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White Sox 4, Rangers 2: Eighth inning of miracles

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With bases empty and two outs, Sox complete improbable four-run rally

MLB: Texas Rangers at Chicago White Sox
“Finally!”: Welington Castillo and the White Sox got the win, with just a bit of help.
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

When Yoan Moncada came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, the White Sox were down 2-0 with two outs and the bases empty. Moncada needed to get something going to try to avoid extending their unprecedented bad start to the season. It felt like it was going to take a miracle. Actually, it took three miracles, and the Sox got them all.

Moncada hit a ground-rule double, which would have been a triple had it not gotten stuck under the padding in the right field corner. He advanced to third on a wild pitch, and Yolmer Sanchez hit a high chopper off the plate.

Miracle #1: Rangers reliever Jose LeClerc fielded the ball cleanly, but threw it wide of first and into Sanchez’s body. It trickled away, allowing Moncada to score and Sanchez to advance to second.

The Rangers intentionally walked Jose Abreu, leading to an intense battle between LeClerc and Nicky Delmonico. Delmonico worked the count full and fouled off a couple pitches.

Miracle #2: The eighth pitch to Delmonico was a breaking ball at the knees that home plate umpire Paul Nauert called ball four to load the bases. (Nauert had a rough night, to put it nicely.)

Matt Davidson was next, and he fell behind 0-2 thanks to a couple of generous calls on a checked swing and a slider outside. LeClerc threw four more sliders low and outside, and while 2017 Davidson probably would have struck out, 2018 Davidson took all four and walked to tie the game. Rangers manager Jeff Banister came out to pull LeClerc and got ejected in the process.

Miracle #3: Kevin Jepsen entered to face Welington Castillo, and the Sox catcher got a high fastball and hit a soft liner into right-center field just out of the reach of Delino DeShields. That hit scored a pair and gave the Sox a 4-2 lead, and Nate Jones worked around a pair of baserunners in the ninth to lock down the save.

When the Rangers scored their second run in the top of the eighth, winning this game seemed unthinkable. In fact, before the rally, this recap was going to be titled “All Shields, no swords”. James Shields was brilliant, going 7⅓ innings with just one run allowed on three hits, with three walks and eight strikeouts. It was arguably the best outing by a White Sox starter this year, and if you want to call that a miracle too, I won’t argue.

And yet, for most of the night the team had nothing to show for it. They were impatient against Doug Fister, failing to draw any walks despite several deep counts. They were also the victims of bad luck with batted balls: in the fifth, Castillo hit a barrel (107.7 mph) that DeShields flagged down with a great jump. Then in the sixth, Moncada hit a leadoff single, and Rick Renteria put the hit and run on. Sanchez hit another rocket right at DeShields (101.7 mph), and Moncada, already standing on second, was hung out to dry.

Fortunately, this turned into a feel-good game by the end. Credit Delmonico, Davidson, and Castillo for the patience and approach that made this possible, but a miracle every now and then doesn’t hurt either.

Other Stuff

  • The Sox witnessed a wacky play in the bottom of the fifth. Garcia hit a ground ball that Fister snagged with his bare hand, but Fister lollipopped the throw to first. Guzman, in his haste to corral the dribbler, flipped it over his head with his glove, allowing Garcia into second.
  • Garcia also made an outstanding diving catch to end the top of the eighth and prevent a third run from scoring.
  • Moncada had three of the Sox’s eight hits, raising his season line to .270/.361/.500. He was also picked off in the first, although it was a close play—Renteria opted not to risk losing his challenge early.
  • Nauert was generous with the inside corner against lefties, oddly. In the third, he punched out both Moncada and Sanchez on questionable calls inside.