The White Sox (46-32) entered tonight having scored 48 runs in only six games against the Twins (33-44). The South Siders hoped to break out of their recent slump with another big game against Minnesota, and sure enough, the offense showed up.
The first inning was a struggle for White Sox starter Lucas Giolito. Luis Arráez, who is an excellent contact hitter, lined a single between shortstop and third to lead off the game. Then, Josh Donaldson gave the Twins an early 2-0 lead with a 383-foot home run that left the park in a hurry.
However, after that first inning, Giolito was much more effective, and he managed to limit sharp contact. Excluding the first, Giolito only allowed three hard-hit balls in play. Also, Giolito faced only three batters every full inning after the first. Even when Giolito allowed baserunners, he managed to either get double play grounders or pick them off.
Here is a closer look at Giolito’s 97-pitch performance:
Like Giolito, Twins starter Kenta Maeda had a tough first inning. Maeda, who typically displays strong control, issued three consecutive walks with one out. That brought up Zack Collins, who hit a soft ground ball to second base. The only possible out for second baseman Luis Arráez was at first base, so a run scored to make it 2-1. Maeda wiggled out of further trouble to preserve Minnesota’s lead. Unfortunately for the Twins, though, Maeda threw 30 pitches in the first.
The second inning appeared to be heading in a similar direction for Maeda, as he pitched himself into trouble. Gavin Sheets led off with a single in his first career plate appearance, and Maeda issued his fourth walk to put runners on first and second. But, Maeda stranded the runners right there.
In the third, the White Sox capitalized on a scoring opportunity by putting a pair on the board. José Abreu got the rally started after nearly popping out to first baseman Alex Kirilloff in foul territory. After Kirilloff failed to make a tough play, Abreu drew a walk, and Yasmani Grandal followed with a perfect bunt that caught everyone by surprise. After Andrew Vaughn hit a one-out single, Sheets drove in a run with an RBI fielder’s choice, as the Twins got the out at second. That tied the game, but Leury García gave the White Sox their first lead of the game with an RBI single to make it 3-2.
Pitch count remained an issue for Maeda, who was up to 68 pitches by the end of the third. Maeda was effective in the fourth, when he retired all three opposing batters and only needed seven pitches to do so. However, the White Sox used good BABIP luck to put up a crooked number against Maeda in the fifth. That luck included an .170 xBA single by Collins and a .070 xBA RBI double by Sheets. Maeda did not complete the inning, and his final line was 4 2⁄3 innings, seven runs (all earned), eight hits, five walks, and four strikeouts.
Here is how Maeda’s 92-pitch performance shaped up:
When Alex Kirilloff batted in the ninth, the tying run was on third base with two outs. Kirilloff flew out to center to end the game, and this play had a mammoth 4.58 LI.
On average, closer Liam Hendriks faced the most high-pressure situations out of any player in this game, with a pLI of 3.00. It was as close as it could have been, but Hendriks managed to protect the lead.
Josh Donaldson’s two-run homer in the first inning increased the Twins’ probability of winning the game by 15.3% (.153 WPA). Though the Twins lead evaporated rather quickly, this was the biggest play of the game for either side.
In terms of WPA, Leury García is today’s top performer, as his .171 WPA was highest among all players. This was largely thanks to his RBI single that put the White Sox ahead with two outs in the third.
Hardest hit: In the fourth, Nelson Cruz hit a sharp single to left (113.1 mph exit velocity). Fortunately, Cruz decided that despite a nice play by Andrew Vaughn, he could make it to second. After quickly getting to the ball, Vaughn made a nice throw to second base to retire Cruz fairly easily.
Weakest contact: The single by Zack Collins in the fifth (41.1 mph exit velocity) takes the cake for softest contact of the game.
Luckiest hit: The luckiest hit was Trevor Larnach’s double in the seventh inning. This was a high fly ball into the right field corner that Sheets nearly caught. Though it was not quite a routine play, most right fielders likely would have made that catch.
The silver medal goes to Sheets, who doubled on a Kansas City Special that had an xBA of only .070. It was a successful debut for Sheets, and although fortune was on his side here, he did not need luck for the first hit of his career (a .650 xBA single).
Toughest out: The ground out by Brian Goodwin in the fourth had an .830 xBA (94.6 mph exit velocity 11-degree launch angle).
Longest hit: Max Kepler’s double in the seventh inning traveled 390 feet.
Magic Number: 26
The White Sox have only faced the Twins seven times this season, but they already have a +26 run differential against them. The dominance against one of their biggest rivals has been quite the positive development this season.
Hard-hit is any ball off the bat at 95 mph or more
LI measures pressure per play
pLI measures total pressure faced in game
Whiff a swing-and-miss
WPA win probability added measures contributions to the win
xBA expected batting average
Who was the White Sox MVP?
This poll is closed
Lucas Giolito: 6 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 1 K, .073 WPA
Liam Hendriks: 1 IP, 1 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 K, Save, .074 WPA
Ryan Burr: 1 1⁄3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K, .088 WPA
Leury García: 1-for-2, BB, 2 RBI, .171 WPA
Gavin Sheets: 2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI, .154 WPA
Who was the White Sox Cold Cat?
This poll is closed
Evan Marshall: 2⁄3 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, -.072 WPA
Tim Anderson: 1-for-5, RBI, -.074 WPA
Brian Goodwin: 0-for-4, BB, K, -.043 WPA
South Side Sox Roll Call
Whoo wee, we were ready for some rival-game baseball after yesterday’s rainout. The 337-comment barrage was led, comfortably, by AnoHito.
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Ruffster and baines03 tied for the most green on the night, but I’ll give the tiebreaker to bainesy for his also-popular Cub fan taunt/execution: