It was a largely improbable pitcher’s duel in Chicago’s 3-2 win in its home opener on Tuesday, as whoopsie White Sox fourth starter, Vince Velásquez, battled glitterati rookie Matt Brash to a 1-1 duel through four innings.
While Velásquez nervously navigated a very picky Seattle Mariners lineup, surrendering three walks and multiple deep counts, Brash was devastating, tossing hard stuff with Wiffleball action for his first five innings, striking out six and allowing just a single run. Watch out for this arm, people.
But the one hitter who had Brash’s number on Tuesday was Luis Robert. After looking in a whiff on four straight breaking balls in the first inning, La Pantera came back with violent contact in his next two at-bats. In the third, he scalded a 111.7 mph screamer to short, for a bad-luck, inning-ending double play. And in the sixth, with Brash perhaps tiring a touch, Robert fell behind 0-2 on fastballs, resisting a nibble at two straight breakers, then CRUSHED a rare, flat offering 408 feet into the right-center stands.
Making the home run even more amazing was the fact that Robert, timing his swing for a fastball, hit that breaking pitch FLAT-FOOTED out to right field:
In the eighth, it was La Pantera’s wheels that pushed the Chicago advantage to 3-1, as Robert drew a leadoff walk from Seattle closer Diego Castillo, swiped second and third with ease, and strolled home on an Eloy Jiménez grounder to short.
It was also a lucky game for the White Sox, as Seattle crushed some pitches at 95 mph-plus, for almost no damage. Mitch Haniger ended the first inning with a colossal blast into a fierce wind that kept the ball in the park, dropping it harmlessly to Eloy Jiménez on the warning track. In the third, Jesse Winkler kilt a VV fastball to center, with Robert making a smashing grab against the wall.
In the seventh, Luis Torrens sent a Reynaldo López slider screaming to Eloy, who made a fine stab on the run, again on the track.
Amazingly, only one clout ended up on the board, a Eugenio Suárez mash to left field in the second inning that put the M’s up, 1-0.
Haniger gets a nomination for the worst breaks of the game. First was that one-on smash to left that saw the wind bar it from exit, dropping harmlessly to Eloy for an out. Next came in the fifth, with Seattle rallying against relievers Bennett Sousa and López, as Haniger was rung up for a third strike on a low and outside fastball with two on.
Meanwhile, as Seattle was leaving chips on the table, the White Sox scratched out in desperation for their first run off of Brash. Josh Harrison worked a hard walk, laying off of multiple breaking pitches, with one out and aggressively took third base on a hard single to right by Reese McGuire. The run scored, perhaps by dumb luck, when Tim Anderson tapped a flaccid grounder to shortstop, but J.P. Crawford overthought the double-play feed and bobbled the ball; TA is a hard man to double up on anything but the sharpest of ground balls, though.
From bridging from starter to closer, not a lot of breaks were needed for the White Sox bullpen, with López, Aaron Bummer and Kendall Graveman combining for three innings of one-hit, two-walk, five-K ball.
Liam Hendriks came on for a redemption ninth and got the job done, although Seattle did put some hard contact on him for three hits, pushing across a run. But he also K’d three M’s, including hard-luck Haniger to end the game.
A bit of off-time coming, as we chase this home opener with a 6 p.m. CT start tomorrow evening. A postgame podcast is forthcoming, so let’s savor the win, and a 3-1 record.