CHICAGO — In a first test of this first-place team, the White Sox passed.
In front of 33,625 at the initial night game of the season, Chicago held off the Klondike Klubbers, 3-2.
The game started out a bit jittery, as Gio González labored through a 28-pitch first inning, but the Minnesotans could inflict no damage. Two innings later, González ran into traffic once again, putting Twins on first and second with one out, but the crafty southpaw induced a 5-4-3 double play from beefy cleanup hitter Miguel Sano.
By and large, the Chisox rookies continued to clout. Luis Robert led off the third inning with a solo shot to left, his fourth, putting the White Sox up, 1-0. Nick Madrigal went 2-for-4 on the day and raised his season average to .365.
But the news was not all great. Robert pulled up lame legging out a double in his second at-bat, leading off the fifth. Madrigal got caught stealing at a particularly inopportune time, with runners at the corners, two out and Eloy Jiménez at the plate. And Zack Collins, making his first start of the season after an early call-up from Charlotte, suffered a three-pitch strikeout in his first at-bat and finished 0-for-3 with a walk and two Ks.
Yoán Moncada continues an all-or-nothing season, slapping a solo shot with two outs in the third to make it 2-0, White Sox — but also collecting his 20th strikeout in just game No. 13. And the third baseman made a spectacular diving catch of a liner in the third — but later flubbed his third grounder of the season.
González was unable to finish five innings, expending 86 pitches to earn 10 outs. But Chicago’s most reliable reliever this season, Carson Fulmer, came on to douse the flames. The young righty took the ball in the fifth greeted by full bases and one out — and coaxed a 4-6-3 double play from No. 3 Minny titterer Nelson Cruz.
In the bottom of the fifth, the White Sox added an insurance run that would turn out to be the difference-maker. Leury García, on third base after pinch-running for the injured Robert, came home for the second time this season on a suicide squeeze. This time the bunting hero was Tim Anderson, otherwise struggling through a .136 start.
But the struggles Anderson or Yasmani Grandal (down to .079) are facing pale compared to the plight of Minny leadoff man Byron Buxton, stuck at .177 with one RBI on the season; the speedster wore a golden sombrero just four at-bats into the game, salvaging his effort late with a bunt single. Buxton’s final insult came in the seventh inning, when Aaron Bummer loaded the bases and then whiffed B.B. to escape the threat.
Alex Colomé came on in the ninth for the save, gave up a single to Cruz, and left after re-aggravating a blister on his pitching hand.
Time to panic? Naw.
Steve Cishek came in cold, with runners on the corners and nobody out; the sidewinder whiffed Sano on a full count, then sat down Josh Donaldson in similar fashion. After decking gnat-annoyance Max Kepler to pack the sacks, Cishek induced a 6-4 grounder from Mitch Garver to end it.
NOTES: Thankfully, the injured list will not grow for the White Sox. Luis Robert is day-to-day after knocking knees with Twins first baseman Miguel Sano while rounding first base on his fifth-inning double ... manager Ricky Renteria indicated Robert would not start on Saturday, to give him a little extra rest ... Alex Colomé re-aggravated a blister and may need to sit for the series.
Around the league
- First Star of the day was Franmil Reyes, who went 2-for-3 with two homers (now six on the season), four RBIs, four runs and a walk in a 11-5 Cleveland win over Tampa Bay. Teammate Cesar Hernandez was the Second Star, going 4-for-4 with two doubles, three RBIs and a run.
- Marcell Ozuna was the Third Star of the day, leading Atlanta to an 8-1 win over Miami by going 3-for-4 with a homer, three RBIs and two runs.
- Randal Grichuk hit his fifth home run in Toronto’s 4-1 win over Kansas City.
- Giancarlo Stanton hit his ninth home run in 14 games, as the Yankees scored four runs in the eighth and overcame two Steven Piscotty homers to defeat Oakland, 6-5.
- Cubbie catastrophe Craig Kimbrel gave up a run in the ninth, pushing his ERA to 9.64, in a 5-4 Cardinals win at Wrigley Field.
- The Padres improved to 11-3 with a 2-1 squeaker vs. San Francisco. Zach Davies ran his record to 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA with 7 ⅔ innings of one-run, six-hit ball.
- Philadelphia’s Andrew McCutchen suffered a setback in his rehabilitation from a torn left ACL, reporting “sharp pains.” He’ll be out at least an additional two weeks.