After tonight‘s 3-2 speed- and pitching-fueled win against the Cleveland Indians, the White Sox are 8-5 in June. And starting with a May 13 win against the Cubs, they‘re 15-15. Which means (putting my #Soxmath hat on), they were 9-27 before that.
For a Sox fan, the worst part of those dark days was not the (sometimes terrible) hitting, the stranding of RISP like so many bad blind dates, or the (often terrible) defense. It was the lack of pitching. In recent memory, pitching is what we Sox fans could rely on. Well, the Sox stink, we‘d say, but Sale is pitching tonight. Or Q. Or Buehrle. Or, look, there’s Matt Thornton coming out of the bullpen! We might lose 3-1, but we could hold our heads high.
The 9-27 period had none of that. But now, oh, glorious Don Cooper, the pitching is back. Dylan Covey wasn’t as sharp tonight as he has been, giving up 10 hits, but his sinker was effective, giving him five strikeouts and crucially, no walks. Jace Fry and Joakim Soria each gave up two hits, but got the outs that mattered. Amazingly, the Indians got 14 hits overall, and back-to-back hits six times; earlier this season, that would have signaled another dispiriting loss. But lately, this has been a team that can, and does, win close games.
With Covey dueling Trevor Bauer scoreless for the first half of the game, the Sox put runs on the board in a fun, speedy fifth. Tim Anderson got it started with a walk on a 3-2 count (I think his new ability to draw walks is real, y’all), then stole second and took third on a throwing error. Charlie Tilson ripped a triple to score Timmy, and after an Adam Engel strikeout, Trayce Thompson laid down a beautiful squeeze bunt, scoring Tilson. Charlie was halfway home before the ball hit the ground:
Small ball.... ✔ pic.twitter.com/YzvDjsOF0e— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) June 14, 2018
The White Sox got only four hits on the night, but made them count. In the sixth, Jose Abreu got his 26th double of the season (ho-hum, another day, another double), and was singled home by Kevan Smith to give the Sox a 3-0 lead. José also turned a nifty U3-6 double play in the fifth, then a truly spectacular U3-5 double play in the seventh (vote José!):
Pick it.— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) June 14, 2018
Vote it.#VoteAbreu https://t.co/fu3kmpTdTh pic.twitter.com/ipRnOPdQgn
Because the Indians are a team full of good hitters, things got a bit dicey in the eighth. Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley lead off with back-to-back singles, resulting in Covey being pulled for Fry. A single to Edwin Encarnacion and a double by Yonder Alonso later, and the Sox’s lead was down to 3-2. It should have been 3-3, but pinch runner Rajai Davis was inexplicably held at third on Alonso’s double. Soria also made things more interesting than necessary in the ninth, giving up his pair of hits, but induced a double play to end the game.
Some extracurricular fun tonight came from Yolmer Sanchez and Melky Cabrera jabbering to each other across the field after José slid into home just under Melky’s throw in the sixth. I don’t know about you, but in my “invite 5 living people to dinner” hypothetical, I’m inviting Yolmer.
Tonight’s three moments ...
This rebuild might actually work: Tilson was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. And he’s fast. But apparently, he has the smallest head in the league. (Watch the post-game show, friends, you pick up interesting stuff.) Also, Kevan Smith’s play deserves a mention. He’s got a .409 average and .864 OPS since his call-up, and seems to be handling the pitching staff well. He may turn into the wily veteran catcher who backs up Seby or Zack in 2020.
I watched so you didn’t have to: Thompson made a really dumb throw to third in the eighth inning to put ducks on the pond with zero outs.
This is what being a Sox fan feels like: Competent pitching! (Hey, sometimes this feature can highlight positive things.)
With the series split in hand, the Sox go for the win tomorrow afternoon. It’s free T-shirt Thursday at Sox Park, and it’s a cool Blackout Game shirt this week. So those of you can play hooky, go for it. I’ll write your boss a note.