The big stories coming into Friday night’s matchup between the 9-9 White Sox and 9-10 Rangers were Dane Dunning’s return to the South Side since being traded this past offseason and the White Sox’ quest to finally get over .500.
The White Sox put both storylines to bed.
Early Pitching Woes
Dylan Cease (0-0, 3.86 ERA) took the mound for the White Sox against the Rangers.
Although he opened the game by striking out Willie Calhoun, Cease had a bit of trouble hitting his spots early. He was clearly trying to establish his slider but just couldn’t quite find it.
He wouldn’t receive much help from the defense early either.
In the second at-bat of the game, Texas shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa took a high fastball to center-field. What should have been a single turned into a triple when Luis Robert misplayed the routine ball.
Cease then walked Joey Gallo and Nate Lowe to load the bases, but he was able to keep his cool. Cease turned on the heat and struck out Adolis Garcia on a 98 MPH fastball. He then popped up Nick Solak to get out of the inning with no measurable damage done.
It was however a 33-pitch first inning, something fans are unfortunately getting too used to with the young right-hander.
Cease bounced back in the second with a straightforward 1-2-3 inning.
White Sox Bats Come Alive
After a smooth first two innings of work against his former team, the third frame is where the wheels came off for Dane Dunning (1-0, 0.60 ERA).
The White Sox kicked off the bottom of the inning with back-to-back singles up the middle from Nick Madrigal and Tim Anderson. Both runners advanced on a wild-pitch curveball moments later.
The first runs of the game came on an Adam Eaton fly ball to center field that outfielders Leody Taveras and Adolis Garcia couldn’t retrieve. The ball bounced over the outfield wall for a ground-rule double and the White Sox scored a pair of runs on the play.
Eaton’s double was quickly followed up by a 103 MPH laser off the bat of Yoan Moncada, scoring Eaton and extending the White Sox lead to 3-0.
No one has been hotter on this team than Yermin Mercedes, and he delivered in the third with an inside-out swing that resulted in a blooper to right field. His double knocked in another pair of runs and the White Sox took a 5-0 lead.
Andrew Vaughn followed that up with yet another base hit, and that was enough for Rangers manager Chris Woodward. He pulled Dunning in favor of Kolby Allard. Allard would ultimately stop the bleeding, but the damage was done.
The White Sox recorded seven hits and five runs in their half of the third inning.
Almost Blew It
After settling in nicely following his rocky start, Dylan Cease absorbed some damage in the fourth inning. After walking Lowe to start the inning, Cease missed badly on a fastball that had the entire plate, and Nick Solak punished him with a towering two-run home run, eating into the White Sox lead.
Cease exited the game in favor of Evan Marshall who would end up closing out the inning. Cease’s final line read: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 5 K.
Tim Anderson started the bottom of the fourth on the right foot for the White Sox with a single to left-center field. He later advanced on a wild pitch from Allard.
That’s when Moncada came to the plate and recorded his second hit and second RBI of the game, knocking Anderson in from second on an 0-1 cutter to put the White Sox in front 6-2.
Things got quite scary for the White Sox in the fifth inning.
After a lead-off walk by Marshall, Kiner-Falefa singled to advance the runner to third base before Texas shortstop Adolis Garcia would make Marshall pay.
The towering three-run home run brought the Rangers within one run of the White Sox.
The White Sox tried to counter-punch in the bottom of the fifth.
Yermin Mercedes started off by taking an 85 MPH cutter back up the middle, recording his third hit of the game. He would get thrown out at second on an Andrew Vaughn single, but Madrigal reached first on a slow infield chopper, advancing Vaughn.
Unfortunately Tim Anderson could not capitalize, striking out in the next at-bat to end the inning.
The White Sox attempted to lean on a combination of Matt Foster and Aaron Bummer to keep the Rangers in check throughout the sixth inning, but it did not work out that way.
After Marshall walked Trevino and gave up a hit to Calhoun, Kiner-Falefa recorded his third hit of the night, driving in the tying run.
Never in Doubt
With the game tied, errors threatened to hurt the White Sox again in the seventh when Nate Lowe sent a chopper back up the middle to Aaron Bummer and an overthrow to first base allowed Lowe to reach safely. Bummer would exit the game as Codi Heuer entered from the bullpen.
Luckily for the White Sox, Nick Madrigal turned in back-to-back clutch defensive plays, rendering the error inconsequential.
Luis Robert led off the bottom of the seventh with a hard-hit single up the middle. After a bit of cat and mouse with pitcher Kyle Cody, Robert swiped second.
That’s when the man of the night, Yermin Mercedes, came through with his fourth hit of the night, a long double to right-center over Leody Taveras’ head that scored Luis Robert from second.
A Vaughn single and Madrigal line-out helped plate another run and the White Sox took an 8-6 lead.
After a David Dahl lead-off hit off Codi Heuer in the eighth, White Sox Manager Tony LaRussa decided to have closer Liam Hendriks come in for an extended save with just one out at the time.
Runners advanced to second and third on a Grandal passed ball, but no harm came of it. Hendriks struck out Calhoun and the red-hot Kiner-Falefa, using a beautiful 99 MPH high fastball to sit down the latter.
For good measure, Yoan Moncada tacked on a 109 MPH, 407-foot insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, which would prove to be all the offense the White Sox needed.
Hendriks returned for the ninth inning throwing absolute smoke, striking out Gallo and Lowe in order.
He looked on his way to an easy save before Adolis Garcia took him deep on a home run to left field. The run would prove moot however, as Hendriks came back to fan Nick Solak on three straight fastballs to end the game and earn the five-out save.
With the victory, the White Sox improved to 10-9 on the season. They sit 1.5 games behind the Kansas City Royals in the AL Central.
What’s On Tap?
The White Sox return to action on Saturday night for the second of this three-game set with Texas. First pitch will take place at 6:10 PM CST, and the game will air on FS1 and NBCSC+.
Projected starters are Dallas Keuchel (1-0, 5.68 ERA) vs. Kyle Gibson (2-0, 2.53 ERA).
Tune in to the Sox On Tap podcast for postgame shows plus further analysis and commentary on the White Sox all season.