It’s over! It’s over!
No, not the season, unfortunately. Just the eight-game losing streak. But that will have to do for now.
A 4-3 victory over the Twins came thanks to surprise production from a 30-year-old playing his third game with the White Sox and 35th in the majors, and two completely boneheaded defensive plays by Minnesota.
The newbie, Mark Payton, was in the middle of all the offensive action. Who knew you could get offense from someone who is an actual outfielder? And who, apparently, cares about baseball?
The Twins took an early lead on four hits and two runs off of Lucas Giolito in the first. Giolito got his changeup working after that and didn’t allow another hit, but with three walks and six Ks it took 93 pitches to get through five innings, as his unfortunate wont.
The White Sox tied the game in the third on a Josh Harrison single, what should have been a Romy González single that was played into a triple because of the inexplicable decision by right fielder Matt Wallner to try to dive for the uncatchable ball only to land with a thud, and then a single by Payton — his first hit with the Sox and his first big-league RBI.
Payton fueled the next offensive spurt leading off the sixth with a single, advancing on a José Abreu single, and scoring on an Andrew Vaughn sac fly for a 3-2 lead. The Twins tied it in the bottom of the inning on a very pretty safety squeeze by Ryan Jeffers that scored Billy Hamilton, who had pinch-run and stolen second and third, because of course he did.
Far be it from us to give positive coverage to an opponent, but, what the heck, we’re in the dregs of the season and it really was a nice bunt. Just pretend you don’t notice that Aaron Bummer didn’t cover first, because the run would have scored anyway.
It was the winning run, though, where Payton showed it pays to have people who really care about winning on your team. On the 12th pitch of his at-bat leading off the eighth, he hit a pop-up to Nick Gordon at second. It was as routine as could be.
Gordon didn’t have to move. There was almost no wind. At least 99% of Little Leaguers catch that ball. Anyone on the Bad News Bears catches that ball. It was the kind of play on which White Sox stars were apparently told not to bother hustling. But Payton wasn’t around for that stupid and insulting instruction, so he hustled, not just to first but to second, where he was planted when Gordon watched the ball plop out of his mitt. Then Payton scored on an Abreu double.
With the lead, Kendall Graveman and Liam Hendriks (who hadn’t pitched in nine days because the Sox were never in a game late) closed things out for a 4-3 win and the end of the losing streak.
Now it’s on to San Diego, where such gifts are unlikely. The White Sox just better make sure Payton doesn’t miss the plane.