José it Louder for the People in the Back
Life comes at you fast.
Some days, someone else is, uh, hanging on a fence and, and you're being taunted. And other days, YOU get to be the fence-hanger.
Before tonight, the Chicago White Sox had lost a season-high six straight games and eight of their last 10 heading into their final weekend of the regular season vs. the Cubs, following an embarrassing incident from last night involving Willson Contreras, Jimmy Cordero, a batflip, and a plunking.
Other than the plot twist of the White Sox becoming morally ambiguous so late in the season, Change the Game quickly became Change the Channel, as this past week this team did not appear like a team that had clinched a postseason spot just a little more than a week ago.
Frustrations ran high among White Sox fans, with last night's débâcle raising blood pressure everywhere; and even more disconcerting, sparking debate on when it's actually justified to throw at a hitter (spoiler alert: It's never O.K.).
The White Sox don't own bat flips, and players who want to inject a little bit of personality into a game that loses popularity every year shouldn't be punished, regardless of anyone's hurt feelings.
"Get him out next time" is something the White Sox took to heart tonight, because, well, they actually won.
How they won, however, is kind of a long and winding road of spiraling events, and I'm here to point out the cool roadside attractions for you, like Carhenge, the world's largest ball of twine, or a Prada boutique in rural Texas.
Let's break it down!
Dane doesn't do it
White Sox starting pitcher and sinkerballer extraordinaire Dane Dunning did not fare well in his last outing vs. Cleveland, where he went only four innings and gave up four earned runs off of four hits.
He relies heavily on his sinker; before tonight, opponents were hitting .156 on that pitch, all singles. His slider is the wipeout pitch, however; it's rang up 17 strikeouts and has a whiff percentage of 46.6. Making minimal mistakes with that pitch, he's let it hang twice out of the 114 times it's been thrown.
Let's talk about the third and final time he let the slider hang this year.
Tonight, Dunning's first inning appeared to be smooth sailing, but the Cubs jumped on him quickly after that. His command was getting especially shaky in the third inning, falling behind and issuing free passes to Cubs hitters.
And then the bases were loaded for Kris Bryant, who took Dunning deep for a foreboding grand slam to put the Cubs up early, 5-2.
Dunning’s splits with runners at first and second are not great: 54.00 ERA, eight hits, eight earned runs. His splits with the bases loaded could be considered worse: Before tonight, Dunning had an 18.00 ERA with the bases loaded, and his future success in the major leagues will certainly rely on working out of these jams.
In his final appearance of 2020, Dunning pitched three innings and gave up five runs (four earned) off of three hits, three walks, and two strikeouts.
The Sox LOVE their homers. They love homers so much, they are 30-16 when hitting at least one homer, and 5-8 when homerless.
In the second inning, James McCann certainly set the table for tonight with this fork-and-knife placement, homering to center on a full count, for his seventh blast of the year, tying the score, 1-1.
Later on in the sixth, Yoán Moncada brought out the dessert plates for his sixth home run of the season, on a full count from Jason Adam.
We'll go back to how the go-ahead runs were scored in a little bit, but perhaps this was the true pivotal moment of the offense's revival, as Moncada seemed to be able to hit nothing more than some quixotic, leggy triples as of late.
YoYo's home run put the White Sox up, 9-5, which is where the score would stand.
José it right
José Abreu continues to make his candidacy for the American League MVP award every day, and a win would certainly be an impressive feat; the last White Sox to win MVP was Frank Thomas in 1993 and 1994. Yes, it's been that long!
With the absence of notorious Cub Killer Eloy Jiménez from the lineup, Abreu is doing MVP things, including hitting .438/.500/1.563 (7-for-16) with six home runs, nine RBIs and six runs in four games vs. the Cubs in 2020, excluding tonight's performance.
In case you missed it, here's the RBI double that put the White Sox ahead in the fourth inning, and perhaps flipped the script for the rest of the game:
Abreu now has 60 RBIs in 59 games. His wRC+ is at 169, sixth in all of baseball. He's also having the best defensive year of his career, with a DRS of +5.
Luis Robert: Don't call it a comeback
Luis Robert showed shades of his former self tonight; the rookie center fielder, who was in an 0-for-28 slump two nights ago, now has a two-game hit streak. He was also able to score twice, steal a base, and draw a walk—incredibly important as his walk rate is at a below-average 8.7%.
Garrett Crochet may be the most fun pitcher to watch in baseball
99.9? Is that it?
Crochet threw absolute gas tonight out of the bullpen, with only eight pitches of his 23 thrown dipping below 100 mph. With a diverse portfolio of pitches, such as the four-seam fastball, the four-seam fastball, and the four-seam fastball, Crochet’s fireballing intimidates hitters with the slap of the ball in McCann’s glove, clearly audible stories above, from the Ivory Tower that is the Sox Park press box.
Well, maybe that was a slight misrepresentation of Crochet's pitch selection, as tonight he once threw a 86 mph slider that was chased by Kyle Schwarber, and also a 92 mph changeup that was thrown out of the zone.
Wrapping it all up and looking ahead
Tonight, the White Sox ended a season-high six game losing streak, and it certainly feels like resurfacing after being underwater. While it's easy to be frustrated by consecutive losses, it's important to remember that this White Sox team is put together well, one of the best seen in years. The club is still ranked second offensively in all of baseball by FanGraphs WAR, and pitching-wise they're 10th.
A breath of fresh air tonight included an impressive offensive showing, including RBIs from Abreu and Nomar Mazara, alongside reassuring dingers from McCann and Moncada to show that this team can still mash left-handed pitching. The White Sox end the 2020 regular season undefeated against lefties, becoming the first team in MLB history to go unbeaten by a left-handed starter.
Dunning did not have the stuff tonight, but the young bullpen arms rose to the occasion: Matt Foster and Crochet looked fantastic. The triumphant return of Aaron Bummer shows that his arm was sorely missed, and Evan Marshall and Alex Colomé kept the Cubs from nipping at White Sox ankles further.
In the last game (!!) of the regular season tomorrow, the Cubs send Adbert Azolay (0-1, 3.31) out to face an American League team for the first time ever. Reynaldo López (1-2, 4.68) makes his eighth and final start of the 2020 season for the Good Guys.