It’s often been said that baseball has evolved into a game of the three true outcomes: home runs, strikeouts, and walks.
The bottom of the second inning Saturday might have been one of the most clear examples of the modern game. Cleveland Indians starter Triston McKenzie either walked or struck out every White Sox batter he saw until he walked the bases loaded, walked Leury Garcia to give up his first run, and then Tim Anderson hit a grand slam.
Five Sox runs on one hit and six strikeouts in the first two innings. They put zero balls in play for the first three innings, but went on to beat the Indians 7-3 and collected three more hits and seven more strikeouts in the process.
“That’s an unusual one,” manager Tony La Russa said. “But the five run rally was built around a hit and a lot of patience. McKenzie, he’s usually hitting the black or barely off it, and we did a good job of forcing him onto the plate, and that set up Tim for the big blow.”
The offense was able to produce seven runs despite a baker’s dozen strikeouts because they also drew eight walks. Catcher Yasmani Grandal led that charge, reaching via free pass all four times he went to bat.
“When you see your average not where it usually is, every time you go to bat you want to make something happen, and his patience is really to be admired,” La Russa said.
The Sox added two more runs in the fourth when Leury Garcia doubled home Yasmani Grandal and Jake Lamb, who had both drawn walks.
Making his first appearance in two weeks, Lance Lynn was on a loose pitch count — La Russa said before the game that he planned for somewhere around 75-85 pitches — and for the first three innings, Lynn used his bullets conservatively.
It took Lynn 34 pitches to get to the fourth inning, but it took him 22 to get out of the fourth. Lynn gave up two runs on two walks, a double, and a single in that frame and a solo home run to Austin Hedges in the fifth.
“It was good to get back out there and compete,” Lynn said. “I’ve been missing that for the last 15 days or so. Physically everything felt great. Felt as good as it could. Just getting back into the game flow, getting back into the intensity. Everything was where it needed to be.”
All told, Lynn threw 68 pitches Saturday, good enough for five three-run innings. Michael Kopech pitched three scoreless innings in relief for the hold and Aaron Bummer finished things off in the ninth.
Both Lynn and Kopech benefited from excellent defense; Luis Robert chased down a 379-foot rocket that came off of Josh Naylor’s bat at 101 miles per hour in the second inning, and Anderson ranged deep behind second base and threw across his body to get the second out of the eighth.
“I can’t be just dangerous at the plate. I’ve been working to get better on defense, on the bases,” Anderson said. “Really just trying to beat you at all angles. And that’s something that I work every day to continue to get better. You guys are finally seeing what I can do.”
Saturday’s grand slam was the second of Anderson’s career. He hit his first on April 14, 2019 at Yankee Stadium.
Anderson struck out on fastballs in the first inning, and he said when he came up in the second, he made sure he was timed up for McKenzie’s heater.
“I didn’t miss. That was a big hit,” Anderson said of his blast.