All was quiet on Jackie Robinson Day.
Well, Jake Burger’s bat was loud. And Luis Robert’s strange reluctance to play defense against the wall blared once again. Sure, Aaron Bummer tooted out a pair of hard-luck doubles to start his night. But overall, an efficient, solid game from the White Sox catapulted them to a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay.
These two very strong teams played a very strong game. In the midst of all this greatness, I’ll be honest, I’m not going to write a great recap. There simply weren’t enough goofy antics to play off of.
So let’s focus in on the key elements of this win.
Offensively, this was a Jake Burger game, who went 2-for-3 with a massive home run and battling RBI single that stood up as the winning tally.
In his first at-bat, Burger jumped on the first pitch from Drew Rasmussen for a double-stack of patties ... BURGER BOMB!
But his more impressive RBI tonight was a single to drive home Leury García with the third Chicago run. Down 0-1 and still facing Rasmussen in the sixth, Burger went the other way, adjusting to a breaking ball and slapping it into right field instead of turning over on it for an tepid ground out.
To hear Burger tell it postgame, his offensive growth has been a matter of learning at the feet of White Sox veterans like José Abreu and Tim Anderson. In fact, after that first strike vs. Rasmussen in the sixth, Burger heard TA mentoring him from the on-deck circle:
“Just slow it down, slow it down.”
On the mound, it was a strong pack of four pitchers, and yes, that includes the bedraggled Bummer. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Dylan Cease is stepping up into the ace the White Sox need him to be in the injury absence of the two fellas ahead of him in the rotation, Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn. No, Cease is not suddenly bringing Maddux efficiency to the mound (91 pitches to get 17 outs), but don’t try to argue that three hits, one earned and two walks against eight Ks, for a season ERA of 1.69 and 0.94 WHIP is not cause for CELEBRATION.
Bookending, Liam Hendriks gave us the save we’ve been salivating over, a quickie 1-2-3, compete with a K, a kick save, and a pop-up. How’s about 40 more of these this season, Liam?
The sammich pitchers were Bummer and Kendall Graveman. Graveman has been MURDER this season and is looking like the setup man you long to have on a World Series club. Sure, he’s not a “future Hall-of-Famer” like that other guy from late last year, but Kendall has been unflappable and untouchable. Bummer swole his ERA to 7.36 with another earned tonight, but was tight (eight balls in 25 pitches) and was done no favors by a double-flub in center field and a ground out-double after that. Those two doubles were his welcome into the game, the first being catchable, second having an xBA of .130. So let’s move to Luis, and the fielding.
I can’t get the footage, and with AppleTV+ I couldn’t pause or rewind (probably just don’t know how, and I don’t have an iPhone, either, Apple, sue me) to grab a screen shot or sequence, but La Pantera’s paw thorn continues to be plays at the wall. Bummer came in to face Ji-Man Choi with Cease’s runner on second base, and served up a long drive to the track in left-center. While the contact had an wBA of .930, a Gold Glove center fielder needs to make a better try at that ball. Robert looked like Eloy on the play, mistiming his jump and completely whiffing at a possible catch.
(Listen, Robert is a marvel, which makes his Eloy awkwardness all the more startling when it happens. He’s our MVP. But the wall isn’t going to bite you, Luis. You want more Gold, trespass on the track.)
All in all, a delightful win against a very tough American League competitor. The White Sox rise to 5-2, getting wins against strong teams and feasting in the first week of the season.
Tomorrow, the White Sox belly back up in a quick turnaround, with a-toque-can’t-tame-my-tresses Michael Kopech hitting the bump against Corey Kluber. Kopech needs to get through five, to keep the pen off of life support and prove that he’s an arm to be counted on. Do like Dylan did, Mikey.
Game time is 1:10 p.m. CT, and Di Billick makes her recap debut for us. Six Pack and/or Bird App will go to my partner on the masthead, Chrystal O’Keefe, one or both, it’s a gametime decision.