Sunshine was streaking all over the place, in theory, as the White Sox returned home after a four-game split against the Houston Trashcanners. The rotation was surprisingly solid and led by an inside-track Cy Young candidate, all were still healthy, rookie skipper Pedro Grifol held his own against the toothpick sagacity of Dusty Baker, and the offense packed wallop where it might be leaking efficiency — in fact leading all of baseball with 18 extra-base hits.
Now, literally, there was no sunshine at today’s White Sox home opener. It’s Chicago, it’s early April, are you kidding with this sunshine? But the White Sox ended up dodging raindrops better than gopher balls, seeing momentum murdered, the corpse rendered unidentifiable, in a 12-3 debauch at the hands of the San Francisco Giants.
This loss was lowlighted by an utter meltdown of an effort by Michael Kopech, who broke out of the gate hitting 97 mph with his four-seam and sprinkling in enough sliders and at least one buckling change to set things straight with SF’s AAAA offense.
But not four innings later, the Giants had mashed not three, not four, but five home runs all told against Kopech, who rapidly dissolved himself to a center-cut BP pitcher, one who gesticulated in self-flagellation with each passing pitch. Grifol and pitching coach Ethan Katz did their best Tony La Russa impressions by letting their fragile No. 5 hang out for seven earned before kiddie corpsing him out of the game.
Things had started so well against our traditional Opening Day rivals, as Kopech dropped a change to buckle Gigantes leadoff man LaMonte Wade Jr., careening from soft dagger to blister heat (97 mph) in a tidy, 11-pitch first frame.
However, the second inning was different, as a 96.8 mph four-seam was delivered with white gloves to Joc Pederson and rejected into the right-center seats for a souvenir. And as our Tommy Barbee warned in our pregame podcast, a meltdown ensued, with a five-pitch walk to Mike Yastrzemski, none in the zone. Another two hits (on dripping-juicy fastballs) and free pass later, two more runs passed through, and it was 3-0, early.
In the third, San Fran almost dented the scoreboard once more, save for Luis Robert Jr. pulling back the first homer of his career in center field, which could easily have sneezed the score to 5-0.
The White Sox would put up five hits on the day, those safeties coming sparse early. Was it magic and sorcery from soft-tosser Anthony DeSclafani, who whiffed four of the first nine batters he saw? It took until the fourth for the White Sox to wedge two runners onto the sacks, at first and third after two one-out singles by Andrew Benintendi and Eloy Jiménez. With just who you want up in the situation, white-hot international pop star Yoán Moncada, the clouds struck, as YoYo dribbled a 4-6-3 double-play grounder to extinguish the threat.
I’d love to keep writing such probing questions about the bats, but when your starter coughs up seven on four homers, we really gonna mincemeat the offense?
Yes, that phrasing was foreshadowing, for in the fifth Michael Conforto led off by turning on a fastball up like it was a COVID vaccine to break open the floodgates. Boom, Thario Estrada. BOOM, the Yaz in the other uni. BOOM-BOOM David Villar. That’s four solo shots in five batters, and ended, mercifully, Kopech’s day, as a storm of boos replaced the rain.
It doesn’t seem like Kopech has started enough games in his career for today to be the third time he has allowed four HRs in a game, but he disabused himself of any future #SoxMath consfusion by allowing five all told. I don’t feel confident writing it, but that is a Kopech career first?
The final line for a guy the White Sox are wing-and-a-prayering will give them 180 innings (160? 150? 125?): 4 2⁄3 innings (nope, no quality start!), eight hits (three stayed in the ballpark) seven earned, five Ks, three walks, and, just, utter frustration and fruitlessness.
The game did get slightly tighter, with Andrew Vaughn doubling in a run, Robert clocking a homer, and ... c’mon really, we gonna get into offensive details, now? Time’s running short, got a postgame podcast to host.
José Ruiz came on for the ninth with the score 7-3, and the game theoretically in reach. But two walks and a single later, Villar added a second shot of the day, this one a grand slam. Just because four earned in a now-runaway game wasn’t enough, the former catcher-turned-presumed-pitcher caught enough of the plate against Bryce Johnson to place one more tick on the board for the Giants, 12-3.
The seven San Fran homers tied a Sox Park record. So we made history today!
Utility infielder Hanser Alberto ... yes, of the K.C. Royals connection, and the 10 relief appearances for the Dodgers last year Albertos ... was summoned to extinguish the SF offense. And, indeed he did what Kopech and Ruiz could not.
The White Sox fatuously contend 34,784 made it to and/or inside the park for the opener, but the guess here is they might want to revise that down, given the outcome.
Best news of the day, this retchfest of a game still counts just one in the standings, as the White Sox fall to 2-3, lick their wounds through an off-day Tuesday, and trot out Dylan Cease to the mound on Wednesday.
The sun will rise once more.