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White Sox 5, Tigers 1: The offense is stuck in neutral

Soft ground balls and strikeouts were the order of the day.

Chicago White Sox v Detroit Tigers Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

I can imagine the scene in Tiger manager AJ Hinch’s office: a bingo-ball tumbler, the kind with the crank handle on the side, and white ping-pong balls inside with various Toledo Mud Hens’ names on them.

[Hinch turns the crank while calliope music plays in the background]

Hinch: “The next Toledo Mud Hen to come up is... Drew Hutchison! Hey, somebody get Drew on the phone!”

Well, indeed, Hutchison got the start for the Tigers tonight against the Chicago White Sox, and he generally did alright. Who didn’t do alright were Tiger hitters — again — as they dropped the second game of their series, 5-1.

As mentioned, Hutchison got the call-up and the nod tonight. This season and last, he’s bounced back and forth between Toledo and the Tigers, filling in when needed as both a starter and a reliever. He’s done okay, I guess: in ten appearances (and three starts) coming into tonight, he had a 4.60 ERA, a 1.532 WHIP, and only allowed one home run in 15 23 innings. He’ll generally hold down the fort while the reinforcements arrive, which is all you can ask of him.

(Checks on reinforcements) Ooof. Ok then.

Facing the Tigers tonight was just about the last guy you’d normally want to face, Dylan Cease. He leads the league in strikeouts per nine innings this year (almost 13!), hardly gives up home runs, and in his career he has absolutely owned the Tigers coming into tonight with a career 9-0 record and an ERA just over 2. The only glimmer of hope is that Cease had walked a bunch of batters; he led the league coming into today’s play. Good luck, boys! You’re gonna need it.

In the top of the first, with two outs and the always-dangerous José Abreu up, Hutchison made a great 2-2 pitch that was easily a strike but got called a ball (see below). Eventually the White Sox loaded the bases, but Leury García struck out on a shoulder-high fastball to end the threat.

The Tigers answered with a leadoff single by Victor Reyes, followed by a Hittin’ Harold Castro single to push Reyes to third. Austin Meadows walked to load the bases with one out, bringing Javier Báez up, who struck out on a heater right down the middle. On a 1-0 pitch, Cease wheeled around and tried to pick Harold Castro off; the throw was wild and Reyes scored. A popup from Robbie Grossman ended things, and it was nice that the Tigers were ahead and all, but c’mon, bases loaded and one out and you only get one? That’s a disappointment, especially since Cease has dominated Detroit for a long time. For the 2022 Tigers, the big inning rarely seems to arrive.

The White Sox answered with a two-out single by Andrew Vaughn to right field in the second, tying the game at 1. Luis Robert followed with another single to center, pushing the White Sox to a 2-1 lead. Fortunately, Hutchison settled down to finish out the third without further incident.

Báez hit a one-out grounder with Meadows on first in the third; Báez beat out the double play but looked as if he might’ve tweaked a hamstring in the process. We’ll keep an eye on this.

Hutchison was asked to pitch the fourth with the 8-9-1 hitters due up, and I’ll be darned if he didn’t get them to go 1-2-3. Nifty play by Báez for the third out, too.

The hammy looked okay there.

Wily Peralta took over for Hutchison in the fifth, and after a single, hit-by-pitch, double and sacrifice fly, it was 4-1 for Chicago. Whoops.

Tyler Alexander made his return to Detroit in the sixth, and a double and a single found the Chicagoans on the corners with two out. A blooper to short right field by Robert on an 0-2 pitch made it 5-1, and the game felt like it was slipping further out of reach.

Cease was out of the game after five innings in which he threw 108 pitches; he has a habit of doing that sort of thing. He’s thrown 319 pitches in 14 13 innings in this start plus the previous two combined. It’s not like he walked a ton of guys tonight — just one — but, holy moly, that’s a lot of pitches. Conversely, Jimmy Lambert needed seven to get through the Tigers in the sixth.

Alexander’s day was done after two innings — the seventh transpired without incident — and Will Vest took over in the eighth. Chicago got a runner to third with two outs, but a liner to Báez ended the threat. Earlier in the inning it looked like Báez might’ve tweaked that hamstring again, while receiving a throw on a forceout at second base.

Gregory Soto pitched the top of the ninth, and he had a nifty double play turned behind him as well. Naturally, the Tigers didn’t do much with the lumber in the bottom of the frame beyond a Tucker Barnhart single, as they meekly finished the game and took the loss. But hey, at least Harold Castro and Victor Reyes each had three hits tonight, so that’s fun.

Bring On the Robot Umps

Pitch #5 to José Abreu in the first inning: called ball 3.

NO. I mean, c’mon, that isn’t even close.

Help Is On the Way... Maybe

Notes and Stats

  • If anyone had Victor Reyes and the Castros batting 1-2-3 anytime this year on their offseason bingo card like AJ Hinch drew it up for tonight, well then, tip o’ the cap to you.
  • Reyes hit leadoff tonight for the seventh time this season, and the third time in three games since coming off the Injured List. Coming into tonight, admittedly it’s a small sample size of 34 plate appearances, but his on-base percentage was .353. So hey, why not bat him leadoff?
  • With an 0-for-4 game including two strikeouts, Javy Báez’s average fell to .188. Ouch.
  • On this day in 1444, Indian mathematician Nilakantha Somayaji was born. Among many of his accomplishments — he’s considered a polymath by many in India — was a system of the solar system which wasn’t quite Sun-centered, and wasn’t quite Earth-centered. Basically, the other known planets orbited the Sun, which in turn orbited the Earth. Heck, for 500-plus years ago, that wasn’t such a bad model.