Johnny Cueto is back; long live Johnny Cueto! The White Sox won their second consecutive game over the Royals on Thursday afternoon on the back of 5 1⁄3 strong innings from El Jucho and homers from Andrew Vaughn and AJ Pollock. It’s their third consecutive home game with multiple home runs, after yesterday marked the first time they even did it twice in a row. The Sox are now back to one game below .500 at 65-66, and if the Orioles hang on to the early lead they’ve opened up over the Cleveland Guardians, they’ll be at four games back of first place, and three back of the streaking Twins.
Let’s check out the numbers from this YouTube special:
If we had been told that 2022 would see the most successful one-year free agent signing of the Rick Hahn era, we probably would have imagined a season different than this one, right?
With another solid outing this afternoon, Johnny Cueto should once again pass James McCann and Yasmani Grandal for a Hahn free agent’s best first year with the team. Cueto couldn’t quite muster the beginning of another quality start streak after having his 10-game run snapped by the Diamondbacks last Friday, but his 5 1⁄3 innings of one-run ball were enough to pick up the win on an afternoon in which the offense decided to actually help him out a bit. Cueto’s smorgasbord of pitches moving in all different directions helped him get out of trouble in the third and fifth innings, when he escaped multiple-runners-in-scoring-position jams with just the one run charged to his name, and his multitude of windups and deliveries prevented Kansas City’s young lineup from getting very comfortable.
Here’s the book on Cueto’s 94 pitches:
For a moment, it looked like Daniel Mengden was going to be the latest right-handed pitcher of mid- to high-fours ERA caliber to shut down the White Sox offense, making it through two innings without much trouble outside of a smoked, line-drive single from Andrew Vaughn. However, the second time through the order was far less kind to the 29-year-old whose MLB experience prior to 2022 came solely with the Oakland Athletics. His pairing of a low-90s fastball with an unremarkable cutter and low-70s rainbow curveball didn’t fool anyone the second time they saw it: Mengden’s day was ended after singles from Leury García and Elvis Andrus were followed by Andrew Vaughn’s 15th longball, José Abreu’s 30th double, and Gavin Sheets’ 21st walk.
Mengden’s 54 pitches looked like this:
Kansas City’s best chance at a win today came just after Cueto departed, sending Nicky Lopez to the plate with the bases loaded, two outs, and the Sox hanging on to a 3-1 lead. With the leverage index (LI) at a game-high 4.21, Lopez grounded out to first base.
Ryan O’Hearn’s pinch-hit appearance late in the game with runners in scoring position left him with a game-high 2.89 pLI, narrowly trailed by the 2.79 pLI incurred by Reynaldo López’s two-thirds of an inning pitched.
Andrew Vaughn’s moonshot to left field gave the Sox an even .200 WPA, the biggest swing in win probability we saw today.
Unsurprisingly, Vaughn’s .210 cumulative WPA was also the highest of the game.
Hardest hit: Romy González managed to nip Vaughn by a half a tick with his 105.5 mph fly out to dead center field in the fourth inning.
Weakest contact: Elvis Andrus’ 54 mph ground out to lead off the game remained the day’s weakest contact throughout.
Luckiest hit: The eighth-inning double that Yasmani Grandal hooked into the right field corner came with just a .170 xBA.
Toughest out: Tough scene, Romy — the ball you’ll hear from again in a moment was brutally converted into an out despite a sky-high .910 xBA.
Longest hit: That González fly out was simply hit to the wrong part of the park, as it paced all batted balls today at 397 feet.
Magic Number: 15
It has been 15 seasons since the Sox played better than two games over .500 in the month of September. In order to finish above .500, they’ll likely have to be a little bit better than the 2007 team that last managed the feat.
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 this afternoon?
This poll is closed
Andrew Vaughn (2-for-5, HR, 2 RBI)
AJ Pollock (2-for-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI)
Elvis Andrus (2-for-4, BB, R, RBI)
Johnny Cueto (5 1⁄3 IP, 6 H, ER, 5 SO)
Who was the White Sox cold cat today?
This poll is closed
Eloy Jiménez (0-for-3, Left Game w/ Leg Soreness)
The Defense (3 Errors)
Luis Robert Isn’t On The IL Despite Not Swinging A Bat For 10 Days. What’s Up With That?