The White Sox (70-50) continued their victorious ways today, winning two straight games for just the second time in the past month by striking down the Athletics (68-52). Oakland had to make do with an early exit from their standout starter, and are now dead even with Boston and New York for pole position in the AL Wild Card race.
Reynaldo López made his third spot start of the season on Tuesday, and it was far and away his most brilliant, allowing just one hit over five innings to go with two walks and four strikeouts. López’s ERA now sits barely above 1.00 on the season, and he’s given up exactly one earned run over his last 17 innings pitched, the longest such stretch of his career.
The driver behind López’s newfound success appears to be at least partly a simplified pitch mix. For the second straight start, López barely touched his changeup and curveball, opting to throw his fastball 55% of the time and his slider 39%. The latter, in particular, proved to be an effective offering tonight, running a solid 35% CSW and continuing to look like a pitch that’s been substantially altered from years past, running 3-4 mph harder than it did in 2019-20 — and with significantly tighter movement.
López continued to pitch with intent and confidence, throwing 41 of his 66 pitches for strikes and leaving little in the way of hangers for Oakland to take advantage of. With his pitch count now stretched up to 66 after topping out at a season-high 51 last week, López should line up to take at least one more spot start in Carlos Rodón’s place, if not more, assuming the team has no intention of rushing the southpaw back from his mysterious shoulder ailment.
The Guaranteed Rate Field crowd was robbed of a view of Oakland’s ace tonight in sad and scary fashion, as righthander Chris Bassitt left the game with no outs in the second inning after being struck in the head by a Brian Goodwin line drive. Fortunately, the A’s have announced that Bassitt was conscious and aware en route to the hospital. He threw just 23 pitches on the night, mostly sinkers and cutters, eight of which went for called strikes or whiffs. Right-hander Burch Smith picked up the slack in unexpected “wear it” relief duty, eating three innings but allowing five earned runs along the way before turning it over to the back end of their bullpen for some late-game busywork.
In a game lacking for high-pressure moments, the cake goes to Andrew Vaughn, whose bases-loaded single immediately following Bassitt’s departure turned out to be the most high-leverage play of the game; its 2.06 LI was one of just two plays that checked in at more than 1.50.
All of the laurels in this one go to Reynaldo, whose 0.48 pLI upon starting the game was entirely normal, but whose composure allowed him to be the only pitcher in the game who entered the game with any kind of leverage at all, as Ryan Burr and Mike Wright Jr. each pitched with the game more or less already out of reach.
Andrew Vaughn’s game-breaking single in the second might have been the most high-pressure moment of the game, but it was the follow-up act that made the biggest difference, as Jake Lamb’s subsequent three-run homer came with a .111 WPA, taking the Sox from a likely victory with two runs in and two runners on to an almost assured one, with five runs crossing the plate before the A’s even recorded six outs.
The low-pressure nature of this game made this one low and slow; only two Sox players had a cumulative WPA of more than .1 for the night. Both have been mentioned already, so with all due respect to Jake Lamb, let’s take one more minute to give an ovation to Reynaldo López and his .16 WPA on the night, helping secure yet another fairly important victory for the team months after being essentially written out of the team’s plans.
Hardest hit: Not a single batted ball broke 110 mph tonight, with the hardest-hit ball in play coming on Stephen Piscotty’s 109.7 mph pinch-hit single against Ryan Burr in the seventh inning. Eloy Jiménez had the two hardest-hit balls of the day for Chicago, lining out at 108 mph and singling at 106 mph.
Weakest contact: I said to a buddy of mine in the early innings that Mark Canha was someone who was low-key really good and didn’t get a lot of credit. I stand by that statement. However, it was not a particularly good day to be Mark Canha at the plate, as he registered the two softest-hit balls of the game, on separate popups in the first and ninth innings.
Luckiest hit: Absolutely hilariously, the most high-pressure hit of the day was also the luckiest, as Andrew Vaughn’s second inning single to open the scoring had an expected batting average of just .270, leaving the bat at 88 mph at an almost perfectly flat 1 degree launch angle.
Toughest out: The aforementioned line out of Eloy Jiménez that ticked 108 mphm on the radar gun? It had an expected batting average of .710. Can’t win ‘em all!
Longest hit: Blame the midwestern August air: despite leaving the yard at under 102 mph, Jake Lamb’s game-breaking home run was far and away the longest hit at the day, theoretically dropping 415 feet from home plate.
Magic Number: 0
The White Sox won their second consecutive game against another team in the thick of the playoff hunt, and they used exactly zero pitchers who are going to throw meaningful playoff innings for the team. Trust me, I would love it just as much as you all if Reynaldo López’s performance over the next month and change makes him into an indispensable October contributor. But I’m not holding my breath. With home field advantage the only thing left to play for, any game this team can win without touching one of Michael Kopech, Craig Kimbrel, or Liam Hendriks is one in which I can breathe easy. The more of those there are in the run-up to October, the better.
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 tonight?
This poll is closed
Reynaldo López (5 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K)
José Abreu (1-for-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI)
Jake Lamb (1-for-3, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB)
Andrew Vaughn (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 1 R)
Who was the White Sox cold cat tonight?
This poll is closed
César Hernández (1-for-5, 3 K, 3 LOB)
Zack Collins (0-for-2, 1 K, 1 LOB, 2 BB)
Eloy Jiménez (1-for-4, 1 R, 1 LOB)
South Side Sox Roll Call
Nothing in the way of green recs on this quiet Tuesday night, but 1969Vikings once again takes the cake as the most active gamethread commentator of the night!
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