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Through two games in Oakland, the White Sox’s issues against right-handed pitching couldn’t be more evident. The White Sox have scored all of their 19 runs with a southpaw on the mound.
- OAK RHP vs. Sox: 12.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K
- OAK LHP vs. Sox: 5.2 IP, 22 H, 19 R, 4 BB, 4 K, 6 HR
And through eight innings, it appeared like it was going to matter. Austin Pruitt started this game as an opener of a bullpen game, and finished it as a starter by throwing five no-hit innings. Joel Payamps carried the no-hitter into the seventh. He and Domingo Acevado carried the shutout into the eighth.
That’s when when pyrite left arm of A.J. Puk took the mound with a 3-0 lead, and a win looked even more bankable when he began the ninth by getting José Abreu to ground out to second, with Tony Kemp making a diving stop. Eloy Jiménez shocked him for a no-doubt oppo shot to spoil the shutout, and while he walked pinch-hitting Yasmani Grandal (replaced on the basepaths by Leury García), the Sox didn’t catch a break on AJ Pollock’s grounder to the left side. Pollock arrived at first base at the same time as Kemp’s cross-body throw on the grounder that was to the left side of second base, and had he been ruled safe, the call would’ve stood. Alas, he was ruled out, and no evidence could overturn that call, either.
Puk dodged what appeared to be the Sox’s biggest bullet, and while Andrew Vaughn singled García home to make it a 3-2 game, he had the Sox down to their last one on a 2-2 count to Seby Zavala.
Then Puk planted what was supposed to be a back-foot slider into Zavala’s front shin, and all hell broke loose.
Adam Engel, who entered as a pinch-runner for Vaughn at first, advanced to second, and the Sox needed every bit of his speed to make it home on Romy González’s rope through the left side. Chad Pinder made a strong throw, and Sean Murphy did his best to apply a sweep tag, but Engel slid wide feet-first, and slapped the plate with his left hand as Murphy’s mitt whistled past him. The game was tied, González advanced to second, and those 90 feet mattered when Elvis Andrus hammered a center-cut sinker to the left-field wall for a two-run double that put the Sox ahead for good.
Liam Hendriks had to warm up when he least expected, and while he walked the leadoff man to bring the tying run to the plate, he quickly ended the threat with a strikeout and a double play to cap off the Sox’s second victory of the year of the week.
If you fell asleep between the fifth and eighth innings, and saw the score upon waking up, you’re probably stunned, because the Sox showed no capability for this kind of outburst. The first three Oakland pitchers showed the capability of throwing strikes with all their pitches, and that jammed the lineup’s radar. Pruitt, Payamps and Acevedo threw 109 pitches between them over the first eight innings, including a whopping 76 strikes. The A’s defense tried to give the Sox a boost with a pair of errors, but the Sox didn’t convert on the assistance.
Lucas Giolito was once again fine, meeting the minimum for a quality start. The A’s greeted him with line drives for a run in the first, but his secondary pitches improved to keep Oakland off the board until an unfortunate sequence in the fifth. He was on the verge of stranding a leadoff double with a backwards K and a groundout, and then he got Kemp to offer at a neck-high 2-2 fastball. But Kemp managed to muscle a blooper down the left-field line for an RBI single that made it a 2-0 game, and then Giolito hung a slider for a Murphy double and Oakland’s third run.
Fortunately, Giolito, Joe Kelly, Aaron Bummer and Hendriks ensured that it was also Oakland’s final run. Kelly stranded a runner on second with a pair of strikeouts, while Aaron Bummer pitched a perfect eighth in what seemed like far more appropriate leverage for a guy still finding his sea legs off the IL.
As it turned out, Bummer has appeared in two games after his three-month absence, and he’s picked up the win in both of them. This one was far more deserved.
*Every single one of Miguel Cairo’s ninth-inning decisions mattered. Pinch-hitting with Grandal, who gave the Sox the necessary baserunner. Pinch-running for him with García, who advanced into scoring position on Pollock’s groundout, which allowed him to score on Vaughn’s single. Pinch-running Engel for Vaughn. He’s 8-3, and 8-2 when he knows he’s managing with anything resembling advance notice.
*Cleveland hung on to beat the Twins in the opener of their four-game set, so the Sox are still 1½ games out of first. They do have sole possession of second place, as the Twins fell to third for the first time since late April.
*Andrus registered both the first hit and the last hit, breaking up the no-hitter in the sixth before his go-ahead double in the ninth. He also stole a base and was often in the right place tat shortstop, so his revenge series continued unabated.
*Giolito lowered his ERA to the Albany area code: 5.18.
*The win-expectancy chart via FanGraphs. After Abreu’s groundout, the A’s had a 98.9 percent chance of landing the plane.