'Outstanding spirit' leads White Sox to sweep

May 9th, 2021

White Sox starter admittedly did not have his best stuff during a 9-3 victory over the Royals Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.

But in what manager Tony La Russa termed as one of the most complete games played by his American Central-leading team this season, Giolito didn’t need to be perfect. The White Sox (19-13) finished off a three-game sweep in Kansas City, won for the 13th time in 18 games and raised their first-place lead to one game.

“I went five-and-dive unfortunately. So, had to tax the bullpen a little bit. They all did a great job,” said Giolito, who ended a personal three-game losing streak. “The defense behind all of us was spectacular today. Seeing that effort, the attentiveness on the defensive side. Every single guy is out there ready for me or whoever is on the bump to deliver that pitch.

“And then obviously, [the offense is] just exploding right now, really taking advantage of hittable pitches and when guys are on base, we are getting them in. So, not much to complain about.”

Whit Merrifield doubled and Andrew Benintendi singled to start the game against Giolito, and Merrifield scored two pitches later. But that run came across on Salvador Perez’s double-play grounder, quickly sapping the Royals’ early momentum.

Giolito walked Carlos Santana and retired Jorge Soler on a ground ball to third baseman Yoán Moncada as the culmination of an 11-pitch at-bat to end the first, allowing the White Sox offense to go to work. After a scoreless opening frame against Mike Minor, the White Sox scored three in the second and two in the third as they improved to 21-1 against left-handed starters since the start of last season and 7-1 this season.

“Getting two outs on one batted ball after getting into trouble immediately, definitely needed that,” Giolito said. “It would have been nicer to strike out the side, but you can’t have it exactly how you want it every time. I don’t think anyone on our side was worried about that, knowing what our offense is capable of.

“Sure enough, [the White Sox] answered back and I was able to navigate through the next four innings. That’s the word I would use, navigate.”

Yermín Mercedes led the offense with his first career triple, a double and three RBIs, raising his average to .373. José Abreu also singled home two in the seventh and doubled home a third in the ninth, giving him 26 RBIs for the season and 697 for his career.

Every White Sox starter reached base at least once and every starter but Yasmani Grandal had at least one hit. 

“We’ve got outstanding heart, outstanding spirit,” La Russa said. “Like today, they scored in the first and we watched Lucas battle out of that thing and they come out there and took a bunch of great at-bats.”

“When you're working hard, you see the results,” said Mercedes, who snapped a 3-for-19 skid and had more RBIs Sunday than the two total he had the last 10 games. “I just want to see the good results. Today was good -- two base hits, double, triple, a couple of RBIs. Just working on it and keep doing it."

Kansas City’s first-inning run ended a stretch of 25 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings for White Sox starters. But that quintet has yielded one run in the last 30 1/3 total. 

Meanwhile, the Royals, who sat atop the AL Central last Sunday, lost their eighth straight. The struggles are pronounced for Kansas City at home against the White Sox, who have won 10 straight at Kauffman dating back to July 31, 2020. During that stretch, the White Sox have outscored the Royals 75-28.

The White Sox clearly were the better team this weekend. Andrew Vaughn in left, Danny Mendick in right and Moncada at third made stellar defensive plays, while Vaughn scored on a Mendick single in the second after moving from first to second on Leury García’s sacrifice fly when Michael A. Taylor overthrew the cutoff man.

As La Russa said, it was an all-around victory effort for one of baseball’s most complete teams, even without left fielder Eloy Jiménez and center fielder Luis Robert. 

“There was defense all over the field, a lot of good looking, hungry at-bats,” La Russa said. “Good bullpen work, too. So it was one of the most complete games we’ve played.”