The Chicago White Sox won their three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays with a victorious effort Saturday on the South Side. After taking Friday's contest by a score of 3-2, the Pale Hose won the second game of the set in a similar fashion. Strong pitching from Michael Kopech, a long fly off Jose Abreu's bat, and elite base running by Luis Robert propelled the Sox to victory.
Kopech Outshines Kluber
The South Siders faced a familiar opponent in former longtime Cleveland pitcher Corey Kluber. Abreu entered the game with 53 career at-bats against the two-time Cy Young winner. He’s been successful in that time with 18 hits and five homers. On the flip side, the Rays starting lineup had only one collective at-bat (Harold Ramirez) vs. Kopech.
The Rays opened the scoring in the first inning thanks to a walk, an infield single, and a sacrifice fly that resulted in one run. But Kopech settled down after early hiccups and pitched brilliantly overall. With two outs in the second inning, Kopech plunked Taylor Wall, who was the last Rays hitter to reach base against the Sox starter. Kopech retired the last 10 batters he faced in order. The 25-year-old finished with a final line of 5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.
Kluber fared well on the day but made one very costly mistake. That instance occurred in the fourth inning when Jose Abreu took a 1-1 hanging curveball out of the park. The blast traveled 400 feet to left-center field and tied the game at two.
Battle Of The Bullpens
Kopech gave way to Reynaldo Lopez in the sixth inning. Lopez allowed the tying run to score after a Wander Franco leadoff double set up Manuel Margot's RBI single.
Bennett Sousa and Jose Ruiz pitched the seventh and eighth, respectively. They were both brilliant and retired the Rays in order, combining for five strikeouts.
Tampa Bay's bullpen had a decent showing as well but could not account for Luis Robert. The White Sox's centerfielder reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the sixth and quickly stole second base with ease. Jose Abreu advanced Robert to third on a fly ball to deep left field, setting up an RBI opportunity for cleanup hitter Yasmani Grandal.
Facing Ryan Thompson with a drastic shift on, Grandal singled through the left side of the infield to bring in the third and deciding run.
Jeffrey Springs and Andrew Kittredge pitch the seventh and eighth, respectively. They combined to allow one hit, no walks, and two strikeouts to keep it a one-run game. But luckily for the South Siders, that narrow cushion was all they needed.
The White Sox were in a familiar position after taking the lead. Clinging to a 3-2 advantage, they looked to their bullpen to protect that lead. The relief corps had done so Friday night and made it look easy. On Saturday, Sousa and Ruiz pitched well, but the same cannot be said for closer Liam Hendriks.
Heart Attack Hendriks
Hendriks threw 11 pitches in a 1-2-3 ninth inning to record the save Friday night, frankly spoiling White Sox fans.
The dramatics returned in the final frame of Saturday's contest, however. Hendriks got into trouble when leadoff hitter Harold Ramirez singled. A wild pitch allowed the pinch runner Kevin Kermaier to move up to second. Luckily for Hendriks, Yandy Diaz grounded into a fielder‘s choice to eliminate one threat.
Next, Manuel Margot flied out for the second out and Bret Phillips singled. Kevin Cash replaced Mike Zunino with Ji-Man Choi, who is off to a hot start hitting .526 including a clutch RBI double in Friday night's game. The count eventually reached 3-1 and Tony La Russa decided to intentionally walk the dangerous lefty slugger. With the bases loaded and the pressure on, Hendriks got Taylor Walls to strike out swinging, resulting in a collective sigh across the South Side.
Jose Abreu’s go-ahead homer resulted in some historic Chicago White Sox credentials.
Liam Hendriks has recorded a save in four of the South Siders' six wins so far this season.
Randy Arozarena was ejected after throwing his bat in digust at a called third strike in the sixth inning.
What’s On Tap Next?
The Chicago White Sox have come out on top in two one-run games to take the series. They will look to complete a three-game sweep against the Tampa Bay Rays on Easter Sunday. That would be #Dank. Vince Velasquez, the winner of the home opener, will toe the rubber for the White Sox. The Rays will counter with J.P. Feyereisen. You can catch it on NBC Sports Chicago at 1:10 PM CT.