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Yermin Mercedes goes 5-for-5 in first major-league start, leading White Sox to 12-8 win

Jose Abreu hit a grand slam as the Sox improved to 1-1.

Jose Abreu #79 of the Chicago White Sox celebrates his grand slam home run with Yermin Mercedes #73, Luis Robert #88, and Tim Anderson #7 against the Los Angeles Angels during the third inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on April 02, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Yermin Mercedes went 5-for-5 with a double and four RBI in his first career start, Jose Abreu slugged a grand slam, and the White Sox (1-1) held on for a 12-8 win over the Angels for their first victory of the season.

According to STATS, the only other player besides Mercedes in the modern era to have five hits in first career start was Washington’s Cecil Travis, who was 5-for-7 against Cleveland on May 17, 1933. Mercedes, the designated hitter who made the team out of spring training as a third catcher, became the first player in the modern era to go 5-for-5 in first start. Fred Clarke also did it for the Louisville Colonels in 1894.

“Historic,” manager Tony La Russa said. “Most of it was outstanding pieces of hitting, deep in the count.”

Mercedes, 28, a Rule 5 draft pick who made his professional baseball career 10 years ago, had one at-bat last season.

“I don’t know what to say right now,” Mercedes said. “I’m just so happy.”

A night after their highly regarded pen surrendered a lead in a 4-3 loss on Opening Day, the Sox bullpen — save for a rocky ninth inning from closer Liam Hendriks — bounced back with a strong effort in relief of left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who gave up six runs (three earned) over four-plus innings.

Tim Anderson provided an insurance run with a homer to right center leading off the ninth against Raisel Iglesias, and the Sox tacked on four more runs on two-run doubles by Grandal and Mercedes.

“I just want to cry when I see I’m in the majors right now,” Mercedes said, “because it’s been a long time, a long time. I got a [long] history. It’s about time, but it’s hard for me, just looking around, is this real? I’m here.”

Matt Foster struck out Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and Justin Upton in relief of Keuchel in the fifth, but Eaton’s bad miss on a running catch near the line put two unearned runs on the board and cut the Sox lead to 7-6.

Michael Kopech (1-0), appearing in his first game since September, 2018, pitched two perfect innings with three strikeouts before walking Mike Trout to lead off the eighth, his third inning.

“I was pleased with how good my stuff was,” said Kopech, who touched 99 mph.

“It felt eerily familiar,” said Kopech, who missed the 2019 and 2020 seasons because of Tommy John surgery and opting out. “I just enjoyed being back out there in competitor’s mode again.”

Evan Marshall replaced Kopech after the walk and recorded two outs and could have had three if third baseman Yoan Moncada (0-for-5, five striketous) hadn’t bobbled Upton’s potential double play ground ball, putting Trout on second. La Russa then put the go-ahead run on first by intentionally walking Albert Pujols and brought in closer Liam Hendriks.

Hendriks got Jose Iglesias on a deep fly to right center, then gave up a two-run homer to Ohtani. Hendriks threw 34 pitches.

The Sox defense, which gave the Angels two unearned runs Thursday thanks to second baseman Nick Madrigal’s throwing error, was shaky a second night. In addition to Eaton’s error, Abreu was charged with one on Ohtani’s smash that went through him and into the corner for three bases in the first. Ohtani scored on Trout’s infield single.

Eaton, who homered on Thursday, drove in a run with a single in the Sox’ four-run fourth. Abreu’s slam was followed by a walk to Luis Robert.