As if the home opener of any season isn’t packed with enough drama, the Chicago White Sox took us all on a rollercoaster of a win over the Seattle Mariners, 10-8, on Friday.
The game was dominated by the heroics of Yoán Moncada, who went 2-for-4 with four RBIs, crushing two of the biggest blows of the game for Chicago.
In the bottom of the first with the sacks packed and game knotted 1-1, Moncada crushed a 3-2, choice-cut fastball from Yusei Kikuchi — a clout that came within mere inches (and a Mallex Smith glove) of a grand slam.
And in the seventh, it was another bases-loaded situation, this time with the White Sox trailing, 8-7. Moncada hit a solid single to center on another full count, off of another center-cut fastball:
Moncada was far too often an easy out a year ago, taking himself out (with a major assist from the umpires, who gave him a ludicrously wide zone) of too many at-bats with tentativeness and an inability to muscle off pitcher’s pitches. This year so far, he is working counts aggressively, shanking off what’s not to his liking and forcing pitchers to come to him with juicy cuts. And Yoán is punishing them for it.
In-between Moncada’s first bit of offensive heroics — doubling to put the White Sox up 3-1 and fueling an eventual 6-1 gap, then providing the eventual game-winning margin with a single that put Chicago up, 9-8 — there was a lot of ugly, as the final score might indicate.
Starter Reynaldo López took the gifts under the Christmas tree of a 6-1 lead and spat it all right back to Seattle. The young righthander seemed to ease up with the big lead, pitching through even more traffic than normal. He eventually was bounced from the game in the sixth without retiring a batter, having let the Mariners storm all the way back to tie the game on a solo home run from Ryon Healy. López yielded after just five innings, giving up six earned, six hits, four walks and three homers against just five Ks.
Jace Fry, in relief of López early, retired his first two batters, but then walked Smith and served up a gopher ball to Mitch Haniger, giving Seattle an 8-6 lead and seven unanswered runs.
Thankfully, there was a third act to this game, as the White Sox pieced together one final, decisive rally in the seventh. That rally was largely a big gift from Seattle reliever Cory Gearrin, as the inning begin with four-pitch walks to Leury García and Tim Anderson. Gearrin threw two more balls to José Abreu before Abreu broke the spell, offering at a slider at least a foot wide and low. Meanwhile, Anderson was scheming a bit to get an outrageous jump on any ground ball.
“I knew from the first pitch, I was reading [first baseman Jay Bruce] the whole at-bat,” he said postgame. “I knew I’d be safe.”
When Abreu indeed tapped a flaccid grounder to shortstop Tim Beckham, Anderson slid headfirst and safe into second practically as Beckham released his throw. The slow-developing play, and perhaps even the shock of having Anderson up his hiney, forced a weak throw to first from second sacker Dylan Moore, which Abreu beat to first base.
Sacks packed, it was Moncada Time, Part II.
Among many in this topsy-turvy opener, Anderson was a quiet hero. He wormburned a single to center in the second, adjusting his swing tight against his body against an infield playing in for a play at the plate, driving in two runs.
And one inning after his baserunning antics in the seventh, Anderson put an end to scoring in the game with a screaming liner out to left, putting the White Sox up, 10-8.
Explaining his odd, 180-degree pirouette in the batter’s box, Anderson joked postgame: “That’s how well my feet work. I thought I was going to fall down.”
Anderson finished the game 3-for-4 with four runs scored, three RBIs and a walk.
The game had gotten off to an odd start for the Mariners defense, specifically Beckham, who committed three errors in the space of the first three batters of the game.
The shortstop’s fumbling largely set up Moncada’s early heroics.
And finally, it was a lockdown bullpen that finally extinguished Seattle’s offense. Ryan Burr relieved Fry and escaped the dastardly third, took the seventh as well, gave Kelvin Herrera the eighth, who handed the ball to Alex Colomé for the save in the ninth. All in all, the anchor men of the pen combined for 3 1⁄3 innings, two hits and three Ks.
And finally-finally, new South Side Sox scribe Joe Resis was up in the booth for some of today’s game, which not only apparently eliminated last year’s Sox Math champ from the Opening Day competition, but brought the White Sox some good luck:
The case for causation may be soft, but let's just say the White Sox's fortunes have taken the wrong turn since our @JResis was unjustly barred from winning #SoxMath today and his visit to the booth ended.— South Side Sox (@SouthSideSox) April 5, 2019
Still time to hustle Joe back up there, @stevestone & @jasonbenetti ...
Jugglin’ Joe is on coverage for tomorrow’s White Sox game, which begins at 1:10 p.m. CT on WGN-TV and WGN-AM.
Finally-finally-finally dot-dot-dot stuff:
- Burr earned his first career MLB win.
- Yolmer Sánchez did much to erase his first week of defensive boneheadery; substituting late in the game at second base, he made a killer decision to gun potential tying run Daniel Vogelbach at third with one out in the eighth.