Yermin Mercedes, Lance Lynn treat White Sox fans to spectacular start
Yoan Moncada and Mercedes hit back-to-back home runs, and Lynn threw a shutout in the Sox’ home opener.
The White Sox talked about putting on a show for the fans in their home opener Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
And then did they did it — in spectacular fashion, no less — with Lance Lynn, Yermin Mercedes and Yoan Moncada playing leading roles in a 6-0 victory against the Royals.
The first inning alone was worth the long wait for fans, who were allowed into the ballpark for the first time since 2019. Mercedes, the toast of baseball after his 8-for-8 start to the season, launched a 485-foot home run against Royals right-hander Brad Keller. Many of the 8,207 fans — a socially distanced sellout with 22% capacity permitted — were still on their feet after cheering Moncada’s opposite-field homer, his first of the season.
‘‘I think he was expecting to hit a homer today,’’ Moncada said of Mercedes, whose average actually dipped to .556 after he went 2-for-4.
Mercedes had said this week he couldn’t wait for the fans to ‘‘meet the Yerminator.’’
‘‘They love me right now,’’ he said after his latest performance.
Mercedes’ homer came after Jose Abreu, responding to chants of ‘‘M-V-P,’’ lined a double with two outs and Moncada homered.
Mercedes’ blast, his second of the season, added another sensational layer to his unthinkable start to the season. Only homers by Joe Borchard (504 feet) on Aug. 30, 2004, against the Phillies and Frank Thomas (495 feet) on July 23, 2002, against the Twins traveled farther on the Sox’ list of longest blasts at the ballpark.
And then Lynn found a way to upstage Mercedes. He struck out Whit Merrifield, Andrew Benintendi and Carlos Santana in order in the first on his way to the second shutout and fourth complete game of his career.
Lynn was masterful, allowing five hits, striking out 11 and walking none. He threw 111 pitches. According to @StatsByStats, Lynn was the first pitcher in American League history to throw a shutout with 10-plus strikeouts and no walks in his team’s home opener.
Lynn also was the first Sox pitcher to throw a complete game in a home opener since Britt Burns in 1985 and the first to throw a shutout since Wilbur Wood in 1976.
‘‘When you look at a complete-game shutout, it’s hard to say you pitched better,’’ Lynn said. ‘‘Double-digit strikeouts, no walks, complete game, that’s as good as you’re going to get.’’
Lynn was perfect through four innings, and it was a nearly perfect home opener against an AL Central rival, even though fans had to wait out a two-hour rain delay after a scheduled 3:10 p.m. start.
The result was more than welcome after rocky 3-4 start on the road against the Angels and Mariners. The Sox played poorly defensively, didn’t run the bases well and watched their well-regarded bullpen surrender three leads.
‘‘It’s nice to have small sample sizes to overreact to,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said before the game.
For La Russa, whose last home opener with the Sox was in 1986, it brought back good memories.
‘‘That’s the kind of opener that you want,’’ he said. ‘‘But to do it coming back here was like ‘Fantasy Island’ because it usually doesn’t work that way. Lance strikes out three guys, and we get three runs.
‘‘But the other thing, I could feel the excitement. The fans were looking forward to watching this club. After we [become] a community, we start getting a whole bunch of people here and it gets warmer and you hear that, ‘Nah-nah, hey-hey, [goodbye]’ stuff, it’s great fun.’’