After a scoreless first inning, the Athletics came to life in the second against starter Dallas Keuchel. Matt Chapman got the scoring started when he crushed a slider from Keuchel for a solo home run. That was Chapman’s 18th homer of the season, and Keuchel struggled against the next few hitters, as well.
Control eluded Keuchel, who hit Josh Harrison and walked Stephen Piscotty and Ismael Machín to load the bases. Mark Canha singled in a run, and there was still only one out, but Keuchel got out of it to avoid the huge inning. However, some damage was done, and Oakland led, 2-0.
Meanwhile, Athletics starter Frankie Montas got through the first two innings with relative ease. The first trouble he ran into started when Seby Zavala hit a Kansas City Special in the third for a leadoff single. Then, Tim Anderson ripped a single (106.3 mph exit velocity) to right to put runners at the corners with no outs. César Hernández joined Anderson in the triple-digit exit velocity club with a sacrifice fly that nearly left the yard (101.6 mph exit velocity, 382 feet).
The White Sox tied it in the fourth after some unexpected life with two outs and nobody on base. Luis Robert singled, Brian Goodwin walked, and Zavala came through with his second single of the game.
In the fifth, Anderson led off with a single, and Hernández caught the defense off-guard by laying down a perfect bunt down the third base line. Third baseman Matt Chapman was playing close to where shortstop would normally play, so he may have been better off hoping the ball would roll foul. Instead, Chapman tried to field it, and he could not come up with it cleanly, and both runners were safe. That set up Eloy Jiménez with an RBI opportunity, and he came through with a single to put the White Sox ahead, 3-2.
The White Sox scored exactly one run for the fourth consecutive inning, when they used some traditional “small ball” in the sixth. Robert led off with a single, and he was ruled safe at second on a stolen base attempt (Tony La Russa wisely used his ability to challenge, pretty crazy). Goodwin then made a productive out with a grounder that allowed Robert to advance to third. Then, Zavala laid down a sacrifice bunt that got Robert in from third to make it 4-2. It is worth noting that Zavala’s bunt increased the White Sox’s odds of winning the game from about 79% to about 82%; for a change, I have no issues with that bunt.
On the pitching side, Keuchel had a decent outing against a strong offense, despite that poor second inning. Oakland entered play tonight with an average of 4.59 runs per game, but Keuchel went five innings and only allowed those two runs. Keuchel did not have control issues outside of the second inning, as the two walks he issued then were his only ones of the game. And Keuchel did not need a ton of pitches (78) to get through his five innings on the mound.
Michael Kopech covered the sixth and seventh innings with a masterful relief appearance. Kopech faced seven batters and retired six of them. He struck out three, and the only hitter who reached base safely was Harrison, who walked.
Craig Kimbrel came on to pitch the eighth, and he hit a bump in the road early on. Kimbrel hit Matt Olson, who led off. After a strikeout, the situation looked better, but then, Jed Lowrie smoked a deep fly ball to right-center. The ball ran out of steam before it left the park, but it bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double (Olson likely would have scored if it had stayed in play).
Kimbrel took control from that point onward, as he struck out Chapman on a 3-2 knuckle-curve that was out of the strike zone for the second out. Kimbrel escaped the jam with a fastball that Harrison could not catch up to, so the 4-2 lead was preserved.
Robert added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, with his third home run of the season.
That made Liam Hendriks’ job easier, not that he needed any help. Hendriks struck out all three batters he faced to seal the victory. The last pitch of a game was a well-located, 98 mph fastball that Mark Canha failed to catch up to.
The White Sox will take on the Athletics again tomorrow at 7:10 p.m. Central. Reynaldo López and Chris Bassitt are the probable starters. We will see you again tomorrow evening.