The Chicago White Sox played their home opener in front of a capacity crowd for the first time since 2019. It was a beautiful day at 35th and Shields, 70° with the sun shining. Fans gathered and packed parking lots for pre-game festivities. The afternoon that turned overcast was most certainly not enough to spoil the fun. Especially not after a 3-2 victory against the Mariners.
For the White Sox, Vincent Velazquez took the mound for his debut in a White Sox uniform. He was signed in the offseason to a major league deal which came as a surprise to many. His fourth major league team expects him to contribute quality starting pitching in contrast to his limited career success. Covering mostly for injured starters, keeping the score close is what success will look like for Velasquez. Something that didn’t inspire a lot of confidence for the Sox fans among the 36,948 people in attendance.
Great Day, Good Pitching
The veteran righty did exactly what was expected. 36 of his 62 pictures were strikes. With a shortened Spring Training, it's no surprise that Velasquez walked three batters in his four innings of work. The only run surrendered was a homer into the White Sox bullpen by Eugenio Suarez. Saurez had the Mariners only two hits off of the Sox starter. Bennett Sousa, the first of five relievers for the Sox, relieved Velasquez in the fifth. The bullpen finished the final five innings of the game as they did the prior game.
Matt Brash made his major league debut for the Mariners. He was sharp in his outing, featuring a wipe out slider and big fastball. He registered a 99 MPH fastball for a strike past Jose Abreu in the first. He appeared very poised on the mound while fanning six White Sox hitters. His six-plus strikeouts in his MLB debut made him the first Mariner since Ken Cloude to accomplish the milestone on August 9, 1997. Coincidentally, that game was also against the South Siders. However, the Canadian rookie could not finish the sixth. A home run by Luis Robert and a single by Abreu in consecutive at-bats quickly ended his day. His 5.1 IP, four hits, two earned runs, one walk and six strikeouts were good enough to earn the loss.
Despite starting the season 4-10 with two home runs, Tony La Russa decided to sit slugger Andrew Vaughn. He elected to start Gavin Sheets in right field, Josh Harrison at third, and Leury Garcia at second. Reese McGuire sat behind the dish and Yasmani Grandal assumed Vaughn’s DH duties. The quality depth of position players will present a challenge for La Russa to distribute at-bats throughout the year. He will likely have to make some tough decisions, like sitting Andrew Vaughn.
Late Inning Heroics, Drama
The White Sox final at-bat came in the eighth inning leading 2-1. They were able to plate another much-needed insurance run and extend the lead to two runs. Luis Robert walked and quickly stole second base. After Abreu walked, Robert then stole third. Eloy Jimenez grounded into a fielder's choice to score Robert in the next at-bat.
Going into the ninth, the Sox bullpen hadn't let a run to cross home plate in their last 12 innings. They have been phenomenal despite already logging more innings of work than the starting pitching. Liam Hendriks struck out three in the ninth. However, it was a little worrisome after a trio of singles made the score 3-2.
That Was So #Dank
What a way to start off the home schedule. The White Sox got good pitching, despite a couple hiccups. Luis Robert provided the speed and power the offense needed. The White Sox improved to 3-1, cementing them in first place in the AL Central. The only cause for concern at this point may be an overtaxed bullpen, but luckily help is on the way. If rain can hold off on Wednesday, the White Sox and Mariners will run it back at 6:10 p.m. CDT. All is well on the south side despite some injuries.
White Sox Notes:
The team recalled pitchers Anderson Severino and Jimmy Lambert.
Severino, along with Tanner Banks and Bennett Sousa, competed for two of the vacant bullpen spots left by the injuries to Joe Kelly and Garrett Crochet.
Severino and Lambert are here to help a bullpen that has already been taxed with 18.2 innings pitched in just four games to the tune of a 3.38 ERA.
Comparatively, the starting pitching has tossed 17 innings with a 1.59 ERA so far.
Eloy Jimenez has driven in a run in all four games.