Losses are annoying, but we’ll let it slide this time, and I’ll leave up the lede from Game 1 this afternoon. The White Sox (86-67) are the 2021 American League Central Division champions. Bask in it.
Zach Plesac has to be thankful that Michael Kopech isn’t stretched out like he was prior to his hamstring injury. If he was, as Steve Stone noted in the third inning, it seems like there was a solidly non-zero chance that Cleveland’s offense once again wouldn’t manage to scratch across a hit.
That’s how good Kopech looked in the two innings he gave us before turning the ball over to Mike Wright Jr., in which he needed just 27 pitches to strike out four hitters and induce easy (albeit hard-hit) fly outs from the other two.
While everyone else’s velocity seems to be going down the tubes, Kopech sat right where he’s been all year. Interestingly, he also threw all four of his pitches in the same game for the first time since the first day of May, getting a called strike on a curveball and throwing a good changeup for a ball to José Ramírez. They’ll be good pitches to have in his pocket in the postseason when extended work may be necessary, and they’ll be critical for a successful move to the rotation next season.
Here are the numbers on Kopech’s 27 pitches:
Zach Plesac did something interesting today. For most of his career, like most pitchers, Plesac has thrown his fastball more than his other pitches. But for the second straight start, he’s messed around with his pitch mix, throwing tons of changeups while pushing his slider off to the side. It worked, as it held Sox hitters punchless until they chased him in the sixth inning.
It was almost a Giolito-esque approach, and although neither Plesac’s changeup nor his fastball got enough swings-and-misses to keep him in the game, they drew more than enough called strikes and weak contact to make up for it. In combination with solid command of his two breaking balls, the benchiest of Sox bench lineups just couldn’t string anything together at all against him.
Here’s how Plesac’s 86-pitch outing measured up:
Even as the tone was lighter this evening, the Pressure Play was a familiar story, as a critical late-game moment swung decidedly against the White Sox with Owen Miller’s two-out, two-RBI single against José Ruiz in the bottom of the sixth in a plate appearance with a mammoth 7.77 LI.
With a 6.27 pLI, Bryan Shaw was thrown straight into the fire in the top of the sixth inning, allowing what was at the time the game’s most decisive play in Andrew Vaughn’s go-ahead single.
When you get a two-RBI hit in a moment with a leverage index that starts with a seven, you also pick up a lot of win probability Added, which is what Owen Miller did with his .495 (49.5%) WPA single.
With a whopping .49 total WPA, Owen Miller is the man of the hour in Cleveland tonight.
Hardest hit: Bobby Bradley’s moonshot single off the top of the wall left the bat at over 106 MPH, highest of Game 2. Traveling 408 feet and missing dingerville by inches, it also doubled (or, rather, singled) as the farthest-hit ball of the game.
Weakest contact: The Leury García dribbler that became the game’s penultimate out registered just 54.8 on the radar gun.
Luckiest hit: The seventh-inning single that Billy Hamilton legged out had just a .110 expected batting average, because it didn’t expect that the batter would be Billy the Hitter.
Toughest out: César Hernández’s third-inning lineout to Bobby Bradley wasn’t super well hit, but it did have a 54% hit probability, the highest of any out on the day.
Magic Number: 2006
As cathartic as today was, the White Sox are still 32-32 since the All-Star break. The last time a team the World Series with a second-half record below .530 was 2006, when both the Tigers and Cardinals did it. It worked for La Russa then, let’s hope it does now.
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 for Game 2?
This poll is closed
Michael Kopech (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 SO)
Andrew Vaughn (1-for-3, 2 RBI)
Yasmani Grandal (2-for-3, R, BB)
Who was the White Sox Cold Cat for Game 2?
This poll is closed
José Ruiz (.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, K)
Brian Goodwin (0-for-3, 5 LOB)
Matt Foster (1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 1 BB)
South Side Sox Roll Call
The back half of the clincher duo came with 155 comments to its name, led once again by AnoHito taking the title at 25:
|10||David John Craven||7|
|13||Right Size Wrong Shape||5|
Schoolly had the only green for the nightcap, not once but twice hitting for four recs: