Baseball after dark can get kinda weird sometimes, and that’s exactly what happened at Angels Stadium Friday night in the second game of the 2021 season. We saw a 7-1 Sox lead get trimmed to 7-6, only to see the Sox break out in the 9th to regain their six-run lead. That cushion came in handy, and the Sox won 12-8 for their first win of the 2021 season. And we saw something that has never been seen in the history of the White Sox franchise.
Yermin Mercedes made his first start in the majors, and what a first start it was. All he did was go 5-for-5 with 4 runs batted in and one run scored. He showed good plate coverage in the 7th inning with a two-strike inside-out swing to loft a base hit to right-center field. The Sox have been searching for a solution to their DH woes, and perhaps they can park a Mercedes in that spot in the lineup.
All car puns aside, he became the first player in White Sox history to have 5 hits in his first big-league start, and is only the 2nd player in the history of baseball to have 5 hits in his first big-league start. LaRussa said before this series he wanted to get everyone in to a game this first series, but you have to figure Mercedes stays in for Saturday night’s game after this performance.
Jose Abreu is the reigning American League MVP, but apparently the fans in the stands at Angels Stadium seem to think that Mike Trout won that award. Abreu reminded the locals who the MVP really is with the first grand slam of the season in the majors to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead in the 3rd inning. It also put Abreu one home run shy of 200 for his career. He added a single in the 9th inning as well in a 2-for-4 effort.
Michael Kopech was the subject of a lot of intrigue coming into Spring Training, and he saw his first regular season action since the 2018 season, and he was impressive. He threw two scoreless innings, not allowing any hits, and striking out 3, only allowing one walk. He got all of his pitches over the plate and looked very confident doing so. If he can maintain command of all his pitches, he’s going to be a big weapon for Tony LaRussa out of the bullpen.
Tim Anderson got a couple of hits on the night, including a leadoff home run in the top of the 9th to give the Sox a little breathing room after a 7-1 lead turned into a 7-6 lead as the Angels clawed back into the game. I’m sure he’s already looking forward to the pasta dinner he’ll get when the team returns home from the season-opening road trip.
Yasmani Grandal had another solid night, picking up a pair of hits, none bigger than his 2-out, 2-run double in the 9th to give the Sox an even bigger cushion heading into the bottom of the 9th. LaRussa had brought closer Liam Hendriks in during the bottom of the 8th to keep the Sox ahead at 7-6, and this insurance made Hendriks job easier.
Team defense once again gave the Angels life, as two errors gave the Angels extra outs, and three of the Angels six runs. The first one was debatable, as a Shohei Ohtani hard ground ball got past Jose Abreu, but it was ruled a three-base error and Mike Trout drove him in in the next at-bat. The other was clearly an error, as Adam Eaton just missed a ball he should have caught that would have ended the inning. Instead, it allowed two runs to score to get the Angels within one run. Fortunately, the Sox bullpen kept the Angels at bay.
Yoan Moncada is expected to have a big year, but Friday night was one he’d rather forget, as he struck out five times on the night. He also bobbled a ground ball that should have been a double play, but he did still get one out on the play. Here’s hoping he has a short memory, as the Sox will need him to contribute in a positive way going forward.
Lance Lynn makes his White Sox debut Saturday night in game three of this opening four-game set. Hopefully, the Sox saved some runs for that game.