White Sox 8, Pirates 1: Leaving Pittsburgh on better terms

The White Sox can be forgiven for the occasional stinker, especially when they rebound with improvement across the board.

The Sox played one of their most complete games of the season tonight, and while it might’ve come against one of the league’s lesser teams, it achieved a necessary goal — erasing the aftertaste of Tuesday’s dud to win a season series that need to be won.

Dane Dunning pitched six shutout innings, attacking the strike zone and showing no particular tail-off in stuff for a first win he richly deserved. He was supported by a White Sox offense that gained comfort against J.T. Brubaker with each trip through the lineup, and a defense that played better than the error column indicates. The Sox took yet another season series against a sub-.500 team, this one by a margin of three to one.

James McCann played a big part, opening the scoring with a solo shot in the third, then adding a second homer in the form of a two-run shot that put the game away in the sixth. In between, the White Sox combined for a team effort in a four-run fourth that featured all nine White Sox hitters.

Yoán Moncada, playing with a pre-COVID verve the past two nights, opened with single to right, and his legs allowed him to take advantage of Gregory Polanco’s poor attempt at collecting it. Yasmani Grandal then pounced on the first pitch to shoot a single through the vacated left side to score Moncada for a 2-0 lead.

José Abreu reached on an infield single that stretched his hitting streak to 22 games, followed by an Eloy Jiménez walk that loaded the bases. Luis Robert struck out on three pitches, but McCann followed with a sac fly that made it a 3-0 game.

Nomar Mazara reloaded the bases with a five-pitch walk, but the White Sox still needed a hit that created an imposing margin, and Madrigal rose to the occasion. He fell behind 0-2, but battled until Brubaker threw an elevated sinker on the sixth pitch that Madrigal spanked through the middle for a two-run single that capitalized on the inning-long threat.

The Sox could cruise from there, and Dunning let them. Through six innings, he’d dealt with just four baserunners — two singles, a walk and an error on a flip from Grandal that only cost Dunning three pitches. He retired 13 of 14 before he came out to start the seventh, and Rick Renteria lifted him with smile after Colin Moran led off the seventh with a double.

Out came Gio González, who headed from the bullpen to the mound to the dugout to replace a glove the umpires said was distracting, then back to the mound to throw a couple of inefficient innings in his return from a groin strain. He issued back-to-back walks with two outs to load the bases in the eighth, which allowed Polanco to drive in a run with yet another catcher interference call on McCann, but a Josh Bell lineout to center kept the Pirates from really getting back into the game.

Both catchers committed errors, but the Sox played strong defense elsewhere. Moncada made a terrific off-balance throw his body probably wouldn’t have allowed him to complete last week, and Eloy Jiménez might’ve made the best catch of his life with a ranging catch to PNC Park’s cavernous left-center alley.

Bullet points:

*Every White Sox starter hit safely, and the team went 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

*Dunning only induced seven swinging strikes on his 78 pitches, but 10 groundouts and a double play meant he never really courted danger.

*All the Pirates wore No. 21 for Roberto Clemente, while the White Sox wore No. 21 patches.

Record: 27-16 | Box score | Statcast

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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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NorthSideSouthSider

Someone has to be ready to take the ball up 3-0 in the ALCS. I figure we won’t need him before then with the 2 and 3 game series for the Sox prior to that.

iowasox1971

Tonight provided another example of why McCann should catch each playoff game. If we have to use Grandal at DH, fine. But our pitchers should have our best catcher behind the plate. Dunning was amazing, but McCann had something to do with that.

Most of the games that McCann catches, the opposition seems off-balance. When Grandal catches, the opposition often seems to know what type of pitch is coming.

Big hit by Madrigal. I know some people would have preferred a solo homer, but I would rather have a two-run single.

Moncada looked good tonight. Hope it is a sign he is feeling better.

Still wonder whether Mazara will hit a homer this season.

fustercluck

Big hit by Madrigal. I know some people would have preferred a solo homer, but I would rather have a two-run single.

Yeah, I was kinda pulling for a solo shot there with the bases loaded, but the laws of time and space remain unbeaten.

iowasox1971

The point was that the advanced-stat worshipers would have preferred a meaningless solo shot from him in the eighth, compared to the two-run single that helped break the game open. Madrigal’s been taking some shots from a few people for not hitting a homer yet, or not having the necessary power to be an impact player.

iowasox1971

Thanks for the encouraging words. I do my best. Stay classy.

soxfan4life

Nice rebound game. i think dunning could be a keeper so for lopez&rodon,their days are numbered.

burning-phoneix

Can’t overstate how important it is that Dane Dunning has come up to help boost the pitching staff. Seems like a long time since a White Sox prospect pitcher just came up and delivered the goods immediately in a starting spot.

Joliet Orange Sox

It depends on whether you think Brandon McCarthy coming up to stabilize the 5-spot in the rotation in 2005 was a long time ago or not. 🙂

texag10

Everyone knows there wasn’t a baseball season in 2005.

metasox

Like having a guy come up and throw strikes. Besides winning it just makes for a more watchable game than the pitcher who maybe gets ahead in the count and nibbles into a walk.

iowasox1971

In addition to making it a more watchable game, throwing strikes on a consistent basis also gets the fielders more prepared. Even Eloy made a nice running catch tonight.

When you have Rodon or Lopez start a game, every inning seems like a titanic struggle, unless they have their absolute best stuff. Even then, they walk too many guys.

It’s tough to tell whether this will keep up considering the caliber of opponents he has faced, but Dunning so far has exhibited great composure. He gets the ball, throws it, fields his position well and basically just does his job.

texag10

Dunning reminds me so much of MB in that regard. It’s especially noticeable since we had Cease the night before. I’m still waiting for Dunning to face the Indians/Twins/Dodgers to see how a more loaded lineup can deal with the constant strike throwing but there have been a lot more prospects come up and get shelled immediately.

knoxfire30

That was the exact game they needed. Nice big care free win. Moncada looks healthy again, great effort by Dunning, great game from McCann etc etc.

The important part of the pen got the night off and with the off day today everyone should be full go for the stretch run. Sox are out of off days and face some pretty good teams coming up so it will be all hands on deck. Plus I believe they are gonna face Bauer in that reds series no matter what so the schedule isn’t going to do them any favors the rest of the way.

dwjm3

Overall a fun game to watch. I was really annoyed with Robert’s at bat with the bases loaded. Eloy had just walked on four pitches and Robert comes up and swings at the first pitch. Robert proceeds fo strike out on three straight balls.

I mean come on at least think up there a little bit. If a pitcher is struggling with his command it probably makes sense to make him throw you a strike before you start attacking his pitches.

texag10

Robert’s ABs this series seemed….disinterested? Like, he didn’t seem to really have a plan of attack when he got up there. You can watch Abreu and Timmy go up there and see a plan for how they want the at bat to go. Hopefully that comes for Robert more consistently as he gets more ABs to really solidify him as a superstar. He certainly has enough brains to pick in that dugout.

dwjm3

Yeah I think Robert will come along. Timmy taking it to the next level this year actually surprised me some. He has really become a smart hitter. He had an at bat against the Tigers where he expected slider quickly moved up in the box and killed the pitch.