Big nights by Crochet, Julks help Sox end four-game skid

May 22nd, 2024

TORONTO -- Done with trudging through a taxing road trip, the White Sox zipped past the Blue Jays to stop the skid.

There was no power surge or one big inning. Tuesday night’s 5-0 win was built on speed and contact, and on ’s continued run of success. It gave the White Sox their first victory in five games since the start of the road trip between New York and Chicago.

“We produced runs any way, any how,” said catcher Korey Lee, who reached on an error and came around to score in the second inning. “We did a good job getting guys over. … Just put together good at-bats, and we’ll have success like that.”

It helps when your starter is dealing on the other side.

Crochet extended his scoreless streak to 19 innings in the win, holding the Blue Jays off the bases until the fifth inning. His six frames of two-hit ball with one walk and four strikeouts also lifted him to a new season high in innings pitched. Crochet now has 57 2/3 frames under his belt this season, elapsing the 54 1/3 innings he threw in 2021.

Long-term health is no longer a concern, so Crochet is focused on testing different boundaries.

“He’s learning,” said manager Pedro Grifol. “He's learning how to read bats, he’s learning how to make adjustments and when [opponents] make adjustments to him.”

This matchup was a good test.

Crochet rode the heater against a low-strikeout, righty-heavy Blue Jays lineup. He topped out at 99 mph with the fastball, which he threw an above-average 61 percent of the time on 85 pitches (55 strikes).

“You tip your hat, man,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said of Crochet. “That kid throws 100 mph. He’s got good [stuff]. That’s his third good game in a row. We hit some balls hard, but didn’t get much going. You tip your hat to a good pitcher.”

There’s plenty of reason to tip your hat given how Crochet adapted, but he had both feet on the ground after the outing.

“There weren’t a lot of strikeouts on the table, I knew that going into the game, so it’s kind of just, ‘Attack and live in the zone,’” said Crochet. “So I let myself down a little bit with the strike percentage. But, I mean, another good one, another win. So, I’m happy about it.”

Run support came early for Crochet, first from the Nicky Lopez RBI single that plated Lee in the second and later in the form of , who has continued to shine since being acquired from the Astros on May 15.

Julks gave the White Sox some separation with a two-out single that brought in two more runs in the fifth inning. After fouling off a first-pitch fastball, Julks watched as left-hander Yusei Kikuchi threw two uncompetitive offspeed pitches to get ahead in the count. He was ready for the heater that time, drilling it between third and short with an exit velocity of 105.2 mph.

That came one inning after Julks walked and stole second base -- his second steal in four games since joining the White Sox.

“I just want to help in any way possible,” said Julks. “And [the White Sox] want me to run. So I said, ‘OK, I can do that for you, no doubt.’”

For a club that hasn’t hit the ball hard with consistency so far this season, Julks’ value is quite clear. His bat has some pop, as evidenced by his five home runs in 33 Minor League games this season. Add that to the potential to wreak havoc on the bases -- and some remarkable outfield defense -- and you’ll see why the White Sox struck a deal for the 28-year-old.

Julks was DFA’d by the Astros on May 15 and traded to Chicago five days later. He seemed to belong in the Majors from the get-go, especially after a solid first season in Houston, but roster construction can be thankless at times.

His fresh start with the White Sox has been eye-popping. Julks has seen most of his at-bats against left-handed pitchers, posting a .400 average (4-for-10) with a 1.338 OPS, one homer and three RBIs over four games.

“He’s a special player,” said Lee, who was teammates with Julks coming up in the Astros’ system. “He brings a lot of energy. He's a hard worker, he’s a competitor, he’s an even better guy. As soon as he came over here, we welcomed him with [open] arms.”