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The top and bottom five Chicago White Sox games of 2023

Walking through the most noteworthy battles of the season

On a mission: Luis Robert Jr. had his fingerprints on many of 2023’s best moments.
| Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

It was a brutal season for the White Sox, but that just makes for a more challenging attempt to find five wins out of 61 to celebrate. Let’s start there:

5. White Sox 3, Astros 2 (March 30)

The season opener turned out to be a pitchers’ duel, as starters Framber Valdez and Dylan Cease were on top of their games. Valdez pitched five shutout innings without issuing any walks. Meanwhile, Cease only allowed one run in 6 ⅓ innings, and even that run was a result of Aaron Bummer failing to strand a runner that Cease allowed to reach second base with one out.

In the top of the eighth, the Astros had a 1-0 lead with two outs and nobody on, but Yasmani Grandal launched Chicago’s first home run of the season to tie the game.

Entering the ninth, with the game was tied 1-1, the White Sox offense went back to work: With one out, Tim Anderson walked, and Luis Robert Jr. singled to put ducks on the pond. That set Andrew Vaughn up with an RBI opportunity that he took advantage of, as he launched a two-run double to give the White Sox their first lead of the season. Despite a Yordan Álvarez solo homer in the bottom of the ninth off of temporary closer Reynaldo López, the White Sox got the victory to open the season with a win over the defending World Series champions.

After that, the remainder of the season was promptly canceled, and the White Sox finished in a 15-way tie for the World Series title.

4. White Sox 5, Cubs 3 (August 15)

Given how the season had gone, this was the least hyped I have ever been for the Crosstown Series. However, even I had to smile when Robert did some Robert things in the top of the seventh. With the score tied at three, La Pantera found a pitch to his liking and crushed it 422 feet to left field. Cubs fans were heckling Robert, and Robert held his finger up to his mouth to signal them to be quiet. In a season full of disappointments, our center fielder was a major bright spot, and this was among his most memorable moments of an All-Star season.

3. White Sox 3, Yankees 2 (June 6)

Starting pitchers Lucas Giolito and Clarke Schmidt were locked-in early on, as neither team got particularly close to scoring in the first two innings. White Sox No. 9 hitter and backup catcher Seby Zavala was the one who broke the ice in the top of the third, when he hit what appeared to be an easy fly ball down the right field line. However, the ball snuck over the short Yankee Stadium wall.

Two innings later, the White Sox got more offense from unexpected sources; while still clinging to a 1-0 lead with two outs and nobody on in the top of the fifth, Romy González singled to keep the inning alive for Zavala. This time, there was no doubt about where Zavala’s fly ball would land, as he crushed a 435-foot blast to triple the South Siders’ lead, and those three runs would be enough to secure the victory.

Attending Zavala’s three-homer game in 2021 was one of my favorite memories as a sports watcher and made me a long-term Zavala fan. This game brought me back to a similar level of enthusiasm that I experienced during that magical summer evening two years ago.

2. White Sox 17, Reds 4 (May 7)

Yes, the 2023 White Sox really did score 17 runs in a single game. I was in Cincinnati to witness this game live, and it was quite a unique experience. At first, the game appeared to be going very wrong, and quickly. After the White Sox went down in order in the top of the first, Jonathan India led off the bottom half with a solo homer for the Reds. After a hit-by-pitch and a single, the Reds were threatening to add to their early lead. In fact, Michael Kopech had a runner picked off, but due to highly questionable fielding, the White Sox failed to record an out. At that moment, I thought the Reds would win this game by double digits.

However, Kopech got out of the first inning without allowing any further damage. Then, the White Sox put an 11-run inning together in the top of the second. Yep. That was their first time the White Sox had done this since 2007 (apparently, only terrible White Sox teams have monster innings). And the hits just kept on coming, as nearly all White Sox contact was falling without finding a Cincinnati glove: 11 runs, eight hits, three walks.

The second-most runs the White Sox scored in a game in 2023: 12. This was their biggest offensive game of the season, by a landslide, and their most lopsided victory.

1. White Sox 12, Rays 9 (April 30)

The Rays (23-5) had a 9-5 lead over the White Sox (7-21, losers of 10 in a row entering the game) with one out and nobody on base in the bottom of the ninth inning; at that moment, the White Sox had a 0.76% chance of winning the game. However, the South Siders broke through against Rays reliever Jalen Beeks, and they did not go down quietly. Eloy Jiménez singled, Grandal walked, and Jake Burger doubled to drive in Jiménez.

Representing the potential tying run, Oscar Colás hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Grandal. Although the deficit was only two, Tampa Bay had secured a crucial out, and when Elvis Andrus fell behind 1-2 in the count the White Sox were down to their last bullet. Then, Andrus lined a single to drive in Burger. Lenyn Sosa was next, and like Andrus, he fell behind 1-2, but despite that, he singled to right to put the potential tying run in scoring position.

At that point, Garrett Cleavinger took over for Beeks on the mound, but Cleavinger fared no better. Adam Haseley fell behind, 0-2, before evening the count and lining a Kansas City Special (68.2 mph exit velocity) into center for the tying run. Incredibly, the White Sox had come all the way back, and they were not finished. Like the three batters before him, Andrew Vaughn fell behind in the count, but he did not go away, and he crushed a mistake by Cleavinger over the left field wall for a walk-off homer.

