For the first six innings of this game, it looked like we had a low-scoring affair on our hands. The Royals had managed a single three-run rally against James Shields, while the White Sox had managed to scrape across single runs in the fourth and sixth.
In the bottom of the seventh, with the Sox down 3-2, lefty Tim Hill remained on the mound after finishing off the sixth in relief of Jakob Junis. In the moment right before Yoán Moncada came to the plate to lead off, someone flipped a switch somewhere, because the bats came alive. I don’t know who did it, but I’m guessing the switch was labeled “Attack the First Pitch”.
Moncada laced the first pitch into left for a single (from the right side!), and Yolmer Sánchez hit the first pitch on the ground to short. Alcides Escobar bobbled the ball, putting two on with nobody out and snapping the Royals’ 16-game errorless streak. That brought José Abreu to the plate, and even Ned Yost knows not to let a LOOGY face him. Yost went to right-hander Jason Adam, who grooved a first-pitch fastball. You guessed it—Abreu attacked, and hit a no-doubter into the left-center field bleachers for a 5-3 lead.
The Sox turned the switch off for a little while for a Matt Davidson strikeout, Leury García single (in his first game back), and Omar Narváez walk. Once again there were two runners on, and after a Tim Anderson RBI single, Nicky Delmonico got another meaty fastball—91 miles per hour, middle of the plate—and ripped another first-pitch no-doubter to put the game away.
Over the course of 22 pitches, the Sox turned a 3-2 nail-biter into a comfortable 9-3 lead. The seven-run inning represented their largest output in a single frame all season. It also made a winner out of Shields, who pitched seven strong innings and allowed just the three runs, with two walks and five strikeouts. He continues to look like a serviceable back-end starter, which you know is quite a feat if you saw him in 2016.
Shields spent most of his start pitching with a deficit after three singles, a double, and a sac fly made it 3-0 Royals in the third. But the Sox got a couple of those runs back thanks to Tim Anderson’s wheels. Anderson was 3-for-3 with a walk tonight, but he also had a pair of critical stolen bases: a steal of second immediately before Delmonico’s two-out RBI single in the fourth, and then a steal of third before Delmonico’s RBI groundout in the sixth. He’s now got 24 swipes on the season, eighth most in baseball.
- Leury García actually entered the game to replace Avisail García, who was pulled after one plate appearance. According to Phil Rogers, the move was not injury-related.
- Thyago Vieira pitched a five-pitch, 1-2-3 ninth and caught a comebacker to end the game.
- Because Hill left the game with the Royals still leading 3-2, he was credited with a hold. Because he put the winning run on base, he also took the loss. The hold is a stupid stat.