A new series began tonight in Oakland, windy worlds away from the winter wrath that ruined the weekend. Despite a feeling of a fresh clean slate after a snow day or three, the White Sox showed more of the same silliness that defined the small sample of early April games. It’s like all the hot cocoa in the world can’t cure what ails this team’s spotty defense, bummer bullpen, and lackluster offense (not to offend lackluster offenses).
Yoan Moncada led off the game by roping a single to right on the first pitch - yay! He was clearly anxious as the rest of us to get right back into baseball. Moncada stole second, then advanced to third on Avisail Garcia’s ground out to second base. Five minutes in, and the Sox had a runner on third with one out. So promising!
Next up, Jose Abreu struck out, then Matt Davidson kept hope alive for a hot second with a two-out walk, before Nicky Delmonico popped out to Jonathan Lucroy on the first pitch he saw. Given the White Sox’ recent troubles with bringing home runners in scoring position, this was a fittingly disheartening way to pick up where the team left off last Thursday.
Oakland’s mustachioed starter Daniel Mengden had no trouble with the White Sox. He hit a stride early and took a shutout comfortably into the 9th inning, before giving up a solo shot to Abreu that ended his night. Mengden proved a tough nut for the Sox to crack, allowing only six hits through eight innings — five of which were singles.
Despite a relatively involved pitching windup, Mengden got in a groove and worked his halves quicker than I expected. He retired the Sox with only nine pitches in the 5th, and 10 in the 6th. He finished with a game score of 71, and definitely won in terms of facial hair stylings.
Little did we know, the top of the 3rd would be the last time the Sox offense even showed signs of life (aside from the aforementioned Abreu anomaly in the 9th). Adam Engel hit a pretty routine infield single to Marcus Semien, who backhanded the grounder and double-pumped the one-hopper to first, allowing Engel time enough to edge out the throw. Moncada laid down a nice bunt to advance Engel into second, and Avi’s groundout got Engel within 90 ft. But Mark Canha ended the threat with a tumbling catch to snag Abreu’s liner to center.
For Sox fans, Reynaldo Lopez was again a reason to watch tonight. He fanned 10 and allowed only two runs over four hits in six innings of work. He wasn’t getting many calls around the edges and walked four, but only one of them came around to score.
Luis Avilan replaced Lopez in the 7th, and rapidly got into trouble with a leadoff walk to Lucroy — and the Sox defense didn’t help him out from there. A mishandled bunt moved up Lucroy and allowed Joyce first base. Semien slapped a single to right field, to keep the line moving with none out. Then with the bases juiced, Jed Lowrie grounded to Timmy, who practically had a gift-wrapped 6-4-3 DP roll right between his legs. The A’s added two runs to their lead, and Sox went back to the bullpen for Danny Farquhar. Avilan faced four, and logged no outs.
With Farquhar dealing, Anderson completed the next double-play opportunity, under far more difficult fielding/throwing circumstances. The runner on third scored as the two were turned, and A’s went up 5-0 before their half-inning ended. They added another three runs in the 8th, between Chris Volstad’s 1/3-inning on the bump and Aaron Bummer’s inability to pick up the pieces. All three runs were charged to Volstad.
For those keeping score at home, tonight’s #1 TOOTBLAN:
Yolmer hit a one-out single in the second. He avoided running into the traditional 6-4-3 double play, but pushed past second base and was easily caught at third, thus sealing an official rule of the 2018 White Sox: Whence a DP may be avoideth, a DP shall surely occurreth