Just 10 minutes before, the season looked over, and suddenly ... OK, turns out it still was. The White Sox were 8-21 and nine games out of first place in the weak AL Central. But, for the first time in nearly two weeks, the White Sox won a baseball game, and this win turned out to be the third least likely comeback throughout Major League Baseball in 2023.

As hard as it is to choose five wins out of 61, it’s nearly impossible to paw through 101 losses to come up with the five worst. However, here’s my take on them:

5. Blue Jays 8, White Sox 0 (April 26)

Coming off of a 7-0 loss on April 25 in Toronto, the White Sox looked slightly less polished with this 8-0 loss on April 26. Many of their at-bats did not feel competitive. Remember when the White Sox crushed left-handed pitchers, even great ones? Well, they faced a decent left-handed pitcher in Yusei Kikuchi, and they did not stand a chance. Meanwhile, Michael Kopech allowed four earned runs in five innings, and Jimmy Lambert allowed three earned runs in 1 ⅔ innings to put the game completely out of reach.

This was loss No. 7 of their 10-game losing streak, and the White Sox fell to 7-18. After seeing how lost they looked from top to bottom the past couple of games, this was the game that officially locked in my belief that the 2023 White Sox just did not have it. On the bright side, the next day, we were blessed with the iconic rant by our old pal, Berto From the West Side.

4. Cubs 4, White Sox 3 (August 16)

Sure, the Cubs were better than the White Sox this year, and the White Sox had nothing to play for by this point in the season. However, the South Siders had no business losing this game. Sometimes, the bats just are not making good contact, and that was the case for the vast majority of the game for the Cubs.

In the top of the eighth, the White Sox loaded the bases with no outs but failed to score. This turned out to be a critical moment in the game. Aaron Bummer inherited a 3-0 lead when he took over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth. The first batter he faced was Nick Madrigal, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter. On an 0-2 pitch, Nicky Two Strikes launched a rare home run to left field, and the North Siders’ deficit was down to two. However, the game still appeared to be within the White Sox’s favor as Bummer kept the deficit at two entering the ninth.

Gregory Santos was one of the few good stories that the White Sox had in 2023, and Pedro Grifol put him out for his second save opportunity in as many days. Santos had shut the Cubs down the previous day during the 5-3 victory, but this time, he did not have it. After a double, a walk, and a home run, the Cubs won the final game of the season series to secure the Crosstown Cup.

3. Rockies 14, White Sox 1 (August 18)

This was the game right after that heartbreaking loss to the Cubs. In the MLB script writing room, the writers seemed to notice White Sox fans’ displeasure and said, “This game will be different. We will not make them suffer this time.” Well, this game was different in that the White Sox did not have a chance, against a terrible team. After the top of the first inning, when the White Sox scored their only run, the Rockies scored 14 unanswered. Four pitchers appeared in the game for the White Sox, and all of them had an ERA of at least 9.00 that day. Elvis Andrus went 3-for-4 with a home run, while the rest of the offense went 1-for-25 with a single.

2. A’s 7, White Sox 6 (July 1)

The A’s were 22-62 entering this game, and they would go on to finish 50-112. Despite owner John Fisher’s best efforts to make Oakland fans miserable, however, the A’s finished 4-3 against the White Sox in 2023. This was one of those victories.

Despite a mediocre day against a poor offense, Dylan Cease (5 ⅓ innings, three earned runs), the White Sox found themselves in a favorable position later on in this game. After scoring three in the top of the eighth, the White Sox had a 6-4 lead. On top of that, Joe Kelly had the A’s on the ropes in the bottom of the eighth, as Oakland had a runner on first with two outs. However, after a double, a balk, and a single, the game was tied at six, and the game went into extra innings.

Despite the free Manfred baserunner, the White Sox failed to score in the top of the 10th against Shintaro Fujinami, who entered the game with a 9.80 ERA over 41 ⅓ innings. Fortunately, the White Sox appeared to be in a good position to extend the game into the 11th after Kendall Graveman retired back-to-back hitters to open the bottom of the 10th. However, a throwing error by Elvis Andrus resulted in the free Manfred runner scoring the walk-off run.

1. Rays 12, White Sox 3 (April 29)

Entering this game, the White Sox had lost nine in a row, and their record was 7-20. All hope looked lost, but against all odds, Lance Lynn, who had gotten off to a terrible start to the season, was shutting down the star-studded Rays. Lynn had a no-hitter through six innings, and entering the seventh, the White Sox had a 3-0 lead.

I was unable to watch this game on TV, but I was checking the score periodically on my phone, and I was aware of what was happening. Finally, I thought, the losing streak is going to finally be over. However, it was not meant to be, and the seventh inning was a completely different story. The Rays were finally making sharp contact against Lynn, and relievers Bummer and Lambert did no better.

I checked the score when it was 4-3 and was in disbelief. I checked again towards the end of the inning, when it was 9-3, and just smiled. As it turned out, the Rays would add one more run, to break into double digits. A 10-run frame, and just like that Tampa Bay was in total control. They would add two more runs in garbage time to extend the losing streak to 10.

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