Watch me crank it, watch me roll: Tim Anderson has a three-hit night including a two-run blast in the ninth inning for added theatrics, (Clinton Cole/South Side Hit Pen)
In something that’s highly relatable as someone who didn’t grow up with siblings, on Wednesday night Jason Benetti and Steve Stone made up a game called “Will it Roll?” which features watching baseballs roll errantly off the netting at Progressive Field. This game offered a healthy distraction in-between innings to the mind-numbing ennui that usually accompanies watching Chicago play a team like Cleveland — especially when the White Sox lose, as they did tonight, 8-6.
The game itself featured plenty of strange plays, including a bizarre fielder’s choice, and some baserunning gaffes, resulting in rundowns. Benetti described tonight’s events as “bordering on the occult.” In a start that echoed much like his last, Iván Nova only lasted 4 ⅓ innings. Neither Nova nor Cleveland starter Justin Bieber really had their stuff early tonight; we saw a what could have been the start of a pitcher’s duel, but not necessarily the fun kind.
Finally, any hopes for a storybook ninth-inning rally were otherwise lambasted by a stellar catch, courtesy of Oscar Mercado.
In the bottom of the first, leadoff menace Francisco Lindor singled; Mercado then smacked a double, pushing the speedy Lindor to third. Up walked notorious bat-licker Yasiel Puig; he grounded into a fielder’s choice, but Mercado was caught in a rundown (the first of a few in this game) by Tim Anderson, scoring Lindor. 1-0, Cleveland. Yeah, already.
The Sox would strike in the second inning, starting with the leadoff walk to James McCann. Eloy Jiménez then destroyed a knuckle-curve from Bieber with some solid contact, pushing McCann to third. Yolmer Sánchez kept the party going with a sac fly, scoring McCann and pushing Jiménez to third. Yolmer’s 35th RBI of the year knotted the game, 1-1.
However, the tie wasn’t enough for Zack Collins, who has shown up this Cleveland series, hopefully earning him more playing time! (Pretty please?) Collins singled, and Eloy ran home. The Good Guys led (wow, it feels great to say that), 2-1.
Cleveland’s half of the second began with a leadoff double from Franmil Reyes, who apparently hit the ball so hard, Leury García seemed to lose sight of it. Nova’s control turned a little slippery and Jake Bauers walked, and when the speedy Reyes saw an opportunity to steal third, he did. Roberto Perez grounded into a DP, which got Nova some outs but unfortunately tied the game, as Reyes scored.
Ugh. Small ball. What’s that, anyway?
The third inning brought more woes for Nova, who was picked apart by this Cleveland lineup. Mercado, who will prove to be a major pain in the ass later, singled; a line drive double to center by Carlos Santana followed that, scoring Wheels Mercado and making it 3-2, Cleveland.
We finally saw Not-Justin’s first 1-2-3 inning in the fourth, while Nova’s fourth would not go nearly as well. Perez singled, and it’s deflected by García. Yu Cheng then singled to left, Perez scooting on over to second. Mercado hit one to the gap between a scrambling García and Daniel Palka, and Perez scored. At this point, Mercado’s 3-for-3, and I’m sick of him already.
Yeah, it’s now 4-2, Cleveland, or something.
Some weird stuff happened in the fifth, which I guess is a good time for weird stuff to happen. Thematically, it would set us up for the rest of the story, right? We see some weird shit, go to a denouement, then we’re given the conclusion? Yeah, I took maybe one film class.
Zack Collins walked, and then on a grounder, García beat the throw to first to avoid the double play. Tim Anderson doubled to the opposite field, specifically to Puig. Nick Capra gave García the red light, because there’s no way in hell you run home on Puig.
José Abreu then reached on a weeeeird fielder’s choice, 5-2-5-1. Aaaand then Leury’s caught in a rundown, but at least Timmy’s on third! But Yoán Moncada strikes out. WEIRD.
We’re given a little break from the weird in the bottom of the fifth; Puig singles on a shaaaarp line drive to left field. And then Reyes decides to make things a little less weird, and a little less fun, too.
It’s 6-2, Cleveland. Meh.
Nothing happens for a few innings, which is great, but I’d like to mention that Bieber eventually found his stuff and was cruising.
Josh Osich, however, not so much. *That part* of the Cleveland lineup found him, and quickly. A walk was issued to Reyes; then 2019 White Sox killer Jordan Luplow singled on a grounder to left field, moving Reyes to third. And that’s when Chang did something very Luplow-like and also singled to left field, scoring two. Chang also did something very Leury García-like, and got caught in a rundown.
At 8-2, Cleveland, this game is still in reach, right? RIGHT?!
In the top of the 8th, Tim Anderson singled. He was having a great night, by the way (and it may even get better, foreshadowing!)
Next, in a great, patient at-bat, Abreu hit his 29th homer of the season off of Nick Goody, who had just replaced Shane Bieber (and thank GOD or whomever, by the way). José adjusted a bit and pulled an inside pitch and BOOM, he launched it the heck outta here. And just like that, the lead is cut significantly, to 8-4, Cleveland.
Oh, but we ain’t done yet. Fast forward to the top of the ninth, where we see Danny Mendick’s first major league at-bat! And it ended as quickly as it started, as he struck out swinging.
As anticlimactic as that was, García hit a single next (a 2-for-5 night!). And that’s when Anderson finds a Brad Hand high fastball and … and … and ….
That, my friends, is a three-hit night for Mr. Stick Talk himself. And his 15th homer. And we’ve got ourselves a ballgame, 8-6 Cleveland, with the Pale Hose knocking.
And here come in the theatrics.
You can say Brad nearly … handed … us the game. (Full joke credit goes to LWilz on this one.) Abreu kept the momentum going with a line drive single; Moncada then walked. And by now, my dog’s pissed at me for paying too much attention to this game so she starts putting her head on my computer’s keyboard, as James McCann singled, loading the bases!
Are you screaming yet? You will be. Here comes dat Eloy!
Cleveland found that elusive third out in the ninth inning, by getting pinch-hitter Ryan Goins to strike out swinging.
Like I mentioned earlier, Nova’s start was … not great, and he looked very similar to his Atlanta outing, where he barely even made it four innings before being pulled. Nova gave up 11 hits; he’s prone to give up hits, however, as he is second in the AL in this statistic. The Cleveland lineup made solid contact with his fastball-cutter-change combo, and they made him pay dearly. Nova gave up six runs, all earned, walking two and striking out one, falling to 9-12 on the season.
Justin … err … I mean, Shane Bieber did not really have the cooking gas either to begin with, but later found his stuff, enough to go seven innings, giving up six hits and two earned. He walked two, but struck out nine, improving to 13-7.
Are you still watching that Mercado catch video? Don’t worry. I kind of am, too. Feel better about yourself soon, and bounce back for tomorrow’s matchup, which features the plucky Reynaldo López (8-12, 5.41) against Zach Plesac (7-5, 3.61).
Turn on incognito mode on your Google Chrome at work and find tomorrow’s 12:10 CST game on NBC Sports Chicago; if the radio works out better for you, set your dial to WGN 720. For your SSHP coverage, look no further than the affable Lauren Wilz.
BONUS CONTENT: (Was I being too hard on Leury here? He did make this excellent grab in the third. I try not to be too mean. Sometimes.)