We knew where this was heading, eventually. Tonight, as Detroit’s rally against the Twins fell short, the White Sox dropped to second place and now sit just two games in front of Cleveland.
It was a second straight loss, again in walk-off fashion. Whereas last night was possibly more heartbreaking given Chicago scoring in the top of the 10th, at least the fatal blow came off of ever-likelier AL MVP José Ramírez. Tonight, it was sub-.200 Jordan Luplow delivering the blow.
What did both game-enders have in common? They came off of mediocre pitchers forced into high leverage duty due to a combination of injuries, overwork, and perhaps bad luck. As much as I love Gio González, with Evan Marshall due to return on Friday and Aaron Bummer and/or Carlos Rodón possibly activated soon, he and Steve Cishek are both in danger of being left off of the postseason roster at this point.
By all appearances, this was a pretty even, if truncated due to pitch counts, duel between Lucas Giolito and Shane Bieber. Bieber edged the White Sox ace, though, with a 67 game score, to Giolito’s 61. It was a rematch of their August 9 faceoff, which Giolito took handily, 71-51.
Codi Heuer, blossoming into a closer in front of our eyes, faced an enormous 3.45 LI situation with two on and two out in the eighth, after a tough error call on Nick Madrigal and a walk. But Heuer stared down Franmil Reyes and whiffed him to keep the score 2-2. In win expectancy terms, that drove Cleveland’s chances down from 59.4% right back to 50-50.
This one is interesting, because it seems the answer here might be Luplow, or González, but the White Sox lefty finished second to Delino DeShields Jr. for game pressure, at 2.35 pLI. DeShields pinch-hit to lead off the ninth inning and grounded out to Tim Anderson.
Not too much mystery here, as Luplow’s solo shot with one out and a 3-0 count in the bottom of the ninth was a .406 WPA play. That means that Cleveland’s win probability before González offered a center-cut fastball was just 59.4%.
Luplow would have had to have a horrible game before the ninth inning to fall short of the MVP, and indeed despite just one hit on the night, he wins it, at .358 WPA. The second-place battle was more intense, with Bieber (.192 WPA) edging past Yoán Moncada (.191).
Magic Number: 46.3
With the Twins passing the White Sox in the standings, both teams have a magic number of 4 to win the division. Despite odds of a South Side division championship at 82.2% just two days ago, the odds now have fallen to 46.3%. The White Sox still control their own destiny, however, as both Chicago and Minnesota winning out leaves the teams in a 38-22 tie, tiebreaker to the Sox.