Throughout the 2023 season, no White Sox hitter has been as prodigious as Jake Burger, and with his slugging has shone some the rare sunshine of a player who never took for granted he’d get to the bigs.
On Sunday, Burger provided a blast that just might rescue the White Sox season.
With the sacks packed, with one ball and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Burger sent a low curve from Alex Lange that ate too much of the heart of the plate and sent a screaming meemie out just over the wall in left-center.
The White Sox kept the heat on throughout the ninth, with a pinch-hit single from Andrew Benintendi starting things off, and after a pinch-hit punch out from Gavin Sheets, walks to pinch-hitter Yoán Moncada and Tim Anderson placed all the toppings on the bun for Burger.
The 2-2 game into the ninth was made possible most substantially by another stellar start from Michael Kopech. This time out, it wasn’t blazing speed that topped the grade (although a mid-90s average will do the trick, thanks) but a slider command we’ve rarely seen from him in 2023. Kopech managed efficiency that often has eluded him even in the best of games, needing just 92 pitches to punch the clock for seven innings today; yup, the kid coulda tossed more, especially when Inning 7 was just a nine-pitch affair. Sure, there is some Detroit flailing to provide Kopech an assist, just as the anemic Royals and Guardians did in previous Mikey starts, but Kopech has turned a major corner in May-June 2023. If this is sustainable, we’ve tripped into another ace.
Detroit led early on a fourth-inning Spencer Torkelson homer off of Kopech that, cap-tip, was a dandy piece of hitting on a waste-chase pitch 0-2:
Chicago chopped that lead in half in the bottom frame, thanks for the RBI single Eloy! And Yasmani Grandal knotted things, 2-2, with his own RBI single in the sixth.
Finally, one possible run was sidestepped on yet another stellar catch (we’re at ~0.75 or 1.00 per game, yeah?) from Luis Robert Jr. in center field. First, take a look:
OK, so, runner on second, 1-2, two outs, Javy Báez facing King Joe Kelly. Luis makes the catch look easy, but that’s because he’s Luis Robert, with stellar sprint speed, and now with improved mechanics approaching the fence.
But let’s study favorite punching bag Báez as well. He makes killer contact ... and then languidly lopes out of the box. For a guy who has hops and hustle (he swiped second and third in successive attempts in his previous plate appearance), there he is for this at-bat, without a care in the world. This was no can of corn; in fact against, say, half of MLB center fielders (including our own Clint Frazier and Romy González, sorry chums) this ball is going to be hard to get and could easy fall as error or clean double. And this isn’t the ninth inning at home in Detroit, where Javy’s run means nothing in a walk-off, so just get to first base bro ...
Bad baseball. Couldn’t be (continuously) perpetrated by a more appropriate guy. El Mago, indeed.
The White Sox, just as happened a couple of weeks ago, see their sweep momentum killed by an off-day on Monday, before a stretch that will put some hair on the chest: at the Yankees, hosting Marlins, back on the road to Chavez Ravine and Seattle, back home for Texas ... there’s not a true pause for air until the last day of the month, at Oakland, and at Oakland who in hell knows what sewage will back up and stain the sanitary Sox.
Enjoy these three, gonna have to strap it down for June from here.