The White Sox finally played against a different team Sunday night, making the short jaunt north to the former home of Elwood Blues to take on the Cubs.
Lucas Giolito. He didn’t throw Sunday night at Wrigley, but manager Ricky Renteria announced that Giolito will get the ball for the regular season opener against the Twins on Friday. It’s always an honor to be named Opening Day starter in the Major Leagues, even more so considering where he was in 2018. It’s a testament to the work he did heading into the 2019 season, and it lead to an All-Star nod last year, and now, the Opening Day start in 2020. Good for him.
Adam Engel. He likely is going to lose his job as the starting center fielder to Luis Robert, but he showed he still has some value to this White Sox team, blasting a solo home run to deep left field off Cubs Opening Day starter Kyle Hendricks (who had the same facial expression that he would have had if he had struck Engel out looking). Engel has good speed and can track down balls in the outfield as well as anyone on the Sox roster, but he doesn’t have the consistent power that Robert has, and that’s why Robert will be the every day CF for the Sox going forward.
Jason Benetti. The Sox play-by-play guy deftly slipped in a Monty Python reference after Luis Robert’s double into the ivy in center field, after hitting a home run into the shrubbery the Sox planted in the batters eye in their own ballpark on the South Side. Cubs fans will likely retort that it was merely a flesh wound…
Jose Abreu. Abreu went 2-for-3 off Hendricks, which is impressive given how tricky Hendricks is to hit off of. Hendricks has a lot of movement and doesn’t throw very hard, and the Sox have historically not done well with soft tossing pitchers with movement. Neither of his two hits were particularly hard-hit balls (those would come later in the 5th off Cubs reliever Jharel Cotton), but he showed a good approach, not trying to do too much.
Ross Detwiler. The Sox bullpen was one of the team’s strong suits in 2019, and Detwiler is a part of that going forward in 2020, and he made it look easy in his 2 innings of work. He only allowed one hit and struck out four, and moved his pitches around effectively, keeping the Cubs hitters off balance.
The top of the 5th inning. Hendricks kept the Sox offense at bay through the first 4+ innings until Engel’s solo home run. That seemed to get the Sox offense rolling, as they rattled off 6 runs on 7 hits in the frame. Luis Robert, Edwin Encarnacion and Yasmani Grandal all doubled in runs with hard hit balls, and Leury Garcia finished the hit parade in the inning with a scorching triple to center field. The Sox won’t be out of many games with the offense they have at their disposal, and they’ll put up more than a few crooked numbers on the scoreboard this season.
Drew Anderson. He’s in a battle to make the roster, and didn’t do himself too many favors. He allowed a home run to Jason Kipnis (who I just recently learned is from the Chicagoland area), and another run in the second on a sacrifice fly by Nico Hoerner. That said, it could have been worse in the 2nd, as the Cubs had runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out, and he escaped only allowing one run. In his three innings, he had trouble locating his pitches, but battled and kept his team in the game.
There wasn’t anything particularly ugly about this performance. I could crack wise about the artificial crowd noise cheering during routine pop flies hit by Cub hitters, but I’ll pass. We’re all just happy to see baseball on our TV screens again.
Tomorrow, the scene shifts south to 35th and Shields as the Sox and Cubs play another practice game at Sox Park, with Dallas Keuchel getting the start for the Sox. Pitter patter.