The White Sox (69-50) entered today having lost four of their last five games. Things did not appear to be getting easier, as a strong opponent in the Athletics (68-51) came to town. However, the South Siders battled back to take the first game of this four-game series in Chicago.
Dallas Keuchel struggled in the second inning, when the Athletics scored their only two runs of the game. Matt Chapman launched his 18th home run of the season, and Keuchel struggled with his control throughout that inning. After hitting a batter and walking two, the bases were loaded, and Mark Canha added a single to make it 2-0.
Despite that rough inning, however, this was a solid performance from Keuchel, who lasted five innings and did not allow any other runs. Those back-to-back walks turned out to be the only ones he issued in the game. By the time Keuchel was removed, the White Sox had a 3-2 lead, and Keuchel ultimately got credit for the win.
Here is a closer look at the 78-pitch performance by Keuchel:
Righthander Frankie Montas, who made his first career appearance against his former team, got off to a strong start, cruising through the first two innings.
However, the White Sox battled back and saw him much better the second time through the order. Seby Zavala and Tim Anderson had back-to-back singles to open the third, and César Hernández drove in Zavala with a sacrifice fly. In the fourth, Zavala came through with another single, and this time, it was with two outs and a runner in scoring position. As a result, it was a tie game, and the White Sox got more timely hitting in the fifth. This time, it was Eloy Jiménez who drove in a key run, and the South Siders led from that point forward. Montas was removed after five innings, and he took the loss.
Here is how the 99-pitch outing from Montas shaped up:
The strikeout by Josh Harrison with runners on second and third and two outs in the top of the eighth registered a LI of 3.46. With the tying run on second base, Craig Kimbrel struck out Harrison with a fastball and preserve the lead.
On average, Kimbrel faced the most high-pressure situations out of any player in this game, with a pLI of 2.55. After allowing a ground-rule double, Kimbrel was in a tough jam that resulted in LI to increase sharply. Fortunately, Kimbrel buckled down and got back-to-back strikeouts in the clutch.
The ground-rule double by Jed Lowrie in the eighth takes the cake, improving Oakland’s odds of winning the game by 14.1% (.141 WPA) and upping the Athletics’ chances to 28.5%. It would never get higher than that for the rest of the game.
In terms of WPA, Zavala is tonight’s top performer (.153), as he went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. The battle for No. 1 was as close as it could have been. Reliever Michael Kopech had a WPA of .152 due to his two excellent innings on the mound.
Hardest hit: Eloy’s ground out in the third inning left the bat at 110.0 mph, which was enough to claim this award. Andrew Vaughn also ran into some tough luck, as he smoked a grounder at 109.1 mph, but he hit into a double play.
Weakest contact: Seby Zavala’s successful sacrifice bunt that drove in a run from third left the bat at 22.0 mph. This play was worth .031 WPA for Chicago, so surprisingly, this is a bunt that I can get behind. If we exclude bunts, Eloy’s pop out in the fifth left the bat at 55.5 mph.
Luckiest hit: We have a tie between Zavala’s third inning single and Lowrie’s eighth inning double, which landed right in the right-center field gap. Both hits had an xBA of .230.
Toughest out: Tim Anderson’s fly out in the sixth traveled 394 feet, and it had an xBA of .660, but unfortunately, he did not get a hit to show for it.
Longest hit: Chapman’s home run traveled 405 feet, which edged out Anderson’s deep fly out (394 feet) and Robert’s home run (also 394 feet).
Magic Number: 6
Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendiks each pitched one scoreless inning, and they got three strikeouts each. Six strikeouts in two innings from a pair of elite relievers will work. The past week has been a bumpy road for the duo, but tonight was a step in the right direction. They missed a lot of bats considering they only pitched an inning apiece (eight whiffs for Kimbrel, five for Hendriks ... meanwhile, Keuchel had five in five innings).
Hard-hit is any ball off the bat at 95 mph or more
LI measures pressure per play
pLI measures total pressure faced in game
Whiff a swing-and-miss
WPA win probability added measures contributions to the win
xBA expected batting average
Who was the White Sox MVP?
This poll is closed
Seby Zavala: 2-for-3, 2 RBI, .153 WPA
Michael Kopech: 2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 BB, 3 K, .152 WPA
Luis Robert: 3-for-4, HR, .081 WPA
Tim Anderson: 2-for-5, .118 WPA
Liam Hendriks: 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K, .034 WPA
Who was the White Sox Cold Cat?
This poll is closed
José Abreu: 0-for-4, 3 K, -.112 WPA
Andrew Vaughn: 0-for-4, K, -.186 WPA
South Side Sox Roll Call
It was an active night on South Side Sox, but 1969Vikings takes the gold medal for number of comments, with 65.
Right Size Wrong Shape and Ruffster both finished atop the leaderboard for comments with the most recs.