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Angels Dust White Sox, 3-2

Dallas Keuchel was better. Or was he?

Los Angeles Angels v Chicago White Sox
Yoán Moncada of the Chicago White Sox celebrates in the dugout after hitting a home run in the fourth inning against the Angels at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sept. 15, 2021.
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Of course.

Suggest a game will be a pitchers’ duel and you end up with a 12-9 slugfest So, naturally, if you suggest a slugfest because of weak starting pitching, you get a pitchers’ duel. Or sort of one, anyway.

Both starting pitchers were much better than expected, especially given the very low expectations. Angels rookie Janson Junk, making his second major league start, wasn’t junk at all, lasting 4 13 innings and giving up just one run, that a massive blast by Yoán Moncada.

Moncada’s 409-footer in the fourth tied the game, 1-1, and atoned for holding the ball a little too long on a Phil Gosselin roller in the third, allowing Gosselin to edge out the throw and a run to score from third.

That run was one of just two off of White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel, the other coming on a sacrifice fly after two singles in the sixth. Two runs in six innings is a whole lot better result than any Keuchel start in a month, but it may be premature to say Dallas is back and should take over the No. 4 slot in the playoffs.

That’s because Keuchel made it through the six innings on 98 pitches — pretty efficient for a Sox starter, but only 48 were strikes. Tossing fewer than half of your pitches for strikes is not generally a recipe for success, and requires a great deal of good fortune, such as when Keuchel loaded the bases on walks in the fifth and escaped with a double play. Yes, yes, Keuchel throws lots of DP balls, and he did get back to a nice ratio of 10 outs on the ground to three in the air, but still ...

Keuchel did hold the Angels to six hits, five of them singles, but with most of their offense on the IL (Trout, Rendon, Upton, etc.), they’re not particularly fearsome, and he owns Shohei Ohtani, who is zip-for-the series so far.

(Weird useless fact you heard here first, and probably last — the Angels didn’t have a single foul ball in the first three innings.)

Keuchel didn’t leave the game behind, though, because in the bottom of the sixth José Abreu lashed a double and Yasmani Grandal, who is hitting around .850 lately, drove him in.

Enter Michael Kopech, who cruised through the first five batters he faced, including three K’s, but then went 3-2 on Brandon Marsh, who proceeded to double his career home run total.

At 401 feet, Marsh’s shot was eight shorter than Moncada’s but it counted the same, putting the Angels up, 3-2.

The White Sox had plenty of chances late, first with singles by Luis Robert and Moncada off of old-timer Steve Cishek, who has recovered from his only really bad career year, which was, of course, last season with the Sox. But Abreu and Grandal both struck out to end the threat.

In the ninth, tying it up seemed certain after Eloy Jiménez smashed closer Raisel Iglesias’ first pitch for a double and Billy Hamilton went in to run for him. Gavin Sheets struck out, but Leury García’s dribbler toward third put runners on the corners with just one out. Sure thing now, right? Yeah — until Brian Goodwin went down swinging and César Hernández flew out to left.

In case you weren’t counting, eight of the last nine Sox outs were by whifferooney.

So that was that, a 3-2 loss that ties the season series with the Angels at three apiece, rubber game Thursday at 1:10 p.m. Central. Rumors of Ohtani taking the mound were greatly exaggerated, and it will be Reynaldo Lépez vs. Alex Cobb.

Oh, yeah — Cleveland won, so the magic number is still seven.