Mercedes makes history with 8-for-8 start

April 4th, 2021

Chicago's Mercedes continues to run at a high performance level.

That Mercedes being Yermín Mercedes, who had hits in his first three at-bats Saturday against Alex Cobb to give him an 8-for-8 start to the season in a 5-3 White Sox loss to the Angels at Angel Stadium. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Mercedes is now the first player in the modern era (dating back to 1900) to begin a season with hits in his first eight at-bats. Mercedes was finally retired in the eighth inning after flying out on a 3-2 pitch from southpaw Tony Watson, but his opening performance was nothing short of astonishing for those around him.

“I’d be offering Yerm an extension right now,” said White Sox reliever Evan Marshall, who took the loss after allowing three runs in the eighth, including Justin Upton’s go-ahead home run. “That’s some of the best hitting I’ve ever seen.”

“I was just thinking there isn’t anything that comes close. I think he was upset when he made the out,” said White Sox manager Tony La Russa, who has been in the game for 60 years. “And it’s clutch. That’s the thing, it’s not just for show. He’s putting us in a great position to win. Won one yesterday and put us in a position to win today. Take my hat off to him, pat him on the back, whatever it takes.”

Mercedes’ first hit was a solo home run in the second, marking the first long ball of his MLB career, which was retrieved by Chicago's bullpen and authenticated. His most important knock appeared to come in the top of the sixth, when Mercedes doubled home Yoán Moncada, who had reached after being hit by a pitch to lead off the frame.

If you were to predict a White Sox hitter to start a season with eight straight hits, it would probably not be Mercedes. He had 2,128 Minor League at-bats entering the 2021 season -- not to mention he was playing for independent unaffiliated teams known as the White Sands Pupfish, Douglas Diablos and San Angelo Colts as recently as 2014. He made his MLB debut last August, earning one at-bat all season (a groundout to second as a pinch-hitter on Aug. 2), and even as a strong Spring Training played out in Arizona, the 28-year-old looked as if he would start at the team’s alternate training site in Schaumburg, Ill.

Chris Stynes of the 1997 Reds had the longest streak to start a season during the Expansion Era (dating back to 1961) at seven, a feat now surpassed by Mercedes. The White Sox record for consecutive hits is 10, which is shared by Frank Thomas (1997), Rip Radcliff (1938) and Harry McCurdy (1926). The Major League record is 11, held by Dustin Pedroia (2016) and Bernie Williams (2002).

La Russa walked over and patted Mercedes on the back, along with offering some words of encouragement and praise after the catcher flied out on a 3-2 pitch with one out in the eighth. Mercedes flashed the smile that's becoming better known across baseball thanks to his unreal offensive display.

"Getting eight straight hits in the Majors, I never imagined that,” Mercedes said. “Now, it's a new day for me because I just want to keep doing the thing that I've been doing every day and working with my approach, put the ball in play every day, so I'm excited for that.

“With my last at-bat with the out, I just feel good, just keep hitting with my approach. I don't want to miss that at-bat, but we just continue to keep working to do the best every time at home plate. I don't feel mad about something like that. I just keep hitting with my approach and do the best I can do right there."

According to Mercedes, Angels shortstop José Iglesias congratulated him during the game, telling him he’d never seen anybody get eight straight hits. Second baseman David Fletcher told Mercedes he was unbelievable.

“And I said, 'Thank you, bro, I'm excited right now,'” Mercedes said. “Just keep doing that."

“He has a joy for the game and that also came through,” said Angels manager Joe Maddon of Mercedes, who had a 5-for-5 showing with four RBIs on Friday. “ So what we saw last night wasn't an anomaly moment. I think that's who he is and you have to pay a lot of attention to him.”

Five of Mercedes’ eight hits have come with two strikes, when the right-handed hitter forgoes any sort of stride in his approach. Now La Russa faces the same question he dealt with after Mercedes' spectacular showing Friday: Will he back in the lineup again on Sunday?

After suffering a second eighth-inning blown save in the series, La Russa wasn’t ready to think about the Sunday night lineup. He did, however, joke about Mercedes coming up a triple short of the cycle Saturday.

“What I do, I concentrate on the game we’re playing,” La Russa said. “That’s my mind, No. 1. Commend Mercedes, but I’m not thinking about that lineup yet.”

“You have to be ready, catching or DH, whenever Tony wants to put me there,” Mercedes said. “Do the best I can do. DH, catching, if I’m in the lineup that’s what I think about.”