This game was close, all the way until it wasn’t. After a series of defensive miscues led to an exchange of leads in the middle innings — first, a botched double-play ball courtesy of Michael Massey (did you know he went to Brother Rice?) that led to a 2-1 Sox lead, then a Yoán Moncada throwing error that set the table for the Royals to tie the game — a slow trickle of Kansas City Royals offense opened into a full-on flood. Four runs in the eighth inning capped off a 15-hit night for the Missourians, who left the evening with an 8-3 win over the 56-55 White Sox.
The Horse Man did the same thing the Horse Man has done all season: Grit and grind his way through six solid innings, pitching to contact and working out of jams left and right to come away with his eighth consecutive quality start, and his 13th and 15th attempts with the White Sox. Only Framber Valdez (19 quality starts in 21 tries!) has a higher rate of quality starts around the majors.
Even more in want of swing-and-miss stuff than usual — he drew just eight of them out of 44 total offerings — Cueto reached into his deep bag of tricks almost perfectly evenly, throwing four different pitches (four-seamer, changeup, sinker, cutter) between 20 and 24 times. It might not have done quite as well against the Yankees, but the uncertainly was adequate enough to keep the Royals from running away with the game in the early going, despite numerous opportunities.
Cueto’s full 96-pitch outing looked like this:
Kris Bubic fell just an out short of his third consecutive quality start against the White Sox dating back to last season, but he did succeed in holding them to three runs or fewer for the eighth time in eight starts, dating to his MLB debut against the Pale Hose in August 2020.
Bubic was clearly feeling the summer heat and brought his hottest stuff today, averaging nearly a full mile-and-a-half per hour higher than his season average on his four-seamer and relying on it 63% of the time. The Sox were able to put the bat on the ball for seven hits, but six strikeouts against the typically contact-oriented Bubic is not a result that’s conducive to an offensive outburst — or a Sox victory.
Bubic’s 99-pitch outing looked like this:
The reasons for Gavin Sheets’ presence in the lineup against a left-handed starter remain unclear, so naturally, he found himself at the plate against said lefthander in the highest-leverage moment of the game: The sixth-inning would-be double play that temporarily turned the tide of things for the White Sox had a game-high LI of 4.21.
It wound up being yet another night to forget for Sheets, who failed to reach base tonight despite a 2.24 pLI that was easily the highest of the game.
Although it wound up for naught, the Sheets double-play-that-wasn’t was the single biggest shift in win probability on the night, adding .240 WPA to Chicago’s chances tonight.
Along with good timing (apparently), two hits and a walk were enough for Yasmani Grandal’s .140 WPA to lead the day on both sides.
Hardest hit: At 111.6 mph, José Abreu’s sixth-inning line drive out was the hardest-hit ball of the game.
Weakest contact: Not counting a Michael Massey sacrifice bunt, Andrew Vaughn’s 44.6 mph chopper was the slowest-hit batted ball of the day.
Luckiest hit: Luis Robert’s fifth-inning double down the right field line registered just a .190 xBA, though the fact that it sliced into the corner and was never in doubt isn’t accounted for in Statcast’s version of “luck.”
Toughest out: Bobby Witt Jr. absolutely destroyed a baseball to dead center field, but despite a .920 xBA, it was hit to the one part of the park where there was a chance of it finding Luis Robert’s glove.
Longest hit: The Witt hit (that was actually a fly out) doubled as the deepest batted ball of the day, checking in at 413 feet.
Magic Number: 3
Three is clearly some kind of magic number, because the White Sox simply cannot break the barrier to three games over .500, given a million opportunities to try.
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 tonight?
This poll is closed
Johnny Cueto (6 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 ER, BB, 4 SO)
José Abreu (2-for-4)
Yasmani Grandal (2-for-3, BB)
Who was the White Sox cold cat tonight?
This poll is closed
Gavin Sheets (0-for-4, RBI)
Eloy Jiménez (0-for-4)
Jimmy Lambert (2/3 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, SO)