In a series where the Sox very easily could’ve taken all 3 games despite some glaring deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball, 2 wins should be considered a healthy victory, especially since it takes the season series against Boston (which is always nice, because fuck Boston).
In addition, the 2 wins this weekend drops the White Sox’ magic number down to 9 with Cleveland getting No-Hit on Saturday and 4 Hit on Sunday. More importantly than that, everyone stayed healthy over the weekend with Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon making their returns. Mostly good stuff all around.
TO THE BULLETS
-Jose Abreu didn’t do much in this series except for his second plate appearance on Friday night, where Tanner Houck hung a slider low and away to him and yet he still managed to pull it just to the right of the Sox bullpen for a 3 run shot. It wasn’t a tape measure dinger by any stretch of the imagination, but it was enough to give the Sox a lead they would refuse to relinquish. It also put Jose back on top of the AL lead in RBIs with 107, with Sal Perez and Vladdy Jr right behind him.
-Carlos Rodon returned and fired 5 strong innings, surrendering only a solo shot to Bobby Dalbec in the 5th inning. He struck out 7 and only allowed 5 hits. More importantly his velocity was back up, topping out at just under 98 MPH, where it was only around 95 in his previous start before his 2nd trip to the IL. He also threw 82 pitches in the 5 innings, and said he could’ve gone another but LaRussa smartly called it an early night.
-The bullpen had a solid night except for Ryan Tepera, who struggled with the command of his fastball for the first time in quite awhile. Thankfully Garret Crochet was up to the task, bailing out Tepera by getting Schwarber to fly out, ending the inning. Tepera has been one of the best releivers for the Sox since the trade deadline, so I’m willing to chalk this one up as a fluke.
-The 1-2 punch of Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks shut the door on the Red Sox in the 8th and 9th, though it wasn’t a clean sweep. Kimbrel gave up a leadoff walk in the 8th, and Hendriks a single in the 9th, which was originally an out but overturned by the nerds in NY after a brief review.
-The Sox could’ve made this less of a game, but the trend of stranding a conga line of runners on base continued with 21 left out there to die on the vine. Jose Abreu was the primary culprit, stranding 7 by himself, yet he also accounted for 75% of the Sox offense with his 3rd inning dinger so I guess that evens out. The lack of timely hitting IS a concern however, and needs to be addressed before the calendar flips to October.
-Dylan Cease just very flatly did not have his stuff Saturday night. The issues were different than the ones we’ve seen in the past, where he’s able to get ahead of hitters 0-2 or 1-2 and is unable to put them away. This time he was just missing the zone on the first two pitches of the at-bats and then battled back to a full count, only to lose the hitter on the 7th or 8th pitches of the at bats. I have nothing to back this up other than what I’ve seen, but it appears that Cease has difficulty pitching consistently out of the stretch. Whether this is a release point issue or something else remains to be seen, but I’m sure him and Katz are working on the issue. Either way, he just plain sucked tonight.
-The flip side of that coin is that Michael Kopech looked every bit the world destroyer that he was billed as when the Sox sent Chris Sale to Boston for him and Moncada (also awesome). He faced 7 batters on Saturday night, and struck out 5 of them. His command of his fastball AND his slider was downright filthy, and he was able to mix them to the point of utter confusion for the BoSox hitters. In the 5th inning he got Dalbec to swing at a filthy wipeout slider down and away, then blew away Travis Shaw with a fastball that broke 100 on the gun, then went back to the slider and made Kike Hernandez soil himself. Here’s the 3 pitch strikeout of Shaw, just look at the movement on that 4-seamer:
Michael Kopech, Unfair 3 Pitch K.
That's stupid. pic.twitter.com/Ae6CxGOU2l
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 12, 2021
-Oh look, Grandal and Robert combine for 7 hits on the night while Moncada was on base 4 times. Once Eloy gets his timing back and TA returns to the lineup there should be no excuses for them not to put up at least 5 per game.
-Craig Kimbrel was unable to hold the lead in the 8th, and the White Sox were unable to get Luis Robert in from 2nd after his ground rule double in the 9th. The writing was on the wall for a tough loss, but TLR sealed the deal when he threw Mike Wright to pitch in the 10th where he promptly gave up an RBI single to put Boston ahead.
-The Sox didn’t help their case in the bottom half of the inning, however. With runners on 1st and 3rd and nobody out, Leury Garcia struck out on 3 straight pitches. Tony then brought in Danny Mendick to pinch hit for Gavin Sheets (which was fine, though I would’ve preferred Vaughn but whatever) who promptly struck out. Then Goodwin had his shot but was unable to get Eloy in from 3rd, grounding out softly to end the game. Fart Noise.
-This game had each team with 4 hits apiece, and was about as exciting as that implies. It wasn’t even like either team was stranding a bunch on the bases, they just kinda sucked offensively.
-Lance Lynn looked good in his return, however. Another 5 inning stint, only needing 70 pitches to get through them. I realize TLR wants to protect these guys in their first starts back, but it definitely put a strain on the bullpen this weekend.
-Speaking of the pen, Garrett Crochet and Jose Ruiz looked good for their parts. They managed 3 innings between the two of them whilst striking out 2. Crochet looked a bit off, but gutted out his innings and got the ball to Ruiz. Well done, both of them.
-Pitching in his 3rd consecutive game, Craig Kimbrel looked bad. He couldn’t spot his knuckle curve to save his life, walking Rafael Devers on 4 of them to load the bases. Zavala finally called for a fastball against Verdugo, but he got enough of it to get the sac fly in from 3rd to bring the BoSox even. Since coming over from the Cubs at the deadline, Kimbrel has been a pretty mixed bag. Some games he looks unhittable, and others he looks like he couldn’t find the strike zone with a GPS. He’s spoken openly about having difficulties with his mechanics right now, and realistically it’s the perfect time (if there ever was one) for that, since he’s got just under a month to get right. Nobody doubts his stuff, but results matter and as of now they haven’t been there nearly enough.
-Anyways, all Kimbrel’s blown save did was create an opportunity for Leury Legend to make up for his 3 pitch K in the 10th the night before. Ballgame.
— MLB (@MLB) September 12, 2021
Next up is a team the Sox haven’t seen since Opening Day, the Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim And Also Portions Of Disneyland But Not Star Wars Land Because That’s Extra. Their roster looks a bit different since Mike Trout exploded his calf back in June and hasn’t been seen since. The most exciting man in baseball, Shohei Ohtani is still here, as is Jared Walsh. Also the corpse of Justin Upton, and Blonde Nick Madrigal (David Fletcher). Besides those 4, offense is pretty hard to come by for the L-AAA, though they have some interesting pieces in Jo Addell and Brandon Marsh.
The Angels have very little starting pitching outside of Ohtani, since Dylan Bundy turned back into a more-orange pumpkin and Griffin Canning turned out to be Dylan Cease with shittier stuff and somehow worse control. Jose Suarez is probably the best of the bunch right now, having gone 2-0 with one complete game shutout over the last month.
Tim Anderson is likely to return tomorrow, which makes it the first time all season the White Sox will be fully armed and operational on the offensive side of the ball. The opportunities to pour on the runs against this Angels team will be there, as well as the chance to close the gap for home field in the AL as the Sox try and run down the Astros for it. The brass ring is right there, time to reach up and grab it.
Let’s Go Sox