This game would’ve been enjoyable even if the White Sox lost it. That outcome looked likely when they entered the ninth inning against Cody Allen trailing 7-5.
Then Allen couldn’t find a putaway pitch, Adam Eaton hit a grand slam, and David Robertson closed it out for a very rewarding evening.
The Sox offense strung together a number of high-quality plate appearances in the ninth, at least after Justin Morneau struck out swinging over a slider to start the inning.
Todd Frazier fell behind 1-2, but laid off a breaking ball before slapping an infield single to the left side, taking second when Francisco Lindor’s in-vain throw bounced into the dugout.
J.B. Shuck watched a perfect 2-1 pitch to even the count, fouled off another fastball, then slapped a breaking ball past Allen up the middle for another infield single.
Tim Anderson took a pitch off the plate on 3-1 for a bogus strike call, then laid off another fastball down for the walk he had earned to load the bases.
Dioner Navarro fouled off a first-pitch curve, and while his effort on a second-pitch curve wasn’t much prettier, it was far more effective. He dropped in a single down the left field line just of the reach of Jose Ramirez’s over-the-shoulder attempt, making it a 7-6 game.
That brought Eaton to the plate with the infield in. Allen started him with a first-pitch curve, then went back to the curve to get an ugly half-swing strike. He went to the well one more time, but this time Eaton waited back on it. He had enough time to turn, burn and blow a bubble for a grand slam with style:
"I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass. I have bubble gum, but fortunately I can multitask." pic.twitter.com/zrQBpcA6ky— Phenomenal Source (@SouthSideSox) August 18, 2016
The White Sox took a 10-7 lead, and while Robertson brought the tying run to the plate after a leadoff walk and a one-out single, he came back to get a strikeout and a groundout for the save. The Sox snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Tribe in the process.
Even when the White Sox trailed 7-5, though, the game at least provided valuable learning experience, for better or for worse.
Worse: Anthony Ranaudo started in place of Miguel Gonzalez and learned that working up in the zone can only take you so far before you get taken far. He allowed five runs on eight hits (two homers) and a walk over four innings, and his only scoreless inning was the first. Granted, Tyler Saladino complicated matters by throwing high and wide on a relatively routine 4-6-3 that allowed the runner to reach scoring position, but the other four runs were on Ranaudo.
Better: Anderson hit a majestic two-run shot off the left-field foul pole against Carlos Carrasco to tie the game at 2 in the third inning. He later made a smooth ranging play up the middle to keep Roberto Perez’s batting average under .100.
Worse: Michael Ynoa finally got burned by his bad control. He had two outs and a runner on first in the fifth inning, but he gave up a single, single and his second walk of the inning to depart having allowed two runs while retiring only two batters. Still, I’d rather see Ynoa fail in these situations than Matt Albers.
Better: Tommy Kahnle stranded Ynoa’s two runners, then pitched a scoreless sixth (even after Melky Cabrera lost a ball in the lights). Jacob Turner followed Dan Jennings’ zero in the seventh with one of his own in the eighth. That kept the game usefully close.
And while Carrasco struck out 11 Sox over his six innings, they capitalized on their basepath traffic. They scored their 10 runs on 13 hits and a walk, going 4-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranding just two baserunners.
In between Anderson’s two-run shot and Eaton’s slam, Frazier almost joined them in the fourth inning. Jose Abreu singled with one out, and Morneau poked a double against the shift. Frazier, who struck out in his first at-bat to give him five in his first five plate appearances of the series, jumped on the first pitch and hit it off the top of the high wall in left center. That only tied the game instead of giving the Sox 5-4 lead.
Fortunately, Cleveland’s defense helped the Sox go ahead for the first time on the evening. First, Jason Kipnis booted Shuck’s grounder to second. Frazier advanced to third on the grounder, then broke for home on the error, drawing a throw before he doubled back. Shuck then tried for second, but catcher Perez aggressively fielded the throw to catch Shuck in a pickle.
Shuck, however, extended the rundown long enough to extract a second throw from Lindor to first baseman Carlos Santana. Frazier broke for home while Santana’s back was turned, and Santana couldn’t even throw, as he toppled over Shuck while applying the tag.