Somewhere the ghost of Wee Willie Keeler is smiling, as his most famous advice “hit ’em where they ain’t” was followed to a T by the White Sox on Thursday — enough so to pile up nine runs in Anaheim, almost all on seeing-eye singles.
This was a pretty strange game, as a lot of “where they ain’t” and a fair amount of good fortune paid off.
The Sox scored a run in the first without hitting the ball harder than the average schoolkid, Tim Anderson got his first hit since June 16 on a 72 mph popup that fell in short center, followed by a 65 mph Luis Robert Jr. dribbler through the empty right side and a wild pitch.
The Angels, refusing to engage in small-ball, ran up a 4-1 lead by the second on three home-run shots off Lance Lynn. Lynn was handling usual nemeses Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani easily — three strikeouts and a pop-up the first two times they were up — but getting pretty much no one else out.
Then came the third, Patrick Sandoval struggling mightily to pitch the ball to the same time zone as where he wanted it to go. Zach Remillard (who else?) seeing-eye singled, Anderson followed with a solid 102.4 mph through the hole, and it was off to the races.
Well, because it would take a thousand words to describe the inning, let’s go to a picture instead.
Voilá! Eleven batters later, the Sox were up, 7-4. When the Angels scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the third, we faced the prospect of a game that would end up 21-15.
But then a funny thing happened. Both pitchers suddenly remembered how to pitch. Lynn still struggled some, allowing two base runners in both the fourth and fifth (including a double by Trout) but making big pitches to get out of the jams.
Sandoval, though, became Sandy Koufax. He struck out five of the next six batters, the exception being a 401-foot shot by Andrew Vaughn that Trout pulled back from over the wall.
Relievers did reliever things successfully, including José Soriano striking out six Sox in two innings and Gregory Santos tossing a 1-2-3, though Joe Kelly decided letting two on would make things more exciting.
So, two different ballgames, right?
No. Three different ballgames.
In the ninth, the White Sox went back to a small-ball assault, albeit with a sort of first extra base hit. Robert was hit by a pitch — then, as base stealers are wont to do when plunked, stole second. Then third. Vaughn hit a blooper to short center that would have been a legitimate single, but for which Trout made a diving try to keep Robert from scoring, and Vaughn got a triple out of it. (Yes, Andrew Vaughn can hit triples!) That’s how. Kind of fun to watch Vaughn hustle to third, too. In keeping with the spirit of the game, Vaughn then scored on a wild pitch — 9-5 Sox, and that was a good thing, too.
Kendall Graveman got two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but then came Trout and Ohtani — single, 438-foot, 111.3 mph missile. Still, that only made it 9-7, and a K of Brandon Drury ended it all.
Lest we mislead you, the Sox did hit some balls hard. It’s just that other than the second Anderson single, all the hard-hit balls were outs, a 107 mph opposite field one-hopper grabbed by Mike Moustakas being the top shot.
The White Sox ended up with nine hits, eight of them singles and ninth that should have been. They struck out 16 times, as did the Angels, but managed to draw five walks and a HBP. Lynn managed to keep his ERA at a mere 6.47 by giving up five runs in six innings.
And Remillard went 2-for-4 and is now hitting .400. Take that, Luis Arráez.
The win keeps the Sox undefeated in the second half of the season — OK, just 2-0, but undefeated — heading to a series at the Coliseum, where visitors get to be the lions this year. They’re back to a mere 11 worse than .500 at 36-47, on pace for 70 wins — which may well be enough to win the pitiful AAAL Central.
A thrilla in Anaheim, with the White Sox winning. Who was the MVP?
This poll is closed
Zach Remillard: 2-for-4, R, 2 RBI, BB, 2 K, 17.5% WPA
Luis Robert Jr.: 1-for-3, 2 R, BB, 2 SB, 14.7% WPA
Eloy Jiménez: 1-for-4, R, 2 RBI, BB, K, 11.4% WPA
Yasmani Grandal: 1-for-4, R, RBI, BB, 2 K, 10.4% WPA
Wee Willie Keeler: 0% WPA
Into any victory, some rain must fall; who was the Cold Cat?
This poll is closed
Lance Lynn: 6 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 3 HR, WP, WIN, -13.6% WPA
Jake Burger: 0-for-5, 3 K, -13.5% WPA
Andrew Vaughn: 1-for-5, R, RBI, 3B, 2 K, -8.2% WPA
Seby Zavala: 0-for-2, BB, HBP, K, -1.6% WPA