Tim Anderson made me rewrite this entire recap at the very last minute, and I’m not particularly upset about it.
As Frank Thomas just put it on the postgame show: Major League Baseball won tonight.
The White Sox and Yankees both hit four home runs, and the lead changed hands four times, but it was the Sox who got the final hurrah, bailing the fans (and Liam Hendriks) out from a nightcap full of sighs with Anderson’s electric, opposite-field, two-run blast to end the game and complete a last-minute comeback against Zack Britton and the Yankees.
Just as they ended the game with a homer, the Sox started the game with a homer. José Abreu entered tonight’s cornfield special having homered in three of his previous five plate appearances against Andrew Heaney, and wasted little time making it four of six with his first inning line-drive dinger to open the scoring and put the Sox up, 1-0.
On the bump for the Sox, Lance Lynn didn’t quite have his sharpest stuff, getting worked for 24 pitches in the bottom of the first and leaving a two-strike fastball to Aaron Judge just enough over the plate for the 6´7´´ superstar to line it out to right field and give the Yankees a 3-1 lead. Lynn finished with five innings pitched and four earned runs on the night, working into the sixth but ceding to Michael Kopech after allowing a homer and two baserunners to start the inning. It’s just the second time in 21 starts this season that Lynn has allowed more than three earned runs in a game; his ERA now sits at 2.26, still more than 60 points lower than second-place Robbie Ray among qualifying AL pitchers.
In spite of getting touched up a little more than usual, Lynn left the game with a substantial lead, as Eloy Jiménez backed up to his unusually loud and energetic pregame “hi mom” with a three-run blast in the bottom of the third to take the lead back for the Pale Hose. It was Eloy’s sixth homer and 15th, 16th, and 17th runs driven in over just 49 plate appearances since returning from his pectoral injury. To say this is a different team with him in the middle of the lineup is the apotheosis of understatement.
Jiménez’s three-run blast was followed an inning later by an impressive, opposite-field, two-run shot from Seby Zavala, making him two-for-two in homering in games filled with absurd levels of drama.
After Kopech struck his way out of Lynn’s jam without additional damage, the middle-late portion of the Sox bullpen seemed to have the game well in line for a mundane ending. Kopech worked in parts of two innings and threw 26 pitches, with Aaron Bummer picking him up for two outs in the seventh and Craig Kimbrel emerging from his scarecrow pose for a scoreless eighth.
Boring, however, is not what Liam Hendriks had in mind. The All-Star closer had easily his worst game of the season, getting the first two outs of the ninth inning before Aaron Judge’s second homer of the game brought the Yankees within one. Hendriks proceeded to walk Joey Gallo before throwing a first-pitch slider to Giancarlo Stanton that a casual observer would be inclined to think Stanton was prepared for:
The Yankees have had more than their share of ninth inning struggles this year, and with elbow inflammation sidelining Aroldis Chapman for the near future, the Bombers turned to former Reliever of the Year Zack Britton to close things out tonight. Britton recorded a flawless save in New York’s win over the Royals on Wednesday, and looked well on his way to doing the same tonight, retiring Danny Mendick with an easy ground ball to start the inning.
Next, Britton got ahead 0-2 on Seby Zavala, who otherwise struggled out of the 9-hole, sandwiching his homer with two strikeouts. However, Zavala was able to bear down (and perhaps tighten his hold on the suddenly-contested backup catcher spot upon Yasmani Grandal’s quasi-imminent return) and draw a walk, and all it took was one more pitch for Tim Anderson to cap off a night that Sox fans won’t forget anytime soon.
It’s impossible to say just how far this season will go, who will guide the ship in 2022, and what kind of memories this team will leave us with come October. If it goes far enough, the footage from this night will be played on highlight reels and team-sponsored DVDs for time immemorial. At the absolute least, it’s another milestone moment for Anderson’s resumé, which is slowly but surely expanding from a one- or two-year phenomenon to one of the most unique, memorable, and electric stretches in White Sox history.
Tim Anderson would be a White Sox icon even if he never put on the uniform again. There’s still a lot more to be written. Let’s all hope that tonight is only one of the middle chapters in what promises to be one of the most beloved careers in team history.