Confident Sox show resolve in comeback win

September 8th, 2022

SEATTLE -- The White Sox of 2022 have been banged up. They’ve been knocked around. They’ve had some highs and some lows. They were picked by some before the season to win the World Series, and as it stands in September, they’ve won one more game than they’ve lost.

But they have not given up, and they still have a lot of talent. And after a back-and-forth 9-6 victory over the Mariners at a sunny T-Mobile Park on Wednesday to close out a key road series win, they still have reason to believe they can make a push toward October.

The White Sox took two of three from a hot Mariners team. They’re 69-68, they are in the thick of the race for the American League Central, and they’re feeling understandably enthusiastic about the way things have gone lately.

“This team is good,” acting manager Miguel Cairo said. “No, not good. Really good. And this is what you will get every day. We’re going to make good, really good. And it showed today, it showed yesterday and the day before, at home, and this is what you’re going to get every day.”

Wednesday served as a bit of a microcosm of Chicago’s season. There was adversity and some self-inflicted wounds, but the club’s resilience kept it afloat, and the offense showed what it can do when it mattered.

Right away, the team was tested by Mariners starter Luis Castillo, the hard-throwing right-hander Seattle acquired just before the Trade Deadline in a blockbuster trade with the Reds. Castillo was painting a fastball that reached 99 mph and mixing in a devastating slider, and the White Sox began the game by striking out seven consecutive times, a record for a Mariners pitcher to start a game.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s starter, , was coming off an injured list stint and was on a pitch limit. He was sharp in the first two innings, compiling three strikeouts, and then the rust showed in the third.

Kopech, who hadn’t pitched since Aug. 22 because of a left knee strain, walked backup catcher Curt Casali to lead off the inning, then allowed a one-out RBI double to Julio Rodríguez, an infield single to Ty France, a sacrifice fly to Mitch Haniger and a towering, upper-deck two-run home run to Eugenio Suárez. Kopech ended up lasting 3 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on four hits while striking out four and walking two. He threw 74 pitches.

“I felt pretty good,” Kopech said. “I think at a certain point, I got a little tired. Maybe that’s to be expected, but it’s not an excuse. But the offense did a great job. We played a great game.”

Down 4-0, the White Sox battled. They cut the Mariners’ advantage in half in the top of the fourth when  blasted an upper-deck homer of his own to left field off Castillo, scoring José Abreu and giving Chicago some momentum.

In the sixth, Chicago continued to rally, batting around in the inning and chasing Castillo in the process. The White Sox took a 6-4 lead on an RBI single by Abreu, an RBI double by Jiménez (the second of his three hits in the game), a sacrifice fly by Gavin Sheets and an RBI double by Andrew Vaughn.

“He was good,” Jiménez said of Castillo. “But the second time through, [we were] better. I think we could see the ball better and do what we needed to do.”

The Mariners clawed out a run apiece in the sixth and seventh innings, making it 6-6 in the seventh on a solo shot by Suárez off reliever Aaron Bummer, who was making his first appearance since June 7, when he suffered a left lat strain.

But once again, Chicago wouldn’t back down. In the eighth, the White Sox came through again after Jiménez hit a one-out single. Pinch-runner Leury García stole second base and took third on a throwing error by catcher Casali, and he scored on a groundout by Sheets.

Vince Velasquez pitched in with a perfect bottom of the eighth inning of relief, and the White Sox tacked on two more runs in the ninth. Closer Liam Hendriks struck out the side in order in the bottom half for his 31st save of the season.

“These are the games earlier in the year that we weren't able to pull out,” Hendriks said. “And that's one thing we've got going on in this club right now -- we're not backing down. We're not afraid to claw our way back a little bit and do that sort of stuff.

“We obviously knew these last couple of series have been big, and being able to kind of win Game 1 [Monday] and claw our way back in this game was huge.”