Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. The long national nightmare is over: For the first time in more than 10 days, the Chicago White Sox not only played a baseball game, but won a baseball game. It wasn’t nearly as convincing as the final score might suggest, but as we all should know well by now, a win is a win is a win is a win. Yeesh. On to the next, right?
The stuff from Dylan Cease today was as good as one can reasonably expect with ice still on the lake, putting us on Call Your Sons, Call Your Daughters Watch by retiring the first 15 batters he faced and, after a no-no was out of the question, striking his way out of trouble to complete the sixth inning — the first time a White Sox starter has done so this season. Cease induced 21 swinging strikes, his highest total of the season and tied for the third-highest of his career. Thirteen of those whiffs were on fastballs, one short of the most he’s ever had in a game. In spite of the cold, the fastball’s velocity was up a tick from his last start in Cleveland and sat just short of his overall average from last year, a promising sign as the weather will only get warmer — and the arms more live — from here. His 33% CSW on the whole was solidly above average, and four starts in, Cease continues to do an admirable job of shouldering the brunt of the load imposed by Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito’s unavailability.
The numbers for Cease’s 99-pitch outing looked like this:
Everything about Zack Greinke and his pitching looks a lot different than the last time he was in a Kansas City uniform — 2010, for those who weren’t around to see his journey from prospect to bust to Cy Young winner — but it was still plenty effective, limiting the Sox to five hits and three earned runs in six innings of work. He didn’t throw a single fastball at 90 mph, but that pitch had its most effective day of the year, picking up six whiffs and another nine called strikes for a gaudy 43% CSW. The four strikeouts he picked up doubled his season total entering the game, but while his weird arsenal in which almost everything is the same speed was good enough to keep the Royals in the game, it couldn’t miss enough bats to stop the Sox from bringing their baserunners in to score for the first time in seemingly eons.
Greinke’s 82-pitch outing looked like this:
Whit Merrifield’s bases-loaded double against Bennett Sousa that tied the game in the seventh inning happened with the game’s leverage index at its peak of 5.14.
Entering the game with two on and one out and the instantly loading the bases with a one-run lead, Sousa’s chonky 3.97 pLI was easily the highest of any player today.
For this author, these sections this year have almost entirely been comprised of embedding videos of home runs from the other team, so it’s just lovely to be able to do it for one of ours today. Come on down Andrew Vaughn and your big ol’ .355 WPA ding-dong johnson!
Put said ding-dong johnson on top of a third inning RBI double, and you’ve got a .43 WPA for Mr. Vaughn that would be the tops in just about any baseball game.
Hardest hit: Jake Burger came a whole two-tenths of a mile per hour away from taking this crown for the second consecutive day, getting just barely beat out by Yasmani Grandal’s 106.5 mph single against Greinke.
Weakest contact: Not counting Reese McGuire’s near-bunt hit at just over 50 mph, the softest true contact of the day came from Carlos Santana on a 58.3 mph ground out in the eighth inning.
Luckiest hit: The caption on this video is “Andrew Benintendi belts one to left to score Nicky Lopez.” The only problem? Not only was the ball not belted, its .010 xBA tells us it would have been an out in pretty much any circumstance where the left fielder isn’t actually a first baseman.
Toughest out: The only out recorded today by José Ruiz was a harrowing one, letting Edward Olivares drive one 357 feet to left field for a .760 xBA shot that ultimately found a backpedaling Andrew Vaughn’s glove.
Longest hit: Jake Burger’s near-home run last night? 403 feet.
Jake Burger’s right-center field home run today? 403 feet.
Magic Number: 10
Not only did the Sox win for the first time in 10 days, they also played error-free baseball for the first time in 10 games. It starts with one!
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 your White Sox MVP in today’s win?
This poll is closed
Dylan Cease (6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO)
Andrew Vaughn (2-for-4, 2B, HR, R, 4 RBI)
Jake Burger (3-for-4, HR)
Who was your Cold Cat in today’s win?
This poll is closed
José Ruiz (1/3 IP, H, BB, HPB, ER)
José Abreu (0-for-4, 2 SO, 3 LOB)
Adam Engel (0-for-4, 2 SO, LOB)