The Chicago White Sox kicked off a three-game series in Minnesota on Friday. Entering as losers of four straight, the Sox looked to get back on track with Michael Kopech on the mound. Bailey Ober, a pitcher who has given the South Siders trouble, took the mound for the Twins.
Kopech and Vaughn Came to Play
The White Sox's young hurler was likely on a pitch count. Kopech exited the game after five innings and 83 pitches (53 strikes). However, he was brilliant in those five frames. He surrendered no runs, three hits, and one walk while fanning seven. Kopech’s ERA sits at 0.64 on the year.
In the top of the fifth inning, right-handed slugger Andrew Vaughn drilled a homer 424 feet. The dead-center shot gave the White Sox 1-0 lead, enough run support to put Kopech in line for the win.
Vaughn's solo shot was the only run allowed by the Twins' big righty. Ober’s final line on the day read 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HR.
Both starting pitchers were out of the game after five innings. The White Sox bullpen was staked to the smallest lead possible. Their job for the evening was to get the final 12 outs of the game and protect a one-run advantage. Chicago's relievers have been a strength of the team thus far, and this was a big opportunity for them to continue that trend.
Bullpen Battles But Defense Fails
The combination of Jose Ruiz, Aaron Bummer, and Kendall Graveman performed well overall. Graveman received two of the final four innings. But the situation got tense when Ryan Jeffers reached third base following a two-out ground-rule double and a wild pitch.
After a walk, Graveman faced his former Astros teammate Carlos Correa. The Twins' shortstop hit a sharp grounder in the hole that Tim Anderson fielded cleanly, but his throw pulled Jose Abreu off the bag. Abreu then unwisely and errantly threw home and the ball got away from Reese McGuire.
Those two errors on the same play -- at the most pivotal moment of the game -- allowed a pair of runs to score. Following the sloppy White Sox defensive sequence, Minnesota held a 2-1 lead needing to record just three outs to capture a win.
Chicago White Sox Rally Falls Short
The White Sox quickly responded in the top of the ninth. Hopefully breaking out of his slump, Eloy Jimenez led off the inning with a double to left-center. Adam Haseley entered as a pinch-runner and advanced to third base on Adam Engel’s ground out.
Next, Andrew Vaughn and AJ Pollock drew walks to load the bases. With one out, Reese McGuire just needed to hit a fly ball deep enough to score Haseley from third. But he made an unproductive out instead, popping up to Carlos Correa to induce an infield fly rule. With the game on the line, Jake Burger worked the count full but struck out looking to end the game.
There were a few curious decisions made by White Sox manager Tony La Russa in this game.
Once again Leury Garcia, who is struggling mightily, hit high up in the lineup. After batting third for Thursday's series finale in Cleveland, he occupied the two-hole Friday night. Additionally, La Russa could have turned to Yasmani Grandal as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded in the ninth but let McGuire hit instead.
Overall, it was another extremely disappointing loss and the fifth straight for the White Sox. The questions from fans and media regarding La Russa continue to mount. The South Siders' record is now under .500 with a 6-7 mark on the year.
The White Sox offense has hit four home runs in the last eight games but has scored only 16 runs.
Tim Anderson has committed five errors thus far on the Sox road trip.
The White Sox went 0-7 with runners in scoring position.
Reese McGuire made an incredible potentially run-saving play when he backed up an errant throw that sailed past first base in the fifth inning.
What’s On Tap Next?
The Chicago White Sox look to get even with the Minnesota Twins Saturday with Vince Velasquez on the mound vs. Dylan Bundy. Velasquez will look to bounce back from a rough four-run performance last time out. On the flip side, Jose Abreu is hitting .438 in 16 career at-bats against Bundy. The game will air on NBC Sports Chicago at 3:05 PM CT. Be sure to check out the Sox On Tap recap following the game.