There are a lot of good things we all could have been doing between 7:05 and 9:40 p.m. CT on Wednesday. For a little while, it seemed as if watching this game might be one of them. Dear reader, dear dear reader, it was not.
The White Sox had a chance to give themselves one of the few silver linings even within reach this season, coming within three outs of sweeping the Cubs at Wrigley Field for the third consecutive year and pushing them back down to four games back in the NL Central and just a hair over .500 on the season. In typical 2023 White Sox fashion, unfortunately, they simply blew it, leaving the field with a 4-3 loss after a three-run walk-off blast from Christopher Morel erased their night of good work.
The Cubs have been swinging some of the hottest bats in the league since the All-Star break, and for the second straight night, it seemed as if Sox pitching was simply going to shut them down, holding them to just three hits through the game’s first seven innings, all singles. Javier Assad acquitted himself well in his fourth turn out of the Cubs rotation, registering his second straight quality start (and third of his career) with three runs (two earned) over six very solid innings, striking out just four but scattering weak contact all over the place.
Assad started even better than that, retiring the first 10 hitters he faced before Andrew Benintendi finally canceled the postgame show with a single in the fourth inning. That was followed by a sharply-hit single into left field by Luis Robert Jr. that Ian Happ bungled badly, allowing him to move into scoring position and Benintendi to third. After that, a wild pitch was all it took to get the Sox on the board.
It looked like things might be opening up for the Sox offense, but that was quickly erased a play later when a baserunning blunder from Robert led to an inning-ending double play on an excellent snag by Cody Bellinger.
Assad’s first run was unearned thanks to Happ’s error, but the other two were most certainly not. It was on him when Andrew Vaughn reached on a walk to lead off the fifth inning, and it was equally on him when he hung a middle-middle cutter to Gavin Sheets that he deposited for his first home run in two months — and a 3-0 lead.
As has often been the case for the White Sox this year, though, they weren’t good for much more than one shot on goal. Sheets’ blast constituted the remainder of the offense for the night, and would it really be a Sox game if they didn’t load the bases with anybody out and get absolutely nothing out of it, as they did in the eighth inning? The only thing that could’ve made it more on-brand was if they had found themselves on the receiving end of a bizarro-world immaculate inning, which is almost what happened when Michael Fulmer entered that sacks-packed, none-out situation and struck out Robert and Yoán Moncada on three pitches each before needing an extra two to punch out Andrew Vaughn.
With only six outs left to go, letting the Cubs escape that situation didn’t feel as bad as it usually might have, but things got cut a little bit closer in the eighth inning, when Nick Madrigal made full use of the baskets, homering off Aaron Bummer on a fly ball whose 94.5 mph exit velocity ranks, in case you’re wondering, 4,230th out of the 4,280 MLB homers hit this season. Baseball! Nico Hoerner threatened to make things even more interesting by drawing a walk to follow it up, but Ian Happ solidified his case as the White Sox MVP tonight by grounding into a double play to end the inning.
On their hit song “Hollywood Baby,” 100 Gecs, the great philosophers of our time, ask us a basic question: “Are you gonna pack that shit up when it all comes tumbling down?”
Yes, Sox fans. Yes, we are.
Gregory Santos was called upon for the second straight day to close things out, and unlike yesterday, when he needed just 16 pitches to record five outs, things entirely blew up in his face. Cody Bellinger led off the inning with a double, Dansby Swanson followed it up with a walk, and the rest is history.
The White Sox are off on Thursday, as they’ll be making the trip up to the mountains for a good old-fashioned incompetence contest (or three) with the Colorado Rockies, one of the few organizations in the league whose disarray can go toe-to-toe with this one. Michael Kopech takes the ball for game one on Friday against Peter Lambert, who seems to have been able to stick in a starting role just a little bit longer than his brother Jimmy. We’ll see you there.