New Era Of White Sox Baseball Begins With Helmet-Bonk Walk-Off
9:06 AM EDT on August 24, 2023
The White Sox are officially undefeated in the Tony La Russa consultant era of their existence, and it is surely because of him, or the fact that Jerry Reinsdorf fired Ken Williams and Rick Hahn, that they won Wednesday night's game to avoid being swept by the Seattle Mariners, and not because of anything else, like errors or luck.
Michael Kopech, who has not been having a great year, opened the game with one of the weirder starts you can get: four innings, one hit, one hit-by-pitch, four walks, five strikeouts, zero runs. In the first inning, Teoscar Hernández was initially ruled out at first, and the broadcast went to commercial as all the players left the field. Then the call was overturned, and everyone and the broadcast came sheepishly back. Kopech also came out to start the fifth inning, only to leave after throwing some warm-up pitches, which meant that the broadcast came back from commercial to spend a minute explaining before immediately going to commercial again. By the end of the sixth inning, the White Sox were even leading 3-0, all of this fine, low-key drama for a mid-afternoon baseball game.
Then I fell victim to my own hubris. I was scoring the White Sox game, which had started at 2:10 p.m., but I also wanted to score the Phillies game, which started at 4:10 p.m. My solution was scoring both games at once through the MLB TV multiview feature and flipping to the appropriate page whenever something happened. It was a perfectly functional process—the White Sox and Phillies broadcast were out of sync, so most of each half-inning would take place during the other's commercial break—but then at one point, around when Josh Rojas pulled off a bunt single to score José Caballero and narrow the White Sox lead to 3-1, the broadcasts started to sync up.
By the time the ninth inning of the White Sox game rolled around, it was not fine, low-key drama. The bases were loaded for Julio Rodríguez, who I finally got to watch play after he took a rest day on Monday and caught a stomach bug Tuesday. Rodríguez didn't hit a grand slam or anything, but he did get hit by a 100 mile-per-hour sinker from Gregory Santos to score a run. A single by Eugenio Suárez tied the game. At the same time, the Giants—also noted for being Yermín Mercedes's second MLB team—were loading the bases against Michael Lorenzen and the Phillies. I remember this because I'd written, "wsox [sic] giving away the game :(" along with with a little downward arrow pointing to the top of the third inning in the Phillies game. A little melodramatic, sure, especially given the fact a 3-1 White Sox lead is never ironclad, but I thought that maybe they would close it out, at least so I wouldn't have to try to score Gabe Kapler's bullpen shenanigans and extra innings at the same time.
Thankfully for the White Sox and my brain, the Mariners were unable to score any runs at the top of the tenth after Rodríguez, up to bat with the bases loaded again, grounded out. (This prompted accusations from my colleagues that I had ruined Julio Rodríguez. I would like to make very clear that I did not ruin Julio Rodríguez.) And as an added bonus, Tim Anderson was back from his suspension. He had two hits so far, and had tactically struck out to end the ninth inning to become the ghost runner in the bottom of the tenth, where Elvis Andrus was up to bat first.
I felt a sudden kinship with former White Sox manager and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst Ozzie Guillen, who has also been watching this car crash of a team from afar all season (while Guillen watches in order to get a paycheck, I watch because... well less said, etc. etc.). Guillen and his fellow NBC pundits spent Tuesday night's postgame show reaming out the team itself for being spineless chumps, which is always a satisfying if not necessarily clarifying critique to level at a group of guys who are just not very good at baseball. Would any of these chumps step up and be a leader on Wednesday night, and save me from dual-scorebook hell? Let's see some leadership out there!
On the second pitch of the 10th inning, Anderson was caught stranded between second and third. He responded by immediately breaking for third base, forcing J.P. Crawford, who has not been having a stellar year defensively, to make a play. Crawford missed his throw, ricocheting the ball off Anderson's helmet and away from Suárez, and allowed Anderson to walk off the game on a throwing error. Et voilà! The strikeout, ghost runner, stolen base, helmet-bonk combo. That's a fun one to put in your scorebook.
That's how you lead. That's how you win.