It was a back-and-forth game that featured highs and lows for both teams and fanbases. If this contenst is any indication, two of the best in the AL are headed toward an electric series in October to determine the pennant.
And thankfully, the White Sox rallied after losing an early lead to tie and force extras, and prevail once there, 7-5.
The White Sox struck early against Michael Wacha. After Tim Anderson singled, Luis Robert hit a double to deep right to score Anderson (speed on the basepaths, always useful). Unfortunately, that early rally met a quick end with strikeouts by José Abreu and Eloy Jiménez, and a fly out to center by Yoán Moncada. The bright side of the Anderson and Robert hits was that both were 103 mph coming off the bat.
Fun fact: Tampa Bay has a whopping 16 pitchers on the IL right now. Talk about pitching depth.
At the bottom of the second, the Rays tied it up with a home run from Ji-Man Choi to center. It was a nice shot, I’ll give him that. A nice 106 mph exit velocity to center.
While the White Sox were definitely getting solid contact off of Wacha, the Tampa Bay defense had his back. Giolito, meanwhile, was lights-out with the exception of the Choi home run.
The White Sox broke the tie at the top of the fifth, with a rally started by Anderson. He singled to third and was able to get to second on a passed ball. Robert grounding out to second pushed TA to third while Abreu grounding into a fielder’s choice brought Anderson home, which gave the White Sox a 2-1 lead after a wild play at home.
Not to be outdone, Moncada then cleared the bases with a two-run home run.
The Rays managed to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fifth. A triple by Manuel Margot to deep center was capitalized on when Kevin Kiermaier hit a sacrifice fly to cente. Lucky for Giolito and the White Sox, that was the end of the scoring that inning.
Giolito ended the game at seven innings, giving up three hits and two earned runs while striking out eight and earning 3.77 ERA for his troubles.
The White Sox and Rays stayed locked in the 4-2 struggle into the eighth, when Craig Kimbrel was brought in to pitch and issued the first White Sox walk of the game, to Margot. A wild pitch by Kimbrel allowed Margot to steal second and get to third. Kimbrel did manage to get a big strikeout with Mike Zunino. After that, Aaron Bummer was brought in (controversially, it must be said, as Kimbrel threw just 15 pitches on the night) to take over, and that’s where trouble came in. Wander Franco singled in Margot, and then Austin Meadows drive in Franco, giving the Rays a 5-4 lead.
In the top of the ninth, Anderson led off with a home run that was crushed to center. The game stayed tied 5-5 through the bottom of the ninth, and we were on to free baseball (with the terrible 10th inning rule).
And so, with Andrew Vaughn on second and someone in the stands beating on something throughout the entire game (which is not even remotely annoying), Brian Goodwin came up to the plate and hit two very close fouls down the right-field line. Unfortunately, Goodwin was out on pitch number 11. César Hernández flied out to center, bringing us to Zack Collins pinch-hitting, and grounding out. The game stayed tied 5-5 as we ventured into the bottom of the 10th.
Liam Hendriks came in to get the White Sox through the bottom of the 10th, which he managed to do, and we were off to the 11th, where things broke open. With Collins on second, Anderson managed to get a RBI double to score him. He also scurried over to third on a passed ball, but did not tag up on a fly out to center (smart). Abreu grounded out to third, but Anderson scored to bring things up to 7-5, White Sox. Jiménez struck out swinging to end the inning, bringing in Ryan Tepera to hold it down.
Because Nelson Cruz was the final out of the 10th, he was brought out as their runner on second. A fly out by Brett Phillips advanced Cruz to third, where he would remain through a Yandy Diaz strikeout. Which brought up Choi, their hero from earlier in the game.
Despite raising everyone’s blood pressure with a 3-2 count, Tepera managed to strike out Choi for the White Sox to take the first game of the series, 7-5. It was a tight game to the very end with two very good baseball teams facing off. Both sides were on point in terms of pitching, offense, and defense.
Normally I don’t post the pitch illustrator from Baseball Savant, but both of these amused me for some reason:
Enjoy the win, get some rest, and we’ll see everyone back here tomorrow.