Power show overshadowed as White Sox fall on walk-off balk

September 6th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- For a team looking to find some traction in the latter days of a tough season, there are lessons to be learned all along the way.

The White Sox were reminded of that in abrupt fashion on Tuesday night as they surrendered a six-run lead and ultimately lost, 7-6, to the Royals on a walk-off balk by reliever Gregory Santos. Kansas City had the bases loaded with two outs after tying the game in the ninth. That’s when Santos rushed a delivery home after noticing the pitch timer winding down.

The balk call sent the White Sox spiraling to a fifth consecutive defeat. It marked the second time this season that the Royals have won a game on a walk-off balk. Kansas City became the first team to walk off on a balk twice in a single season in the Live Ball Era (since 1920), per the Elias Sports Bureau.

“He rushed it,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “The [pitch timer] was down to, like, one second. Clearly a balk.”

What was the right move for Santos in that situation?

“Step off [the mound],” Grifol said. “You’ve got two disengagements per hitter. Doesn’t matter where the runners are. He just forgot.”

The bizarre ending took the shine off what had been an impressive Chicago power show in the early going. Yoán Moncada, and Andrew Vaughn all went deep in the opening three innings, and it was the homer by Lee that brought out the most vivid silver lining.

With his three-run blast in the second, Lee provided a preview of the potential the White Sox saw in him when they acquired the young catcher from the Astros in a Trade Deadline deal designed to help reignite Chicago for 2024 and beyond.

Lee was recalled to join the Major League club on Aug. 24, but there were some immediate offensive struggles. When he stepped into the batter’s box with two on, Lee was in an 0-for-23 slump and was just 1-for-25 overall with the White Sox. But the 25-year-old waded into a Brady Singer offering and sent the ball high and deep over the left-field fence for his first Major League homer.

Lee followed with a single in the third, but he was thrown out trying for second. Those two hits should help ease the pressure on Lee as the organization spends September evaluating what it has in the catcher stockroom heading into the offseason.

“I executed the plan that the coaches and I talked about,” Lee said. “Good things happen when you trust your plan. It’s a good feeling, but at the end of the day, we came up short, and that’s what is on my mind more.”

White Sox starter Dylan Cease was plagued by the home run ball, as had been the case for Singer. The Royals used three homers off Cease to cut their deficit, eventually closing within 6-5. Then Kansas City began its two-run winning rally in the ninth when shortstop Tim Anderson made a throwing error on Nick Loftin’s bouncer to lead off the frame.

“It wasn’t great,” Cease said. “Our offense did a really good job early and gave me a cushion.”

The White Sox had some opportunities for tack-on runs that would have given the bullpen more margin for error. But Chicago couldn’t score after the third.

“They kept battling and creeping up,” Grifol said. “They just kept coming, and then you saw the ending.”