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White Sox 9, Athletics 0: Who Are You, and What Have You Done With Reynaldo López?

The offense struck early and ReyLo dominated in a strong Tuesday night showing for the Pale Hose

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox third baseman Jake Lamb celebrates with first baseman Andrew Vaughn and left fielder Brian Goodwin after hitting a three-run home run against the Oakland Athletics during the second inning at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox (70-50) are once again an even 20 games better than .500 after Tuesday’s 9-0 victory over Oakland (68-52), maintaining their lead in the AL Central at 11 games, moving a half-game back of Houston for the second seed in the American League, and remaining three games behind Tampa Bay for full home-field advantage.

Before going into any other details of Tuesday’s game, South Side Sox sends its thoughts, best wishes, and all hope for a speedy and unimpeded recovery to Chris Bassitt, who left the game in the second inning after a frightening play in which he was struck in the head by a Brian Goodwin line drive.

Things were already trending downward for the Athletics before Bassitt’s injury, and reliever Burch Smith was done no favors by the horribly unexpected nature of his entry into the game. After a significant delay, Smith immediately allowed a two-RBI single to Andrew Vaughn to open the scoring, and one batter later, the White Sox had a 5-0 lead on the strength of Jay Clam’s (do I even remember how to spell his real name anymore?) sixth home run of the season.

Those five second-inning runs would be more than enough offense for the White Sox tonight, as Reynaldo López pitched brilliantly in his second consecutive start in place of Carlos Rodón, allowing no runs and a solitary hit over five innings and 66 pitches. López earned the win, his second of the season, and lowered his ERA to 1.08 in 25 innings so far in 2021. He’s now thrown 10 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to August 8, allowing just three hits and four walks next to 11 strikeouts in that span.

There’s little to say that the single hit and two walks he allowed don’t already tell us: López was flat-out dominant, only leaving the game due to his still-modest pitch limit. His fastball sat in the mid- to high-90s, and the slider had plenty of bite, causing all four of his strikeouts on the evening. López never allowed more than a single baserunner in any given inning, erasing Matt Chapman’s second inning single with an easy double-play and working around fourth and fifth inning walks with relative ease. Believe it or not, it’s the fourth time in his White Sox career that Reynaldo has worked five-plus innings with one hit or fewer allowed, doing so twice in 2019 and once in 2018. As has been clear to most observers, the stuff has always been there. Perhaps a newfound aggressiveness and simplified pitch mix is allowing López to get to it consistently for the first time in his career.

On the offensive side, there wasn’t much that needed to be done after Lamb’s home run, but they filled in the gaps nonetheless. José Abreu took advantage of a tiring Smith to launch his 25th home run of the season, a three-run blast that made the score 8-0 and moved him into a tie with Rafael Devers for the AL RBI lead at 89. This is the part where I mention that Abreu is on pace to join Cecil Fielder as the second player in the live-ball era to lead the American League in runs batted in for three consecutive seasons.

The scoring was capped off in fitting fashion in the sixth inning, as a Tim Anderson line drive squirted past a diving Josh Harrison for what wound up as a triple, scoring Zack Collins and bringing TA’s average back above .300 after what had been an 0-for-3 night. That was the icing on the cake for what turned out to be an easy job for the bullpen. Fresh off their flights from Charlotte, Ryan Burr and Mike Wright Jr. each threw two scoreless innings of relief, striking out one apiece and allowing one baserunner per inning each, giving the bullpen’s heavy hitters a much-needed day of rest after carrying the load in yesterday’s win.

The two teams square off again tomorrow night at 7:10 p.m. CST, as American League ERA leader Lance Lynn (10-3, 2.26) takes on Rookie of the Year candidate Cole Irvin (8-11, 3.52) at Guaranteed Rate Field.