ANAHEIM, Calif. — Closer Liam Hendriks’ White Sox debut wasn’t how he would have drawn it up, allowing a two-run homer to Shohei Ohtani in a rocky ninth inning of a 12-8 win Friday.
But all was not lost.
“We’re going to be on TV in Japan for about a month after that one so it’s good to be building my brand a little bit,” Hendriks quipped Saturday, before the Sox played the Angels in a late game at Angel Stadium.
Hendriks can take a mulligan, having been derailed for eight days because of a kidney stone late in spring training, having to wait through “the longest half inning in history” in the top of the ninth. The Sox scored five runs to break open a close game in which Hendriks had entered with two outs in the eighth.
The normal adrenaline flow was thereby tempered, and it took 34 pitches to get four outs and his first save.
Hendriks ended it with a strikeout of Anthony Rendon, and didn’t hide his emotions even though the outcome wasn’t on the line with the pitch.
“It was a little bit of relief, a little bit of frustration on my part,” Hendriks said. “Obviously, I shouldn’t have let things get to where they were but it happened. At the end of the day a save is a save is a save is a save.”
Hendriks signed a $54 million contract as a free agent in the offseason.
“I got a little emotional at the end of that one,” he said. “First outing in the black and white.”
Defending the defense
The Sox made three errors (Nick Madrigal, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton) in their first two games, creating two unearned runs on opening night and three Friday.
Manager Tony La Russa knows it must be better but isn’t concerned.
“We’ll have in my opinion, one of the top-five, six defensive clubs in the league as the schedule gets played out,” La Russa said. “I’m very confident about that.
“We have a very strong defensive club. It’s just the way we started with some mistakes here or there. We’re going to be really good.”
Yoan Moncada bobbled a ground ball costing the Sox a double play Friday, but La Russa said it had tricky spin.
Upon further review
La Russa came under fire for not challenging an out call on Nick Madrigal’s stolen base attempt during the seventh inning on opening night, and it’s fair to say the play was close enough and late enough in the game to be challenged. But a major league source familiar with MLB’s replay operations said that video evidence wouldn’t have provided enough evidence to overturn the call.
The Sox lost 4-3. After his first game managing since 2011, La Russa alluded to a new rule reducing the time to make a replay decision from 30 seconds to 20 seconds, essentially admitting the trigger wasn’t pulled in time. But in the end, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.