First, not politically, but I am inherently a conservative person. Although I want to, I am not counting on Tony LaRussa being completely out of the picture. Second, I have said this previously, but admittedly years ago now. I am not sure what constitutes a “thorough search” for the manager position. Sure, you can observe their previous body of work and you can talk to baseball people that know them. But an interview process? I have interviewed literally hundreds of people for important jobs over my career and I am good at it; nevertheless, it is a fact that a not insignificant number of such interviewees are great interviews and mediocre employees. If LaRussa does not come back, Cairo will have had a limited number of games to show what he can do, which is certainly a small sample size. But on some level, it will include managing under pressure. Sure, conduct a “professional process”, but recognize that observing somebody actually do the job means more than evaluating someone’s interview skills.

ParisSox

But you can’t discount the interview process. We use panel interviews after passing different individual interviews and in the panel we test potential weaknesses or blocking points.

Then we ask “why would you NOT hire this person.” Then you determine if that is “overcomeable”.

This saved me from hiring the wrong person for the job a few times because I was floored by their interviews.

I’m not saying to do it this way but a thorough thought process with various points of view to try and get the best person for the job that will match the White Sox environment.

gibby32

I don’t discount the interview process, but rather believe that it should be put into perspective. You had said that even if Cairo took the White Sox to the World Series, there should be a flushed out interview process. I think that likely carries it too far. Given how difficult getting to the World Series with this roster would be, at that point, I think he gets the job. But, yeah, by all means do an interview of whatever type is thought to be most productive. But if the guy does great at the actual job for a month plus, that is a huge leg up.

metasox

FWIW, Cairo had a very long playing career with 9 teams including the Yankees, Cards, Rays. He must have picked up something about how a team should be run. Spending time working in the Yankee system should also be a plus as they presumably hire well

Last edited 25 days ago by metasox
chipporter

I don’t mean to harp on it, but starting Leury in LF last night was a huge red flag. There is no reason to start a utility IF that’s doing as poorly as he is in the OF with 3 legit OF’s on the bench that cover both sides of the plate. Shows a lack of judgement.

gibby32

I didn’t know that we had 3 legit outfielders on the roster, much less on the bench last night. Seriously, though, with Eloy and Luis out, Leury was a perfectly fine choice.

As Cirensica

Leury has historically hit Sonny Gray well

a-t

the amount of life the team has compared to 5 days ago is just night and day

roke1960

Gee, I wonder what has changed in the last five days??

As Cirensica

This is an unsolvable mystery

ElCaballo45

Maybe they’re trying to win for the Ole’ Gipper!

Joking aside, Andrus’ contributions both on the field and in the dugout cannot be undersold. Cueto and Abreu seem to be the most consistent joyful sparkplugs. Adding a 3rd amigo to liven up the club’s morale has been quite refreshing.

This club appears to run on a lot of outside the (batter) box fuel. The combo of Harrison/Elvis at times is electric in terms of shear joy to watch. Reminds me of how Uribe and Alexei used to provide pure energy/childlike fervor to the diamond and dugout.

These intangibles can only take you so far, (E.A. is batting .264 in 53 AB’s w/ the Good Guys in Black), however this type of energy can be contagious and just a bit of spark to a team that was sputtering less than a week ago can certainly uplift the soul of the troops going forward.

gibby32

I think you mean “oversold”.

ElCaballo45

Thank you for the correction.

Andrus batting leadoff again tonight. 4th straight game/4th straight win!?

Speaking of oversold, let’s oversell the importance on jumping out to an early lead vs. Mahle.

In his six bad outings (albeit w/ Cincy) this season, he has given up at least 1 run on three occasions and yielded two baserunners in two of the other bad starts.

I think we can start off fast and give Cease the run support he did not receive last Sunday vs. Arizona.