The AL Central is easily one of the worst divisions in baseball. The White Sox currently hold an 11.5 game lead over their next closest rivals, the soon-to-be Cleveland Guardians. The Sox are also the only Central club with a record over .500. All this to say, politely, that they might be the only team in the AL Central the Rays didn’t want to play.
They’re a good team, really good, with pretty excellent pitching, and one of their best was on the mound tonight in the shape of Lucas Giolito. Taking the bump for the Rays: Michael Wacha, a pitcher whose future as a starter is deeply uncertain, and every outing is a necessary opportunity to prove if he should get to keep his job.
Today, lucky for Wacha, he did pretty well. Unfortunately for him, every single grounder seemed to find a gap (or Wander Franco’s face) and it made for some unlucky at-bats.
In the first Anderson reached on an infield single, and was quickly brought in to score by a long double to right off the bat of Robert, giving the Sox an early lead. Robert was able to advance to third on a passed ball, but ultimately the Sox would need to settle for only the one run, In the Rays half of the inning, the top of the order were set down in order.
Onto the second, and a leadoff single to Vaughn got things started, then a one-out single to Hernandez advanced Vaughn. Zavala singled and Vaughn made a dash for home, but a well-placed throw, and a perfectly timed catch from Zunino got the out.
In the bottom of the second, a two-out solo home run from Ji-Man Choi tied the game up at 1-1.
Robert singled to lead off the third, followed by an Abreu single. Jimenez grounded into a fielder’s choice to erase Abreu as the baserunner, but advanced Robert to third. Thankfully the Rays managed to keep the runners where they were, and no runs scored. In the bottom of the inning the Rays went down 1-2-3.
The fourth inning was a quick and uneventful affair on both sides, with the Sox going down in order, and the Rays getting only a single from Meadows, but no runs scored.
Alas, in the fifth things broke open a bit for the White Sox, starting with a leadoff single from Anderson, who then advanced to second on a passed ball from Zunino. Anderson got to third on a groundout from Robert, then scored off an Abreu fielder’s choice. Moncada got a two-out home run, scoring himself and Abreu, putting the Sox up 4-1. Vaughn reached on what was ruled an error by Franco, but was mostly just a nasty bounce off the glove that hit Franco in the face and generally looked pretty painful, but he stayed in the game. This would also be the last inning for Wacha, whose final line for the day was 5.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 9 K, 1 HR on 100 pitches.
In the bottom of the fifth Margot ground out a triple with one out, and then a sac fly from Kiermaier brought him home, giving the Rays back another run.
The sixth inning went 1-2-3 Sox, 1-2-3 Rays.
As we headed into the seventh, Jimenez collected a two-out single, followed by a Moncada hit-by-pitch. The Rays avoided more runs, though. Luckily, because in the bottom of the inning they didn’t get a single baserunner of their own.
Mazza neatly handled the White Sox in the top of the eighth, and then in the bottom of the inning things started to get interesting with Kimbrell on the mound for the Sox. Margot drew a leadoff walk. Then a wild pitch advanced him all the way to third. The Sox swapped out Kimbrel for Bummer (hehe), and the Rays did a swap of their own bringing in Arozarena. Bummer walked Arozarena on four pitches. An infield single from Franco (that Anderson valiantly tried and failed to turn into an out at second) drove Margot home. Nelson Cruz was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs, bringing Austin Meadows to the plate, because... uh... they wanted to face Meadows?
Meadows hit a single on hit first pitch, driving in Arozarena and Franco and handing the lead over to the Rays.
I’m sorry to say the lead was a short-lived one as new reliever JT Chargois gave up a solo home run to Tim Anderson with no outs in the top of the ninth. Tie game. Jimenez singled, then reached second on a throwing error from Diaz. But a Vaughn foul-out that almost caused a bit of confusion between Choi and Zunino was caught to end the inning. Time for the Rays to walk it off (if I speak it, it will be so, right?)
Choi drew a leadoff walk to start things off. And sadly for me, you, and the growing length of this recap, that was all they managed, and onto extras we go. Kittredge handled things neatly for the Rays at the top of the inning, sending the Sox down 1-2-3.
Then a sadly un-mic’d Liam Hendriks took the mound for the Sox, and Joey Wendle came up to bad for the Rays. Wendle grounded out, but advanced the default runner, Mike Zunino, to third. Wander Franco struck out, and was so furious about it he smashed his bat to pieces on the ground. Cruz popped out and onto the eleventh we go.
The Sox un-tied the game in the 11th. Anderson singled to score baserunner Collins, then was able to advance to third on the THIRD passed ball from Zunino. Abreu grounded out to score Anderson, giving the Sox a 7-5 lead. In the bottom of the inning a Phillips flyout sent baserunner Cruz to third. Ryan Tepera finished Choi off with a strikeout, and the game was over.
Final: White Sox 7, Rays 5