At this point with this team, it never looks easy, even when it seems easy.
Even if he wasn’t the force of sheer dominance we got used to earlier this summer, Carlos Rodón pitched well enough in his return from the IL to pick up the win, allowing five hits over five innings. He walked just one, but working without his best strikeout stuff he only punched out three, his lowest total of the season.
Rodón flinched in the first inning, allowing a home run to Marcus Semien to open the scoring before César Hernández went tit-for-tat with him in the top half of the second. It was Hernández’s 21st homer of the year, 13 of which have come against lefthanders despite having a fraction of the at-bats.
The early turning point of the game came in the second and third innings, when the Blue Jays failed to capitalize on shaky control from Rodón, leaving two men on base in the bottom of the second. The floodgates instantly opened after that, as base hits from Seby Zavala and Tim Anderson presaged back-to-back homers from Luis Robert and José Abreu to put the Sox up, 4-1.
Leury García got into the action with two-RBI double the next inning to drive Hyun-Jin Ryu from the game, making it the second time in the month of August that Ryu has posted this exact 3 2⁄3 IP, 7 ER pitching line.
And that’s where things got interesting. A light drizzle soon turned into a torrential downpour, and a brief delay was called as Rodón struggled through the fifth inning.
“Wait!” you’re probably saying. “Doesn’t Toronto have a roof?” Why yes, dear reader, they do! It just takes a half an hour to close, and apparently radar hasn’t made its way to Canada yet. Join Gordon Beckham in your incredulity that this could possibly happen.
Regardless, when Michael Kopech took the mound in the sixth, it became a new ballgame. Though the Sox had continued to tack on runs with RBI hits from Zavala and Tim Anderson, Kopech quickly turned a sketchy situation into a downright frightening one. Run-scoring hits from consummate game-respecter Randal Grichuk and Bo Bichette narrowed the score to 9-4, and then Semien’s second home run of the day suddenly turned things into a save situation.
Velocity and mechanics weren’t issues for Kopech today, breaking 100 mph on his heater five separate times. Hitters capitalized on mistakes, and you don’t get away with many mistakes against this Blue Jays lineup.
Fortunately, Ryan Tepera and Garrett Crochet were able to place their stuff a little better, throwing perfect seventh and eighth innings as the White Sox offense simultaneously petered out, holding the score at 9-7 through the late innings until Eloy Jiménez’s seventh dinger of the year gave them an extra run cushion. Then, we had the moment of potential controversy that many on White Sox Twitter™ have been openly praying for.
He’s had some struggles since crossing town, but Craig Kimbrel was locked in today as he picked up his first save on the South Side, allowing just a solitary hit to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (it’s OK, pitchers have done a lot of that this year) and otherwise giving Toronto just about no chance to get back in the game.
Hendriks out, Kimbrel in? Not exactly. Hendriks’ ability to throw 30+ pitches and go multiple innings, as he did in Tuesday’s losing effort, is a large part of what’s likely to keep him as the endgame-man come October. This is exactly the game that Kimbrel was acquired for. Hendriks would certainly tell you that he’d be fine to pitch today, but with the playoffs fast approaching, why force it? It feels really cool to see the two of them together in the same game along with some combination of Tepera, Bummer, Kopech, and Crochet to create some kind of five-inning, multi-headed, fire-breathing, bullpen Frankenstein dragon. This is where the sausage is really made, though: The games where one or the other doesn’t have to pitch are going to be a large part of what keeps the rest of the AL on their toes next month.
The team returns home for part two of the Crosstown Classic tomorrow night, with a chance to hoist the cup for the first time since 2016. Dallas Keuchel is set to square off with Keegan Thompson on Friday evening, followed by Lance Lynn and Alec Mills on Saturday, and then, the big daddy of them all, Dylan Cease and Kyle Hendricks on Sunday afternoon. Should be a good one!