Sunday, May 22, 2022

White Sox Bullpen Implodes In Epic Ninth Inning Meltdown


The Chicago White Sox pitching staff had been carrying the team for the bulk of their six-game win streak. The offense was limited to just three runs in four of the six wins. But on a night when the White Sox bats finally came alive, it was the pitching and defense that failed them.

Baseball Savant gave the White Sox a 99.7% chance to extend their win streak to seven after Steven Kwan grounded into the second out in the ninth inning of Monday night’s game against the Cleveland Guardians. One word could be used to describe a baffling ninth-inning meltdown.

“Brutal,” White Sox skipper Tony La Russa said.

The White Sox were cruising heading into the ninth inning. Gavin Sheets and AJ Pollock each went yard to help give the White Sox an 8-2 lead.

Sheets’ three-run homer in the first helped atone for a brutal error in the top half of the inning. His dropped popup was so bad that the Cleveland broadcaster, couldn’t help but blurt out “are you shitting me?”. That would be the only run that Micheal Kopech would allow in six strong innings of work. Little did the White Sox know the defensive lapse would be a sign of things to come.

Tony La Russa called on Tanner Banks to record the final three outs with a comfortable six-run cushion. He immediately surrendered a home run to Andres Gimenez to open the inning. Amed Rosario followed that up with a single to left field, then was given two free bases thanks to a Tim Anderson error that allowed him to advance to third.

That error opened the flood gates. Yoan Moncada booted a routine ground ball off the bat of Austin Hedges that allowed Rosario to score and cut the White Sox lead to four. Banks was able to retire the next two batters but after walking Jose Ramierez, Tony La Russa decided he had seen enough. Liam Hendriks was called upon to put out the fire. Owen Miller greeted him with a single to load the bases.

With the game on the line, the usually reliable Hendriks served up a game-tying grand slam to Josh Naylor, that left the 17 thousand in attendance in disbelief.

The game would go to extra innings. Reynaldo Lopez couldn’t prevent the free runner on second from scoring but the White Sox offense was able to push across a run to tie the game in the bottom half of the frame. Onto the eleventh inning, the division rivals went.

Ryan Burr entered the game and surrounded a three-run homer to Josh Naylor that put the nail in the coffin. The Guardians’ epic comeback left the White Sox stunned and searching for answers.

“Right now it just stings obviously because Burr should never be in that situation,” Hendriks told reporters after the game. “It should have been something that I took care of. I mean, I was one strike away and I wasn’t able to get it done and that’s the bit that stings the most.”

“Yeah it sucks,” Burr added. “I don’t know what else to say. Some days you are the windshield. Some days you are the bug. Unfortunately, I was the bug today and I got squashed.”

With the win streak snapped the White Sox will have to try and start a new one on Tuesday. In the grand scheme of things one loss in a 162-game season, won’t make or break the team. But choking away a lead in agonizing fashion is a tough pill to swallow.

“They always feel like more than one game, but it’s just one game,” Pollock said. “We regroup and get back at it.”

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