What a way to close out the first half of the season: The Chicago White Sox defeated the Baltimore Orioles 7-4 this afternoon, securing the first sweep of a season series of at least seven games in franchise history.
This game was definitely tense the entire time, but with some power and clutch moments from Andrew Vaughn and Adam Engel, the South Siders were able to get their 54th win, and go into the All-Star break with an eight-game lead in the American League Central.
The top of the first inning was eventful, as righty Spenser Watkins allowed a walk to Yoán Moncada and a single to José Abreu with one out. Unfortunately, the rally ended after an out Brian Goodwin and Moncada attempting to advance to third on the fly ball, as he was thrown out to end the inning.
The Orioles came out strong in the bottom of the inning on the first pitch against Dylan Cease, as Cedric Mullins placed a bunt perfectly for a single. Austin Hays then hit a home run to put them up 2-0. With one out, Ryan Mountcastle was hit by a pitch in the hand which put him on first. Fortunately, Cease was able to get out of the inning without any other damage. Mountcastle suffered a bruised forearm, and was taken out of the game in the top of the second inning and replaced by Pat Valaika.
Adam Engel started off the second inning with a single, and was bunted over to second base on a sacrifice by Leury García. Engel was then picked off at second base, making it the second White Sox baserunning mistake in two innings. Cease had a clean 1-2-3 inning to end the second.
Watkins got into some trouble in the top of the third inning, as Seby Zavala hit a one-out double, followed by back-to-back walks with two outs to Moncada and Abreu. Goodwin hit a line drive to center field but unfortunately, it was caught to end the scoring chances.
Andrew Vaughn had a home run derby of his own in the bottom of the fourth inning, smashing a two-out, solo home run 447 feet into the stands to get the White Sox on the board.
Watkins didn’t make it through the fifth but had a very solid start, going 4 ⅓ innings with just four hits, one run, and four strikeouts. All-Star Tim Anderson extended his hit streak to 12 games with a single in that fifth inning.
Cease’s 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the fifth would finish his day, as he did a great job adjusting after his early struggles. Cease went hitless after that first inning, specifically after his first two pitches. His final stat line was five innings pitched with two hits, two runs, and six strikeouts.
In the top of the sixth inning, Engel was hit with a pitch and García walked, to put runners on first and second with no outs. With Vaughn up yet again, righty Cole Sulser came in to face him, which didn’t really matter since Vaughn has been heating up against right-handed pitchers lately.
What did Vaughn do? Oh, nothing too big, just launched a three-run, go-ahead home run, his second of the game, to take the lead 4-2. If that doesn’t scream “clutch” or “possible Rookie of the Year,” I don’t know what does.
To top off the excitement, Michael Kopech checked into the game for the bottom of the sixth inning. Kopech is really just a treasure to watch, so you might want to take a peek at this clip of him striking out the side (again) with some nasty pitches. If you didn’t already know it, he’s going to be a star.
"You come at Kopech, you're going to miss." pic.twitter.com/XhSwm6HJRW— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) July 11, 2021
Codi Heuer had a clean seventh inning as well, getting out of a leadoff walk.
Garrett Crochet took the eighth inning, and Liam Hendriks came in for the save in the ninth.
Things seemed to be going smoothly for Hendriks, recording back-to-back strikeouts, but then came a single from Ryan McKenna. The Orioles had nothing to lose, so in came Trey Mancini as a pinch-hitter for Domingo Leyba. Unfortunately, Mancini had a clutch moment of his own, hitting a two run jack to right field to tie the game, 4-4.
To the 10th inning we went. Anderson led off the inning at second base because you know, Manfred rules. Moncada took yet another walk to start the inning, as his plate discipline seems to get better and better. With two runners on, Abreu and Goodwin both were retired, bringing Engel up to the plate. With a 3-1 count and a fastball coming, Engel smashed a three-run home run to left-center field for a 7-4 lead.
If you didn’t know it already, Engel is turning out to be a very well-developed player who deserves every bit of the playing time he is seeing. His development not only in the field but on offense as well has been remarkable to see.
The Orioles had a chance to come back in the bottom of the 10th inning, with Pedro Severino out at second base to start the inning. José Ruiz came in to close the game, but was unsuccessful as he allowed a single to Kelvin Gutierrez, followed by a sacrifice fly by Cedric Mullins. After walking Hays, Tony La Russa had seen enough. Matt Foster was now in for the save with two on, one out — and he nailed it down for the win.
The White Sox ended off the first half of the season in a way that many people probably didn’t see coming. But, at 54-35 and first in the American League Central, they have shocked many people with how much depth they have. Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal, and Yasmani Grandal have all suffered major injuries, and many others have battled through injuries and IL stints as well. Carlos Rodón and Lance Lynn have been standout starters, and Liam Hendriks has racked up the saves. Things can only go up from here, and fans should be excited for the second half of this season to start.
Jiménez played left field in his second rehab game for the Winston-Salem Dash today, making a great catch and reaching base with a single and a walk at the plate. Hey, it’s one day closer to him returning to the lineup.
Sadly, we won’t see any White Sox baseball until Friday, which is way too long if you’re like me and plan your day around their games. Luckily, there will be many All-Star festivities, and we get to watch four of our own players shine at Coors Field.
See, even Southpaw is excited!
It has been a great season to cover thus far, and I look forward to continuing to do so for the second half. Let’s all sit back and enjoy this week full of All-Star content, and be ready for a home series against the Houston Astros on Friday Night!