The White Sox’s barrage of home runs continued on Tuesday, but even a pair of blasts couldn’t overcome their 11 strikeouts and a pair of poor innings from Dallas Keuchel. The South Siders (67-47) fell to the Twins, 4-3, snapping their four-game win streak to set up the rubber match on Wednesday afternoon.
Tim Anderson missed a third consecutive leadoff home run by a couple of feet, opening the door for the Twins to strike first.
This time, it didn’t take Luis Arráez until the fifth inning to record the Twins’ first hit. Instead, he hit a 92.3 mph single into right field, which would’ve been harmless if not for Keuchel’s lack of control to start the game.
Keuchel couldn’t locate the strike zone in the first inning — he threw 11 strikes in 28 pitches. He missed on both sides of the plate and flung balls in the dirt, issuing three walks to the first four batters he faced. It’s an outlier for a season that has featured only six three-walk starts — let alone all of them coming in one inning — by the lefthander in his first 22 outings. Still, it led to Arráez singling home the game’s first run, followed by Miguel Sanó’s RBI ground out to give the Twins a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
It took the White Sox until the third inning to solve Minnesota starter Griffin Jax, and even that success was short-lived.
César Hernández singled to leadoff the third, and a couple of batters later, Adam Engel launched a 91.9 mph fastball into dead-center field for a game-tying blast that left his bat at 106.3 mph. Jax seemed rattled, as he left another fastball in the middle of the zone in the next at-bat for José Abreu to demolish into the left-field bleachers to give the South Siders a 3-2 lead. Abreu’s 108.4 mph batted ball was only topped by his sixth-inning double, which had a 110.4 mph exit velocity.
Jax, a fly ball pitcher, had given up eight home runs in 32 innings this season, so seeing a pair of fly balls leave the park wasn’t surprising.
His career-high 10 strikeouts, as he held the White Sox to three hits in a six-inning start, was more eye-opening. While the White Sox recorded four hits against his fastball, they also often chased his slider, which elicited nine whiffs and seven punch-outs. It was a career-high in strikeouts by a wide margin, as Jax had just 11 in his first four career starts (19 1⁄3 innings). Only Andrew Vaughn and Hernández, who also had a pair of nice defensive plays, didn’t strike out in the loss.
And even as he gave up seven hard-hit balls, Jax never put himself into dangerous situations. Abreu’s leadoff double in the sixth inning was the White Sox’s best scoring chance, but well-struck outs by Eloy Jiménez and Yoán Moncada stymied the rally.
Rather, it was Keuchel who saw the game slip through his hands in the sixth inning, as he faced the Twins lineup for a third time.
After the disastrous first inning, Keuchel found the strike zone and forced ground outs to work around only one strikeout. And when he did give up base runners, it was harmless. The Twins hit a two-out single in the third when Mitch Garver’s grounder hit third base, while Andrelton Simmons’ leadoff walk in the fifth led to a double play in the next at-bat and Brent Rooker getting hit by a pitch is simply a footnote.
Keuchel finished five innings and was nearing 100 pitches, as he put the White Sox in position to hand the game to their back-loaded bullpen. It seemed reasonable for Tony La Russa to at least have a reliever warming up in the bullpen, especially after his starter had put a pair of runners on base in the previous inning. It would’ve made sense to pull him after a two-out walk to Sanó in the sixth inning, too. The bullpen was quiet, though, as the ball exploded off of Willians Astudillo’s bat for a go-ahead, two-run homer into left field was the only noise to a cheering crowd. The Twins went up, 4-3, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Ryan Tepera and Aaron Bummer combined to strike out five batters in two scoreless innings for the White Sox to close the game.
Meanwhile, John Gant retired the side in order in the seventh inning. In the eighth, Tyler Duffey issued a leadoff walk to Anderson, but got out of the inning when Abreu lined out to Astudillo, who doubled off Anderson. Old friend Alex Colomé closed the game for his sixth save, as Jiménez, Moncada and Vaughn all grounded out. The White Sox reached base once against the Minnesota bullpen in the final three innings.
The White Sox try to take the series at 12:10 p.m. Wednesday, before the schedule starts to pick up.