The White Sox forced me to rewrite this introductory section several times, and for what feels like the first time this season, I mean that in a good way! The first eight innings of what ended as a 3-1 victory over the Red Sox — their fifth straight win, with each being saved by Liam Hendriks — were a masterclass in frustration, as the Sox lineup once again failed to generate any offense against an eminently hittable right-handed starter. However, the 18 pitches thrown yesterday by Red Sox closer Matt Barnes caused manager Alex Cora to ride with Hansel Robles for the save, a mistake that ultimately cost them the game after Jake Burger, Adam Engel, and Leury García combined to tie the game. The move doubly backfired when Robles’ blown save brought on Barnes for the tenth inning anyway, where he proceeded to bear the loss after game-winning back-to-back doubles from José Abreu and Luis Robert. The team is back at .500. Slight exhale.
Dylan Cease did an admirable job following up what might have been the best start of his career, shutting down the Red Sox offense for four innings and wiggling his way out of a major jam with just a single run of damage to conclude his day in the fifth inning. His command bore more resemblance to his 2021 self, walking three and throwing 61 of 101 pitches for strikes, the lowest rate since his first start of the season. While he commanded the fastball at the top of the zone well until fatigue began to set in, it missed fewer bats than usual. His slider and curveball picked up the slack, with both of them looking sharp in simultaneity for the first time this season:
Dylan Cease, Dirty 86mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/2d0UwYrDQa— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 7, 2022
Even with today’s three walks, his BB/9 sits at a career-low 3.44, and his ERA now sits at a pristine 2.38 along with 47 strikeouts over six starts and 44 innings. His 101-pitch outing today looked like this:
Alex Cora and the Red Sox attempted to brazenly cheat the White Sox bats today. The road side entered the game believing they were about to face Nick Pivetta, who woke up this morning sporting an ERA starting with a six. However, there was clearly some kind of bait-and-switch, because the pitcher on the mound bore a stunning likeness to Nolan Ryan as he mowed down Sox hitters for six shutout innings, striking out eight with a fastball that seemed to play a solid 10 ticks above its supposed average of 93.2 mph.
Then again, Sox hitters making mediocre right-handers look like Nolan Ryan has been nothing if not familiar over these first five weeks of the season. But while the team has certainly been a victim to some extent of bad BABIP luck, there’s little explanation for the entire lineup managing just three singles on all of these fastballs — two of which were the responsibility of Tim Anderson alone.
All in all, it took Pivetta just 91 pitches to record 18 outs, and those pitches played out like this:
Two plays equaled each other for the highest-pressure moment of the game, with one in each half of the ninth innings checking in at a 4.62 Leverage Index. The first came in Adam Engel’s at bat at the top of the frame in which he doubled the just-walked Jake Burger to third base; the second in the two-out at-bat with the winning run on third base that ultimately ended in a timely Trevor Story popup.
Not counting the singularity of Bobby Dalbec’s lone plate appearance after coming on a defensive substitution, Hansel Robles (4.13 pLI) swooped in at the last moment to save AJ Pollock the ignominy of winning this category and producing a -30% WPA to show for it, which is what would have happened were it not for the rest of the lineup’s timely heroics.
This one wasn’t even close, as Engel’s ninth inning double to move the tying run to first base with no outs increased the White Sox chances of winning by nearly 34%.
Have a day, Adam Engel! The outfielder’s .234 WPA was handily the highest of the game, largely thanks to the aforementioned double. Tip-of-the-cap to Reynaldo López (.165 WPA) and his El Duque-lite impression to keep the game alive in the ninth inning.
Hardest hit: In the second inning, Franchy Cordero hit a 112.4 mph rocket shot in the vicinity of Pesky’s Pole. We’ll hear more about it in a second.
Weakest contact: The easy tapper produced by Xander Bogaerts in his first plate appearance of the afternoon was just 51 mph, lowest of the day.
Luckiest hit: Leury García hit a bloop single to left field in the third inning that had a minuscule .010 expected batting average, the hit being made possible largely by the unusual outfield positioning necessitated by the Green Monster.
Toughest out: Come on down, Franchy! That aforementioned rocket shot found Adam Engel’s glove despite an .830 expected batting average.
Longest hit: It’s a trifecta for Cool Franch! Cordero’s unlucky laser traveled 341 feet, good for the longest batted ball on an offensively challenged afternoon.
Magic Number: 5
Dylan Cease has gone at least five innings with two or fewer runs allowed and eight or more strikeouts in five of his six starts this year, making him the first Sox pitcher ever with five such starts in the first month of the season.
It’s also the number of consecutive games the Sox have won.
It’s also the number of consecutive games saved by Liam Hendriks, bringing him just a day and a save away from reaching heights known only to that Pale Hose luminary, Addison Reed.
A good day for the number five!
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 the White Sox MVP in this ___
This poll is closed
Dylan Cease (5 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 8 SO)
Tim Anderson (2-for-4, HBP)
José Abreu (2-for-5, 2B, R, RBI)
Luis Robert (2-for-5, 2B, RBI)
Who was the Cold Cat this afternoon?
This poll is closed
AJ Pollock (0-for-5, -31% WPA)
Yasmani Grandal (0-for-5, -4% WPA)
Gavin Sheets (0-for-3, -7% WPA)