It was just like Tony La Russa drew it up. The Chicago White Sox had a one-run lead in the eighth inning and the game was in the hands of the bullpen. Aaron Bummer was called upon to pass the baton to Liam Hendriks so he could lock down the game. Bummer has been excellent for the White Sox over the course of his career. He owns a career 2.96 ERA with one of the nastiest sinkers in baseball.
A leadoff base hit was a minor setback. However, a Shohei Ohtani ground ball to the sure-handed Nick Madrigal had a double play written all over it. Then things unraveled. Madrigal made an errant throw and gave the Angels new life. That was all Mike Trout needed to tie the game with a single. Two batters later Albert Pujols stuck the dagger into the heart of his former manager with a short chopper to third base. Just like that, the lead evaporated.
They say baseball is a game of inches and Nick Madrigal learned that the hard way. A couple of inches lower and he wouldn’t have pulled Tim Anderson off of second base and the White Sox have themselves a double play. In the top of the seventh, he was a couple of inches from a stolen base which would have put a much-needed insurance run in scoring position.
Of course, it is easy to overanalyze the first game of the season. After all, there are 161 more games. However, this game had a playoff-type feel to it. Opening Day always carries a little extra weight and the White Sox crumbled when it mattered most.
The White Sox wasted a solid effort from Lucas Giolito. He tinkered on the edge of dominance at times striking out eight in 5 1/3 innings of work. Unfortunately, a solo home run and a pair of two-out walks came back to bite him. The ace of the staff left the game much sooner than he would have liked but he can build on this performance. He exited the game with a one-run lead.
The offense was manufactured by some unlikely sources. Luis Robert broke the seal on the scoring with some small ball. He legged out a double then stole third base. It was a risky move considering there were two outs but it paid off when Dylan Bundy spiked a curveball into the dirt that got away from Max Stassi allowing Robert to scamper home. Adam Eaton tacked on two more runs via the long ball in the fifth inning which extended the White Sox lead to 3-1 in the fifth inning.
The White Sox bullpen faltered and robbed them from starting out the 2021 campaign with an unblemished record. It was not all due to Madrigal’s error, however. Aaron Bummer allowed a critical free pass to Justin Upton which loaded the bases for Albert Pujols who would ultimately drive in the winning run.
While the loss is discouraging the team showed some positive signs. Yoan Moncada reached base three times and showed off a slick glove at third base. In the sixth inning, he poached a 108.7 mph ground ball off the bat of Justin Upton and turned it into a double play. The White Sox will try and get back on track Friday night when Dallas Keuchel takes the hill.