Seby Zavala was brilliant behind the plate tonight, saving what seemed like dozens of pitches in the dirt without fail. But we all knew he could catch.
It was the hitting that was incredible tonight, from a guy who came in batting .143, with one RBI.
In the third inning, Zavala’s first career homer, a solo shot, went 411 feet to center.
To make up for it just being a solo, Zavala hit a grand slam to left in the fourth.
That one put the White Sox up, 6-1, and seemingly in total control of the game. But the struggling Trevon McKenzie was replaced by Justin Garza, who pitched two strong innings and ended up with the win because the control was gone by the sixth. Cleveland, which had two solo shots in the fifth, scored five more runs for an 8-6 lead. That became 10-6 in the seventh.
Things looked golden for Cleveland. So Seby made it around the outfield seats with another solo homer, this one to right.
As you can see, by then Seby was an experienced dinger-donger, so he did the cool watch-it-sail-out thing. Just to show he’s not a one-trick batter, he even added a single in the eighth that helped an almost-successful rally to salvage the game.
Zavala’s line on the night: 4-for-4, four runs, six RBIs. But that doesn’t include the history he made, as the first player ever — that’s right, ever in the history of Major League Baseball — to hit three homers in the game he hit his first one. And he was the first White Sox catcher ever to triple up on four-baggers.
It was a big, big night. But not quite big enough.
There was about a month’s worth of other White Sox offense — seven more hits, including homers by Bryan Goodwin and Adam Engel, the latter a two-run shot. There were doubles by Tim Anderson and Gavin Sheets and some of the loudest outs of July — Sheets hit a 112.8 mph screamer on a 12-pitch at-bat in the seventh with two men on, but right at Oscar Mercado in right.
Fun fact: The bottom third of the order had nine RBIs, top two-thirds one, with one run on an error.
Then there was the pitching.
Yuck. Not helped by some shaky outfield play by Goodwin and Andrew Vaughn, but yuck.
Dallas Keuchel had another rough start, despite a nice, wide, pitcher’s strike zone that should have particularly benefited him. Keuchel’s had a few rough outings lately, so it wasn’t a shock when he left in the sixth having given up three solo homers, by Amed Rosario, .106 hitter Owen Miller (his first career shot, on not quite as big a night as Zavala’s) and .161 hitter Austin Hedges.
Keuchel also left two on base, which ended up charged to him when the usually lights-out Michael Kopech got hammered — one out, then double, walk, single, triple by the bottom of Cleveland’s order. That was a shock, and it got worse when Kopech came back out for the seventh and gave up a double and a single, which led to Ryan Tepera’s second appearance in a Sox uniform — and second bad one, as Tepera gave up a two-run double to Harold Ramirez. Kopech ended up with his first loss of the year.
That made it 10-6 bad guys, but in the bottom half, Bryan Shaw had nothing, and the third Zavala homer and a Miller error on José Abreu liner scored Tim Anderson to cut it to 10-8 before Shaw was removed for Nick Sandlin.
Obviously, time for more drama.
José Ruíz, who had been fierce Friday, was soft Saturday — walk, single, sac fly, José Ramírez double, and the Cleveland lead was back up to four, 12-8.
But the White Sox were not done. Bringing in James Karinchak proved an even worse decision than Shaw. Engel hit his two-run shot, Zavala singled, and after Emmanuel Clase was brought in to save the day, and game, so did César Hernández, and Abreu singled Zavala in. Both of those singles were grounders with eyes, but a third such try failed, as Sheets hit into a 3-6-1 double play.
After all that excitement, the ninth was decidedly anticlimactic. Craig Kimbrel came in for his first Sox appearance and had a 1-2-3 inning to keep it 12-11, Clase returned the favor in the bottom half.
All told, Sox pitchers gave up 13 hits, including three homers, a triple and five doubles.
The rubber match of the series is tomorrow at 1:10 p.m. Central. Cal Quantrill, converted to a starter as the hospital ward full of Cleveland pitchers reached epidemic proportions, will throw for Cleveland. Our HOFBP will counter with the ubiquitous TBD, who has only had a middling season so far. Even if TBD turns out to be ReyLo as rumored, the Sox should be favored, though not by the maybe-20 run spread expected with tonight’s pitching matchup.