This was the first time the White Sox saw the Rays since their unorthodox opener strategy really took hold, and tonight it worked very well. No Rays pitcher threw more than 2⅓ innings, yet they held the Sox offense to just three hits and two runs through the first nine innings. They kept the game close enough to tie it up the eighth, but the Sox bats finally broke through again in the tenth.
After Nicky Delmonico laced a two-out double against lefty José Alvarado, Rays manager Kevin Cash elected to intentionally walk Tim Anderson to face Yoán Moncada from the right side. Moncada came into the game hitting a measly .167/.248/.260 while flipped around, but he came through big with a double over the head of left fielder Jake Bauers to put the Sox up 3-2. Hector Santiago gave up a leadoff walk, but coaxed a game-ending double play to earn his first save since April 2012.
Ryne Stanek technically started this game for the Rays, facing five batters and striking out all five. Stanek, lefty Adam Kolarek, and righty Jaime Schultz held the Sox scoreless until the sixth inning. After a one-out walk by Yolmer Sánchez, José Abreu got a hanging slider over the middle of the plate and absolutely socked it for a two-run homer. The ball left Abreu’s bat at 112 mph and at a 20-degree angle; any lower and it would’ve hit the fence on its way up.
The home run looked like it was going to hold up because Lucas Giolito had, at least results-wise, his best start of the season. Giolito did what he usually does—walked three, struck out six—but he had really good stuff tonight, so it didn’t matter so much that his control remained poor. He delivered seven-plus innings against a strong Rays offense and, after giving up a leadoff double in the eighth, departed with a 2-0 lead.
Of course, no lead is safe with this Joakim Soria-less bullpen. Jace Fry came in and gave up a shift-beater to Joey Wendle down the third base line that put a run on Giolito’s tab and put the tying run on base. Juan Minaya then struck out pinch-hitter Carlos Gómez, but Wendle advanced to third on a stolen base and a wild pitch.
The next play was so kooky, I need a full paragraph to explain it.
Wendle broke for home and Mallex Smith put down a squeeze bunt right in front of home plate. Wendle and Omar Narváez collided as Wendle tried to score and Narváez went after the ball. (After consulting, the umpires determined there was no interference.) As Wendle scored the tying run, Narváez tripped over Smith’s bat and made a very late, very wide throw to first that allowed Smith to advance to second. All this play needed was Sánchez jumping in front of the throw and it would’ve reached LOL Astros level.
With a base open, the Sox intentionally walked leadoff man Kevin Kiermaier. Then Smith stole third, Matt Duffy struck out, and Luis Avilán came in and struck out lefty Jake Bauers on three pitches to end the inning and escape with the game tied. Avilán created another scare with a pair of two-out single in the ninth, but Tyler Danish got one more strikeout to send the game to extras and set up Moncada’s heroics.
This game was full of odd moments, so here are three more that come to mind:
- With one out in the sixth, Smith took off for second on a fly ball. He passed second base and retouched the bag as he retreated to first, but his front foot came down on the third base side of second, meaning he was past second again. The Sox tagged second base, and Jerry Meals called Smith out.
- Tim Anderson dogged it around third on Moncada’s double and got thrown out at the plate to end the inning. That’s not a good look for a player who was just pulled from a game for lack of hustle earlier in the week.
- Kiermaier made a highly questionable bunt with Smith at first and no out in the bottom of the tenth, and popped it up for a free out. He may have acted on his own.
- Eloy Jiménez went 3-for-5 with a double tonight, raising his Triple-A OPS to 1.129. #FreeEloy