After cranking a three-run home run late Thursday afternoon, Jose Abreu and his .997 June OPS sat on the bench with leg soreness. Four days after walking off the mound hurt, crucial reliever Zach Putnam is considering surgery. To say the least, the White Sox did not enter Friday night at maximum strength.
They got them, in a way that made it surprising these type of night haven’t come to them more.
1. Carlos Rodon still doesn’t look particularly smooth. He lost his release point and rhythm on multiple occasions, needed frequent discussions with his catcher to settle himself, and crucially balked (or is better said, was called for a balk) that pushed Michael Saunders along to second, and he would eventually score on a two-out infield single by a diving-into-first Kevin Pillar. He would only make it through five and two-thirds innings and left the game tied.
But when he was pointed toward home, Rodon stuff was easy and electric. He sat mid-to-high 90s with a low effort delivery, had his wipeout slider running so well he barely touched the change all night, got 14 swinging strikes and struck out a season-high eight for the second start in a row.
He made his mistakes per usual, but Rodon’s best stuff was untouchable, and that’s why he stayed bolted into this rotation even through the worst of it.
2. Filling in as the lineup lynchpin, Melky Cabrera continued his hot streak and finished a triple short of the cycle. Only his go-ahead solo shot that golfed a hanging Sanchez curveball out to right in the fifth wound up factoring in the score.
3. Scuffling trade acquisitions Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie filled in the rest of the void. Lawrie collected three hits, the second of which pushed Alex Avila along, to where he could eventually score off an Avisail Garcia RBI groundout in the fourth.
With two outs in the seventh, after Tim Anderson failed to scoot home from third on a diving stop made by Edwin Encarnacion with one out, Frazier, who came in the night batting .131 with runners in scoring position for the year, banged his second single of the night to left field with two outs to score Anderson and put the Sox up 3-2 to stay.
4. The Sox came into the night with a short pen, worn out from their 10-inning finale in Boston Thursday, and needed to find away to cover 10 high-leverage outs. It will be a dicey game going forward, but Robin Ventura played it as well as he could Friday. He stuck Nate Jones to face the meat of the order in the seventh, and stuck Zach Duke at the start of the eighth to take out Saunders, and was rewarded when he pitched over a one-out walk to deliver a clean inning.
5. Handing a one-run lead in the ninth to his closer, David Robertson, the difficult decisions were over for the night for Ventura, but the stress was only beginning.
After getting his first out on one pitch, Robertson was a centimeter away from striking out pinch-hitter Darwin Barney on a diving curve. After some confusion on whether it was a live ball, a review found that Barney tipped the ball, but it became academic when the veteran utility man came back to work a walk. Ezequiel Carrera followed up by lining a single to left, and all of sudden Robertson had gone from cruising to putting on baserunners for the heart of the vaunted Blue Jay order.
Josh Donaldson grounded a hot smash to third that Saladino stayed in front of, but blocked too far away from himself to see it initially, or gather it in time to tag Barney at third. In a true white-knuckle moment, Robertson blew a 3-2 fastball by Encarnacion for the second out, and celebrated his 100th career save when Saunders went hunting early and sprayed a weak flare to Anderson to end it.
Team Rec0rd: 37-37
Lead Image Credit: Matt Marton // USA Today Sports Images