When the No. 5 starter gets lined up against the opposing team’s ace, it’s typically good work to just to keep it competitive. When the No. 5 starter is a preseason waiver wire grab and the opposing ace is the reigning NL Cy Young, well then…
And yet, Miguel Gonzalez was up to the task, not only going toe-to-toe with Jake Arrieta, but out-dueling him for most of the night. So naturally they wasted his effort a bit before rescuing the day in the bottom of the ninth again.
1. For the third-straight game the White Sox rallied in the bottom of the ninth, and for the second-straight game they did it after blowing things in the top of the inning. J.B. Shuck drilled a leadoff single to center off newly acquired Cubs lefty specialist Mike Montgomery, advanced to second on a bunt, and raced home without a throw when center fielder Matt Szczur couldn’t get a handle on Tyler Saladino drilled his second hit of the night off the back of the pitcher’s mound and through for the walk-off.
2. A taxed Sox bullpen with both of top two guys extremely unavailable and worn out from both the Chris Sale blowup and only getting 3.1 innings from Jacob Turner on Friday, couldn’t quite nail down the 10 outs it needed to avoid bottom of the ninth heroics. Zach Duke closed out the seventh, but after issuing a leadoff walk to Ben Zobrist, Robin went experimental. Despite coming into the night with a 7.33 ERA since his earned run streak ended in early May, Matt Albers dug deep for three outs in the eighth, cranking up to 95 mph to strike out Addison Russell to closer out the frame.
But while he shocked the whole stadium with that one inning in the tank, he certainly did not have two. Javier Baez ripped a double into the right field corner to lead off the ninth, and immediately came home as Dexter Fowler followed it by drilling a liner off Jose Abreu‘s glove to bring the game to 4-3. Kris Bryant‘s broken bat single to left threatened to put the Sox in a world of hurt with no one out, but his ill-advised attempt to get in scoring position saw him gunned down at second from a strong Melky Cabrera throw. Dan Jennings came in and attempted to masquerade as a LOOGY, only to have Anthony Rizzo poke a slider off the outside edge into left to tie things up a 4-4.
After another single, and despite the lead being blown, Jennings still found a good fastball to blow by Jason Heyward to close out the inning with the tie preserved.
Everything about the ninth was both questionable and excusable. The bullpen was completely tanked, and Robin needed to find outs wherever he could, but Albers getting a two out save against the Cubs sounds ridiculous on its face, Jennings is no lefty ace, Rizzo drove in the tying run with first base open, but then walking him would be putting the go-ahead run on base and bringing up Zobrist. It was not a night where managing seemed fun.
3. Gonzalez was already working on a 2.77 ERA for the month of July on his way into the night, but had possibly his best stuff of the year Monday. Featuring an unthinkably nasty changeup with splitter action, Gonzalez needed Cabrera to make a leaping catch at the wall on Bryant in the first inning to keep the game scoreless, but settled in afterward. Striking out eight over just two walks in 6.2 innings. A hanging changeup to Baez as he began to tire in the seventh was whipped into the left field for a two-run home run, and served as his only black mark.
In the first of Gonzalez’s two gut check moments of the evening, he needed some help. After Baez singled to right and scooted to second on an Adam Eaton misplay, the Cubs utility man tried to race in and score on a two-out Bryant single to left. Cabrera’s cannon throw home initially kept Baez at third, but when Bryant got caught up trying to take second, Baez tried to race home once the Sox tried to start the rundown and was tagged out at home after a struggle at the plate with Dioner Navarro. In the second moment, Gonzalez didn’t need as much help, as he froze Russell with a two-seamer that snaked back over the outside edge to strand two runners in scoring position and close the sixth.
4. Lively nights don’t always just show up in terms of fly balls flying over the fences. The stuff was absolutely crackling from both starters in the humidity, and Arrieta looked unhittable early, and was so for at least the first seven outs. With one out in the third, Saladino rapped a double down the left field line, and came around on the next batter when Eaton roped a sinker down and in to right field.
5. After cruising through the fourth and fifth, Arrieta got his next real challenge in the unsuspecting form of Tim Anderson. The impatient rookie stayed alive slapping away fouls until he ironically struck out looking on an outer half fastball, but the die was cast for the rest of the inning. Cabrera worked a full count walk, and Arrieta fell behind 2-0 to both Abreu and Justin Morneau, yielding a single to the former, and getting a high breaking ball called strike three on the latter.
That brought Todd Frazier to the plate, who had been horribly overmatched in his previous plate appearance, caught a hanging slider and boomed it out to dead center for a decisive three-run home run to stake the Sox to a 4-0 lead.
Team Record: 49-50
Next game is Tuesday vs. the Cubs at 6:10pm CT on pretty much every channel
Lead Image Credit: Patrick Gorski // USA Today Sports Images