Monday, the Chicago White Sox opened up a series against the Cleveland Indians. Carlos Rodón was the scheduled starting pitcher up until about an hour before the game when he was scratched due to a stomachache and replaced with another southpaw in Dallas Keuchel.
Going into the game, Keuchel struggled. In his first game, he went only four innings allowing four earned runs on six hits. His second game was a bit of an improvement as he went five innings and allowing only three runs on four hits.
Right out of the gate in this one, Keuchel started dealing. He was working quickly and keeping his pitch count low, showing all the signs of potentially going deep into the game. Number 60 retired the side in the first inning on just seven pitches and the inning was highlighted with a web gem by Luis Robert at the Wintrust sign under “The Catch.”
Unfortunately, the momentum quickly shifted in the second inning. After Terry Francona called for a video review, it was clear Franmil Reyes was clipped in the back of his right knee by a Keuchel cutter. On a 1-2 count, Eddie Rosario took Keuchel deep and out. It landed almost in the same spot where Robert made the play an inning prior. In his four home-starts last season, Keuchel did not allow a home run. This season, he didn’t get past one game. If you ask me, the wind blowing out carried that ball, but it counts nonetheless.
Most pitchers would fall apart after a demoralizing home run like this one but not Dallas Keuchel. Regardless, an Adam Eaton dinger made it 3-2 the very next half-inning so he was not pitching from behind for very long. He would get into a groove, retiring the next nine hitters in order. The six groundouts, two strikeouts, and a flyout he recorded meant Keuchel was doing what he does best. That was until the sixth inning, when things started to fall apart rather quickly.
The dreaded leadoff walk to Yu Chang was not a good sign. Jordan Luplow hit a single to right. Kuechel walked Cesar Hernandez to load up the bases for José Rameríez with no outs in the inning. Tony La Russa learned his lesson about leaving pitches in for too long and called Evan Marshall in to limit the damage.
Fortunately, Marshall struck out Rameríez and ended the inning. That limited the damage to one run from a Reyes sac-fly, charged to Kuechel. Tied at 3, Marshall would be relieved by Aaron Bummer in the seventh after striking out Amed Rosario. Bummer struck out Josh Naylor but walked Roberto Pérez to follow. After another Chang single, Codi Heuer entered the game to strike out Luplow and shut the door on Cleveland.
Heuer pitched the next two innings to finish the game. He retired the side in order in the eighth and pitched around a double hit with two outs in the ninth. Nick Williams’s walk-off fielder’s choice snapped the White Sox’s six-game losing streak against Cleveland.
Overall, Kuechel was solid despite some bad luck early. Take away the cutter that barely clipped Reyes and the sinker Eddie Rosario takes deep to center makes it one to nothing instead of two. The Beard got angry and retired the whole lineup in order. Just as any start, however, you can lose it and Dallas just lost it. One minute you got it and the next you don’t. It just happens. That is what a shut-down bullpen is for and they showed out last night.
Marshall entered into a nightmare scenario with bases loaded with no outs with only one run to give. He did his job. Bummer started off dealing but worked himself into a weird little jam after a walk and a single. Not taking any chances, Tony puts in Heuer to shut the door and record the win, striking out four in 2.1 innings.
Last night’s dominance, Heuer in particular, restores a little bit of faith in the bullpen following Sunday’s blown save. Ironically winning on an error, the White Sox did not commit one so the defense could be cleaning up. Now hopefully Adam Eaton can put a spark in this offense. Solid starting pitching backed up by bullpen dominance, basic fielding fundamentals, and a relentless offense are a few of the pieces you need to be a World Series contender.