The two starting pitchers making their big major league comebacks after being shipped off to the minors for much of the season both faltered tonight. But fortunately, their guy faltered a whole lot more than ours.
The White Sox got to Daniel Lynch early and often, starting with a 452-foot missile fired by Luis Robert, the second batter of the game.
Then, after a walk to José Abreu, Yasmani Grandal had a more modest, 425-foot blast, and it appeared a rout was on.
A complete overthrowing of the Royals seemed even more imminent after the Sox scored three more in the third on singles by Robert, Abreu and Grandal and a sac fly by Leury Garcia to take a 6-0 lead. Lynch appeared to be having problems with a bleeding blister, but he was definitely having problems with bleeding runs, and that was as long as he lasted.
With Reynaldo López cruising through the first two innings giving up just one walk, the romp should have been on. And would have been, had it not been for Salvador Perez.
In the bottom of the third, KC answered with three runs of their own, two on Perez’s 39th home of the season, a 424-footer. The Royals outs were loud as well, but not loud enough.
The White Sox stretched the lead to 8-3 in the top of the fourth on infield singles by Danny Mendick and Robert, a double by Abreu — his 500th career extra-base hit — and a sacrifice fly by Grandal, his fourth RBI of the game.
López had a 1-2-3 fourth, but two of the three were bazooka shots, and he left the game after 65 pitches (42 strikes) and three hits, three runs, and one each walk and strikeout. Unlike his other recent appearances, it didn’t give one confidence he’s an ideal long relief or emergency start choice for the playoffs.
The Sox made it 9-3 in the fifth, on two singles and a ground out by Romy Gonzalez, his first non-K in five major league tries and his first RBI.
But the rules said Perez got to bat again, this time against Michael Kopech. The ensuing three-run shot wasn’t particularly deep, but it was deep enough. Suddenly it was 9-6, and Carlos Santana cut it to 9-7 with a 440-foot shot in the sixth.
That left Kopech with a line of four earned runs in 1 1⁄3 innings, and big question marks about whether he’s any better choice than López for long relief or an emergency start in the playoffs. He looks worn out, and we all better hope Chicago’s top four starters stay healthy and effective in October.
The Sox got an insurance run in the eighth on another Abreu double and an Andrew Vaughn single. (Yes, Mike Matheny left a southpaw in to face Vaughn when he didn’t have to. He’s no HOFBP.)
The four Sox relievers after Kopech — Ryan Tepera, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Bummer and Liam Hendriks — all sailed through their stints, including Kimbrel striking out Perez when he was the potential tying run, on three curves that weren’t in the same time zone as the plate.
The White Sox had 21 baserunners on 15 hits and six walks, four of the hits by Robert and three each by Abreu and Grandal, and three of the walks drawn by Eloy Jiménez. Everybody in the starting lineup had a hit, except Eloy and González.
The rubber game of both the weekend series and the season series (the Sox and Royals are 9-9 on the year, which is kind of embarrassing) is set for 1:10 p.m. Central tomorrow, with Dylan Cease facing Brady Singer, who carries a 3-9 record and 4.87 ERA, but who was pretty decent against Houston and Seattle his last three starts.
It will no longer be Hawk’s 80th birthday, so maybe we’ll be spared all his cliches and the threat of a couple hundred Carl Yastrzemski stories.