White Sox get swept in New York, fall in walk-off fashion againon May 23, 2021 at 11:26 pm

A pinch home run by rookie Andrew Vaughn against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, on what manager Tony La Russa called “an absolutely perfect swing” in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium Sunday, tied the game and lit the White Sox dugout.

And why shouldn’t it have? It was one of the most dramatic moments of the season. It gave the Sox a chance to avoid getting swept by the hottest team in baseball.

Carlos Rodon’s 13-strikeout scoreless start in a losing effort Friday and Jose Abreu’s and Yasmani Grandal’s Sunday homers notwithstanding, it had been a far from perfect three-game series for the Sox in a matchup with another playoff contender. On Sunday, left-hander Dallas Keuchel could only get through four-plus innings, and errors by Keuchel and shortstop Tim Anderson gave the Yankees three unearned runs.

But for just a hot minute on a steamy May afternoon in New York, Vaughn’s improbable blast against Chapman, who hadn’t allowed an earned run or blown a save this season, set the stage for a happy ending to their road trip.

Then came the bottom of the ninth, which ended badly on closer Liam Hendriks’ five-pitch walk to Aaron Judge with the bases loaded, giving the Yankees a 5-4 win and a sweep that left the Sox with a 2-4 road trip.

Choosing to continue with left-hander Aaron Bummer (0-3) rather than give Hendriks a clean inning in the ninth, La Russa watched Bummer allow a leadoff single to Clint Frazier, who then stole second getting a huge jump against the left-hander as Brett Gardner struck out. DJ LeMahieu was walked intentionally, and when Tyler Wade’s dribbler to the right side of the infield went for a single, the bases were loaded for Judge.

Hendriks got Judge to swing at the first pitch at eye level, then threw four straight balls, none of them close to a strike, completing the walk-off.

“We liked the matchups in the ninth inning,” said La Russa, explaining why Hendriks didn’t start the inning in a tie game. “And the other thing, you still have to think at some point, you may need Liam for more [possible 10th inning].

“The toughest break was [Wade’s infield hit].”

It was the Yankees’ fourth walk-off victory in their last five home games, including two against the Sox, and their sixth win in a row. Jameson Taillon pitched five innings of two-hit ball to extend the scoreless streak by Yankees starters to 35 innings, matching a string in 1947 for the second-longest in team history.

The Yankees (28-19) are 23-9 since 5-10 start and the Sox are 26-19 after losing three straight for the first time but remain in first place in the AL Central. The Sox grounded into two double plays after hitting into four in a 7-0 loss to Gerrit Cole Saturday.

Vaughn hit into a crushing triple play facing Chapman in a 2-1 loss Friday.

“Yeah, I mean, he’s got one of if not the best fastballs in the game,” said Vaughn, who pointed to the Sox bullpen as he sprinted around the bases. “It gets on you and you got to get on top of it and put a good swing on it.”

The Sox are already thinking about playing the Yankees in the postseason.

“Come playoff time we can hopefully come back, we’ll have a little bit of grit underneath us and more experience.”

The Sox noted a “playoff atmosphere,” Vaughn said, chalking up the sweep as something to build in.

“[But] losing is never fun. Losing stinks,” Vaughn said. “Definitely not a good feeling but we get to come at this thing tomorrow. It’s why baseball is so great. It comes right back at you. Get on the plane, get home, get some sleep and be at the ball yard tomorrow.”

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