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Flashback: Upset of the season?

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Not quite, but Covey outdueling Sale ranked as the fourth-biggest baseball shocker in 2018 — and eighth-biggest this century

Chicago White Sox v Boston Red Sox
Monster opportunity: Rafael Devers hit a one-out double in the fifth, but Dylan Covey dug deep and whiffed Jackie Bradley and Blake Swihart to escape the jam.
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

So, you may have observed that 2018 was a tough season to follow Chicago White Sox baseball. One hundred losses. Zero superstars. Zero stars, actually.

And, unfortunately, we’ve had to acknowledge that on SSS. In myriad ways, but certainly a stomach-dropping series like Race to the Bottom (running six stories long, with, dunno, perhaps a follow-up still to come) was painful to acknowledge, much less read (or write).

But the 2018 season wasn’t all misery. We had Matt Davidson’s Opening Day explosion, among a few other true highlights.

And one of them, oft-cited as a top 2018 memory, was Dylan Covey’s masterpiece over Chris Sale, a 1-0 White Sox win at Fenway Park.

Our Elo Rating friends at FiveThirtyEight recently issued a list of the biggest upsets across sports (MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL and NCAA football and men’s basketball) in 2018. Wouldn’t you know it, the Covey game clocked in at No. 5 — and as the fourth-biggest upset in the the majors last season.

FiveThirtyEight

That “relative rank” column indicates where the upset ranks since 2000. That’s right, per Elo, Covey outdueling Chris Sale and Trayce Thompson tapping that most improbable RBI single for the only run of the game, was the eighth-biggest baseball upset this century.

And a bunch of spreadsheets wouldn’t know this, but specific to the White Sox world, it was an even bigger upset. At the time of the Covey-Sale duel, the Boston Red Sox weren’t just the best team in baseball. The White Sox were almost exactly the opposite, sitting at 20-40, just a half-game better than the worst start in franchise history.

Let’s fact it, the 2018 season quickly degenerated into a march toward misery. And even our offseason, Christmas-gift hoping for a solid free agent savior is getting the warm piss treatment from most media. So let’s lob out a little treat: A “replay” of the game story from June 8.

It’s a celebration of achievements past, and a check-back-in today to stoke hopes for the season to come. Enjoy!


Covey story: Dylan outduels Sale

Sox eke out 1-0 squeaker over Sawx

By Brett Ballantini

Chicago White Sox v Boston Red Sox
What in the Wild Wild World of Sports is Going on Here? Covey: six innings, three hits, seven Ks, 75 game score — and a huge, huge win over (until tonight) the best team in the American League.
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

From the Department of Improbable Improbabilities in Glendale, Calif.:

  • Dylan Covey outduels Chris Sale in a 1-0 series-opening, road win for the Chicago White Sox.
  • Covey nearly tossed more strikeouts per inning (1.17 to 1.25), less pitches per out (4.61 to 4.54) and a better strike percentage (67% to 72%) than Sale — on a night when Sale was mowing through the White Sox “batting” order and hurled the fastest pitch of his career.
  • Covey is the ace of the White Sox staff.

Holy moly, even fans riding shotgun on the Dylan Covey bandwagon did not see this coming.

The relatively late-blooming (shaysus, Ballantini, dude hasn’t even turned 27) Covey took his time — 14 starts and 20 total games, spread over two seasons, to notch his first major league win, this past May. Since then, he can’t lose: Two wins, two no-decisions (the Chisox are 3-1 in Covey starts), and an average game score of 61, which, if you have been living in a van down by the river, pretty easily registers as the top mark in the rotation.

The biggest hole Covey had to overcome came before the big fella recorded a single out. The bottom of the first began with a leadoff two-bagger and a walk — to which Covey sniffed, rosin-bagged, adjusted his cup, and chased a Xander Bogaerts whiff with a Mitch Moreland 3-6-1 double play.

Chicago White Sox v Boston Red Sox
Lazing on a Friday Evening: Anderson could be forgiven for a moment of repose after being tagged out in the third — what were the chances of the scoreless tie on the scoreboard behind him shining favor first on Sox White, not Red?
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

After that tightrope act, Covey dug in and extinguished the next 12 Carmines in a row, and 17 of 18, pushing the scoreless pitcher’s duel to six innings. At that point, only three of the four Bosox baserunners in the game could be peggd on the righthander (two hits and a walk), and if anyone was deserving of even a token run in the top half to be put in position to win, it was Covey.

And in the top of the seventh, long live Jambi, that’s just what the White Sox did.

The newly fortified-with-12-essential-vitamins-and-minerals Kevan Smith took one of those ease-up Sale two-seamers (merely 94 mph) dotted masterfully low and away, and poked it out to right field for a sidewinder ground-rule double. Yoán Moncada followed, and in one of those plays that tend to get lost in a three-strikeout night but pile up over the PAs to make him the most valuable player on the team at a mere 21 years of age, he inside-outed a 99 mph heater to the right side to move Smith to third.

And then, on a 2-2 count after having seen nothing from Sale as fast as 90 mph in the at-bat, Trayce Thompson was served a 99 mph scorcher with the infield pulled in and turned on it, with malice:

More so than Smith, Moncada or Thompson, tonight’s mini-MVP has to go to the deservedly maligned White Sox bullpen, which sipped from the same Gatorade cup as Covey and duplicated his magic:

  • Jace Fry, scoreless seventh having inherited Covey’s leadoff single to Bogaerts, two Ks.
  • Nate Jones, scoreless eighth, one K, 11 pitches/eight for strikes.
  • Joakim Soria, scoreless ninth, 12 pitches/eight for strikes.

The big-boy MVP, of course, was Covey. In his postgame hostage video for White Sox Twitter, manager Ricky Renteria was suitably succinct: “Just a spectacular job.”

Brevity, thy name is Covey. Bravo, for a badass outing for the ages.

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*hed H/T (Covey story): WIN05