After seeing Minnesota break double-digits last night, the Chicago White Sox scored 10 runs of their own, and took the second game of the set in rather undramatic fashion.
Once both teams came to terms with an equally inconsistent strike zone, it was a pitcher’s duel for the first few frames. Dallas Keuchel was perfect during his initial run through the Bomba Squad’s batting order, inducing ground ball after ground ball directly at the various Chicago defenders. Dobnak gave up just one run on three hits in his outing.
Critics of bullpen management may deride manager Rocco Baldelli for a quick hook on Dobnak, but there’s a couple of things to remember here. First is the fact that almost all pitchers, regardless of experience, are on a pitch count right now; MLB’s “Summer Camp” may not have provided as much stretch time as desired for a lot of arms around the league. (Unless you’re Kyle Hendricks, in which case, do your thing.)
Second is the fact that Randy Dobnak has never thrown more than 78 pitches in a major-league game, period. After four solid frames, Dobnak was up to 73. With today’s start already having been an unexpected affair, and Dobnak serving as an extended opener for much of last season, the early pull was more or less a routine call.
Unfortunately, this afternoon’s bullpen performances were not up to yesterday’s level. Zack Littell produced a rather forgettable fifth inning; with the White Sox already up a run thanks to an earlier Yoan Moncada double, Littell gave up a homer to his first batter, Leury Garcia. He reset and came up with two quick outs, then served up a single to Jose Abreu.
Noted Twin-killer Edwin Encarnacion and youngster Eloy Jimenez followed with back-to-back homers. Three long shots dished out before three outs were recorded, and the South Siders had jumped ahead with a 5-0 lead.
Resistant to a shutdown inning, the Twins got Ehire Adrianza and Mitch Garver on base to set up a cracking three-run homer off the bat of Nelson Cruz, the veteran DH’s first round-tripper of the 60-game season.
But the bullpen experience wouldn’t get any better. Devin Smeltzer arrived for the sixth inning, and allowed a homer to his second batter, James McCann. The Sox would put another four on the board in the seventh, thanks to another two-out rally — consecutive strikeouts to begin the inning were undone by three straight singles and a homer, another shot off the bat of #9 hitter Leury Garcia.
All told, the Littell-Smeltzer combo was responsible for nine earned runs on ten hits, including a stunning five homers, in just three innings of work.
As mentioned, Keuchel set the tone early, and the Twins weren’t able to get much offense to speak of. Cruz’s aforementioned homer produced the only runs on the day for Minnesota. Garver added a pair of hits, and Josh Donaldson delivered his first knock as a Twin.
The rubber game is tomorrow, and with every game counting a bit more, it will be an important series-deciding matchup.
C Mitch Garver (2-for-3, R, BB)
DH Nelson Cruz (1-for-4, 3-run HR)
2B Ehire Adrianza (1-for-3, R, BB, a couple of lovely defensive plays)
SS Jorge Polanco (0-for-4, 3 LOB)
RPs Zack Littell + Devin Smeltzer (2 IP, 10 H, 9 ER, BB, 6 K, 5 HR)
ROBOT ROLL CALL:
See you all tomorrow!