White Sox foil Strider on Burger's 20th blast

Slick DP in 9th helps Chicago even set, snap Atlanta's 10-game home win streak

July 16th, 2023

ATLANTA -- The first two innings of a 6-5 White Sox victory over the Braves on Saturday night at Truist Park did not look good for the visitors.

, the Major League Baseball leader in strikeouts, had faced six hitters and struck out five. Coupled with Friday night’s shellacking administered by the best team in the game, matters actually looked far worse than not good for a Chicago team riding a three-game losing streak.

But a funny thing happened after that less-than-auspicious opening. The White Sox managed five runs on eight hits off the high-octane Strider, despite his 10 strikeouts. It was enough damage done to end a 10-game home winning streak for the Braves and give the White Sox their very first victory in Atlanta.

How did the South Siders turn things around against Strider? They let Strider (11-3) lend a helping hand.

“We didn’t try to do too much against [Strider],” manager Pedro Grifol said. “We let him supply a little bit of the power and we stayed within ourselves. That’s kind of what we want to do every day.

“I know it’s easier said than done. There was a good game plan going in and these guys executed a game plan against one of the best pitchers in baseball, if not the best.”

Five of the White Sox hits came with two strikes against Strider, who entered the game with a .117 average against and a .384 OPS allowed with two strikes this season.

Jake Burger delivered the go-ahead blow in the sixth, connecting on an 0-2 four-seam fastball at 99.6 mph, per Statcast, for a home run to right. Hitters were previously 14-for-132 with one homer off Strider in 0-2 counts this season. Burger’s 20th overall doubled that long ball total.

“He’s got an electric fastball,” Burger said. “Just slowing it down and being able to drive the ball, and just make contact with it because it’s electric.”

“Threw a lot of strikes, maybe too many,” Strider said. “Executed some pitches that weren't hit very hard, and those are usually not going to result in outs. So, I needed to be better."

This victory wasn’t easy for the White Sox, a trait following the team through their disappointing 2023 campaign. Atlanta loaded the bases against Keynan Middleton in the eighth, only to come up empty when Michael Harris II popped up a 2-1 changeup.

Ronald Acuña Jr. opened the ninth with his second home run of the game, this one going out to right against Kendall Graveman (eight saves). But with runners on first and third, Sean Murphy grounded into a broken-bat, game-ending double play started on a fine stop by shortstop Tim Anderson.

“Offense did a great job. You look at scoring runs off [Strider], who has elite stuff. It was a good win for us,” winning pitcher Lance Lynn said. “Last night [a 9-0 loss] was not the best. We were able to rebound today.

“Scored enough runs to win and offense picked me up, for sure.”

“We beat a pretty damn good pitcher today and a really damn good team,” Grifol said. “I’m proud of these guys the way they played. They played hard, they were detailed. And they played to win today.”

Approximately two hours before first pitch on Saturday, Grifol stressed how he was not happy with the club’s attention to detail or the focus overall during his pregame media session.

That sort of criticism often follows on the heels of a 9-0 loss such as Friday, or a team sitting 8 1/2 games out of first in the American League Central with 68 to play.

Blame started with Grifol himself, as he spoke of passing his concern on to the coaches and the players.

“We all have to hold each other accountable,” Grifol said.

Little things meant a great deal Saturday in one of the White Sox best wins of the season. Those details ranged from the hitting approach to the pitches made with the game on the line down to left fielder Andrew Benintendi blocking Matt Olson’s line-drive single and keeping Ozzie Albies at third as the potential tying run with one out in the ninth.

“Yeah, we’ve got to win or we’re out of it. So, it’s time to lock the [heck] in,” Lynn said. “There’s no other way to say it.”