“What were the conditions like out there?” An unidentified reporter asked Tim Anderson in the locker room scrum. Anderson smiled coyly.
“It was wet.”
And, after a burst of laughter,
“We won, so not too wet.”
In fact, it was very close to being too wet, as the storms anticipated by Chicagoans for several days dissipated just in time to allow the first pitch to be thrown only to brutally reconvene in the second inning, by which point the Sox already trailed 1-0 on a Ty France home run.
It was an ominous start for a pitcher who entered the season much closer to a DFA than the 1.99 ERA he posted in 2020. But as Dallas Keuchel himself said after the game, also smiling coyly, he was lucky to just catch a “sprinkle.”
Mariners starter and reigning Cy Young winner Robbie Ray? He wasn’t so lucky. The France home run spotted him a lead as the rain started to fall, but Eloy Jiménez took it right back in the bottom of the second inning just as it began to intensify, drilling a 449-foot moonshot that sprang back on to the field of play after caroming off the empty bleachers nearly halfway to the concourse:
Falling into an early hole against Ray with Keuchel on the mound would have made for an entirely lost cause in 2021. But the thing about the old days? They’re the old days. These are days in which rather than letting Ray bounce back and settle in after the Jiménez ding-dong, the White Sox follow it up with a string of base hits, culminating in an early game-breaking double for the man whose legend as this lineup’s catalyzer seems to grow every day.
The game almost un-broke to Seattle’s benefit on several occasions in the middle innings; to the surprise of almost nobody, Keuchel’s four excellent innings of three-hit, five-strikeout ball were immediately jeopardized upon returning to the hill in the fifth inning, letting up three straight hits (one of them a 50 mph dribbler, to be fair) to begin the frame and allowing two of them to score before wriggling his way out the jam with a pair of well-timed ground balls.
The next inning, it was Adam Engel’s turn to preserve what was at that point a one-run lead, with Jesse Winker finding himself robbed for the second straight day of what he likely thought was a home run off the bat:
That was as close as the Mariners got. While Ray did in fact settle down admirably after the second inning, he was inexplicably left in the game to start the seventh — and to face Anderson and Luis Robert for the fourth time tonight. The result? That the titular spaghetti will be served in the Anderson household the next time they dine together, after the leadoff man’s first home run of the young season gave Chicago’s 4-3 lead some much-needed breathing room:
Despite being 0-for-3 to that point, Luis Robert certainly wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to hurt Seattle’s feelings for the second straight day, icing the cake with yet another opposite-field rocket that left the yard before you could blink:
After José Ruiz and Kendall Graveman played their roles with aplomb in the seventh and eighth innings, we were treated to what is becoming an uncomfortably familiar sight: Liam Hendriks making games a lot closer than is good for our health.
The RBI single from J.P. Crawford might have been dinky, but its predecessor, a rocket-shot double from Eugenio Suárez, was not. The weak hit is a symptom of a recurring problem, as Steve Stone pointed out: even when a fastball is 98 mph, a pitcher can still get beat on it when they rely on it to the point that a hitter doesn’t even have to think about an off-speed pitch.
After throwing fastballs for 10 of his first 11 pitches of the game, Hendriks switched things up, buckling rookie catcher Cal Raleigh with a pair of filthy knuckle-curveballs before overpowering the light-sticked Adam Frazier for an easy 1-3 ground out to set the fireworks off:
Hendriks’ save secured the win for Keuchel, pushing him across the century mark for his career, the 16th active pitcher to do so. Congrats to Dallas!
First pitch for tomorrow’s getaway day game is at 1:10 PM CST, with 27-year old Jimmy Lambert being handed his fourth career MLB start (and his first chance to prove this author’s preseason “most valuable rookie” pick prescient) against former top prospect Logan Gilbert, who held the Twins to just a solo home run alongside seven strikeouts in five innings last week. It will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Chicago and WMVP AM 1000, with Leigh Allan on game coverage, Kristina Airdo on the Six Pack and Jacki Krestel trying to juggle the Bird App. See you there!