It often has been said that baseball has evolved into a game of three true outcomes: home runs, strikeouts and walks.
The bottom of the second inning Saturday might have been one of the clearest examples of the modern game. Indians starter Triston McKenzie walked or struck out every White Sox batter he faced until Tim Anderson hit a grand slam. He had walked the bases loaded, then walked Leury Garcia to give up his first run.
Five runs, one hit and six strikeouts in the first two innings for McKenzie. The Sox put zero balls in play the first three innings but went on to beat the Indians 7-3, collecting three more hits and striking out seven more times along the way.
“That’s an unusual one,” manager Tony La Russa said. “But the five-run rally was built around a hit and a lot of patience. McKenzie, he’s usually hitting the black or barely off it, and we did a good job of forcing him onto the plate, and that set up Tim for the big blow.”
The offense was able to produce seven runs despite 13 strikeouts because it also drew eight walks.
Catcher Yasmani Grandal led that charge, reaching all four times on walks.
“When you see your average not where it usually is, every time you go to bat, you want to make something happen, and his patience is really to be admired,” La Russa said.
The Sox added two more runs in the fourth when Garcia doubled home Grandal and Jake Lamb, who had drawn walks.
Making his first appearance in two weeks, Lance Lynn was on a loose pitch count — La Russa said before the game that he planned for somewhere around 75 to 85 pitches — and for the first three innings, he used his bullets conservatively.
It took Lynn 34 pitches to get to the fourth inning, but it took him 22 to get out of it. Lynn allowed two runs, two walks, a double and a single in the fourth and a solo home run to Austin Hedges in the fifth.
“It was good to get back out there and compete,” Lynn said. “I’ve been missing that for the last 15 days or so. Physically, everything felt great. Felt as good as it could. Just getting back into the game flow, getting back into the intensity. Everything was where it needed to be.”
All told, Lynn threw 68 pitches, good enough for five innings of three-run ball. Michael Kopech pitched three scoreless innings in relief for the hold, and Aaron Bummer finished things off in the ninth.
Lynn and Kopech benefitted from excellent defense. Luis Robert chased down a 379-foot rocket that came off Josh Naylor’s bat at 101 mph in the second inning, and Anderson ranged deep behind second base and threw across his body to get the second out of the eighth.
“I can’t be just dangerous at the plate; I’ve been working to get better on defense, on the bases,” Anderson said. “Really just trying to beat you at all angles. And that’s something that I work on every day to continue to get better. You guys are finally seeing what I can do.”
Anderson’s slam was the second of his career. He hit his first April 14, 2019, at Yankee Stadium.
Anderson struck out on fastballs in the first inning, and he said that when he came up in the second, he made sure he was timed up for McKenzie’s heater.
“I didn’t miss; that was a big hit,” Anderson said of his blast.