A historically unorthodox stat line on the mound for Cleveland starter Triston McKenzie led to an easy win for Chicago on Saturday as the White Sox slammed the Indians in a 7-3 contest.
McKenzie had as unpredictable of an outing as possible for the Tribe as he rushed out of the gates on fire, only to lose all command of the strike zone in a quick two-inning stint on the rubber. The White Sox made him pay for every mistake with a mix of patience and timely hitting to back veteran Lance Lynn in his first start off of the injured list.
McKenzie punched out the side in order in a strong first inning. Tim Anderson was cut down on a 3-2 pitch before Adam Eaton whiffed on a curve after taking the first two strikes. Yoan Moncada worked the count to 2-2 before cutting and missing on a fastball.
Lynn retired the side in order in the top of the first for the Sox and worked around a two-out single by Jake Bauers in the second before Chicago took the lead in a big way. Jose Abreu saw five fastballs, four off the plate for a leadoff walk. Yermin Mercedes and Luis Robert were both retiring swinging for the first two outs, but then the wheels fell off for McKenzie after retiring five of the first batters faced via strikeout. Yasmani Grandal walked on four straight and Jake Lamb, after fouling off several 3-2 pitches, took a close pitch in on the hands for ball four to load the bases. Leury Garcia stepped in and got an easy RBI, walking on five pitches to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. McKenzie worked himself in front of Anderson 1-2, but he left a meatball heater over the plate and Anderson drove it to right for a grand slam, giving the White Sox a significant 5-0 lead. Eaton struck out in a seven-pitch battle to end McKenzie’s game with six strikes, but four walks and five runs allowed, in just two innings of work.
Lynn set the Tribe down in order again in the third, while Phil Maton struck out the side swinging in the home half to give the Indians nine straight outs by whiff. Cleveland then responded with a big inning, but ran itself out of the possibility of more. Jose Ramirez drew a one-out walk. After Eddie Rosario flied to left, Josh Naylor doubled to right. A walk by Bauers loaded the bases for Yu Chang, and he broke out of an 0-for-15 skid with a blooper into shallow center for a base hit. Ramirez scored with ease and Naylor just made it across before Bauers got too greedy and tried to move up to third on the hit, thrown out easily to end the inning.
Chicago got the run back in the bottom of the inning against Maton. Robert legged out an infield single to third, but was picked off. Grandal drew his second of four walks on the day and moved to second on a walk by Lamb. He was lifted for pinch-runner Billy Hamilton, which came up big two pitches later as Garcia doubled to right, scoring the slow Grandal and speedy Hamilton to make it a 7-2 ball game. Maton was lifted for Cal Quantrill, who got a pair of grounders to escape further damage.
The Indians got to Lynn one last time in the top of the fifth. With one out, Austin Hedges got his third hit of the season and his second home run, driving a sinker to left to get one run back in the 7-3 game. Lynn completed a five-and-fly before turning the game over to Michael Kopech.
Quantrill escaped a mess in the fifth, loading the bases on an infield single, a hit by pitch, and a walk, but worked his way out of it. Rookie Nick Sandlin, called up on Friday, made his Major League debut in the bottom of the sixth, striking out Eaton with his first big league K to end a scoreless frame. Nick Wittgren pitched a scoreless inning in his return to the club off of the paternity list, and Kyle Nelson did the same in the eighth, issuing the fourth walk to Grandal in an otherwise uneventful inning.
Kopech worked three scoreless innings of relief, retiring nine of the ten batters that he faced. Aaron Bummer, on for the second day in a row, got a grounder to the mound before striking out the next two to conclude matters from Guaranteed Rate Field.
McKenzie’s bizarre outing included an impressive six strikeouts in two innings, but a discouraging four walks and one costly long ball that blew the game open as it was just getting started. He pitched from behind to nine of the eleven men that he faced, getting 13 swings and misses out of his 31 strikes thrown. Unfortunately, his 26 balls recorded came back to haunt him as all four men walked came in to score. It marked his first loss of the year.
“I feel like this game honestly just highlighted my mistakes,” McKenzie said after the game. “Out of my past couple outings, it’s mainly been walks. I feel like I’ve been walking a lot of guys, but I’ve been able to kind of just wiggle my way out of situations. I feel like today it kind of caught up to me.”
Lynn pitched with a big lead and needed to make just 68 pitches on the afternoon before exiting after five. He allowed three runs on four hits with a pair of walks and two strikeouts. Chicago optioned outfielder Luis Gonzalez to its alternate training site in Schaumburg to make room for Lynn.
Naylor, starting at designated hitter for Cleveland, had two of the team’s five hits on the day and scored a run. He got the start there as the club placed Franmil Reyes on the paternity list before the game and called up Daniel Johnson from the taxi squad. He went 0-for-4 hitting leadoff and playing right field. Cesar Hernandez was held out of the lineup for precautionary reasons after hurting his right index finger in Friday night’s win.
Photo: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast