Thursday was a tale of two games, connecting for a Chicago White Sox 6-4 win over the Kansas City Royals, which averted a sweep by the basement-dwellers of the AL Central.
Game 1: Reynaldo’s Revenge
There was a lot of chatter about Reynaldo López losing his focus, dating back weeks, as an explanation for his recent spate of poor starts.
Apparently, the raw righty righted himself, rocketing through seven innings of five-hit, two-earned, two-walk, four-strikeout ball that landed him with a 66 game score, his best outing in 10 starts.
The White Sox broke through with two outs in the fourth inning of this pitcher’s duel between López and K.C.’s Brad Keller. José Abreu doubled, followed by an infield hit to shortstop by Avisaíl García. With runners on the corners, hitting machine Omar Narváez singled to right field, plating Abreu.
López navigated mild traffic until the fifth, when with one out he allowed a single to Hunter Dozier and a walk to Ryan O’Hearn. But rather that lose his focus, López dug in and whiffed Alcides Escobar on a second tasty changeup in the exchange, then escaped the inning by coaxing a fly out to Adalberto Mondesi.
It took seven innings before it became clear that one run wasn’t going to hold in this game. López actually departed with a 2-0 lead, as Tim Anderson slapped a two-out double to drive in what appeared to be an insurance run.
López was poised to improve to 5-9.
Game 2: Sox Park Fire Drill
Unfortunately for López, and at least briefly for the White Sox, the eighth and ninth innings were still to be played.
When López failed to record an out in the eighth, surrendering two hits to put ducks on the pond with none out, as at 94 pitches it was time for the youngster to hit the showers.
Cue Ricky Renteria’s increasingly infuriating Colorforms bullpen usage, which approaches his relief corps as if its already swelled by September roster expansion. Today, it may have came close to biting him in the hiney.
Jace Fry came on to relieve López, and struck out Alex Gordon.
Juan Minaya came on to relieve Fry, and punched out Salvador Perez.
Xavier Cedeño came on to relieve Minaya, and issued a 2-1 cutter that had no teeth, allowing Whit Merrifield to deposit the pill over the center field wall, putting Kansas City up, 3-2.
But the White Sox offense picked Cedeño up, eventually delivering him cherrypicked win.
After K.C. reliever Jason Adam pocketed a first out, Abreu greeted his 2-0, outer-half changeup with a swing that moved him into sole possession of the No. 10 spot on the White Sox all-time home run list, and the White Sox to a 3-3 tie.
But the boys didn’t stop, as García turned on a tight, 0-2 curve and slapped it for a double. Narváez — Omar Narváez — got an intentional pass, and with two on, new pitcher Jason Hammel saw his first pitch even near the plate (on a 2-1 count) spanked out to right-center by pinch-hitter Daniel Palka, giving the White Sox a 6-3 lead. It was Palka’s second pinch-homer of the homestand.
But wait ... there’s more.
Cedeño, not satisfied with blowing the game once, set his sights on double or nothing, surrendering a leadoff double to Brett Phillips. Ricky came out with the hook, and the latest frontrunner for Closer of the Day, Jeanmar Gómez, came on to preserve the game.
After a bizarre sort of double play (fly out, doubled up when Phillips left second base too early on the tag-up) was shorted by one out on replay review, Luis Avilán assumed the role of Closer of the Day, surrendered a sac fly to Rosell Herrera, then got the eminently gettable Escobar to ground out to end it.
Soon after, a caravan set out barreling toward the travel jet for a flight south on a short, three-game road trip in St. Petersburg. The White Sox had saved a face of sorts, and staved off the Kansas City sweep.