The White Sox used a six-run fifth inning to power their way past the Cubs on Sunday night, and they apparently enjoyed it enough to deploy the same strategy in Monday night’s opening frame against the Cubs.
After shortstop Tim Anderson opened the frame with a hustle double, Yoán Moncada singled him home in his first plate appearance since returning from the COVID-19 list last week.
Then came the eruption of Mt. Eloy in the form of a 440-foot grand slam into the greenery draping the batter’s eye in centerfield to push the White Sox lead to 5-0.
The ability to string together big hits, and hang crooked numbers on the board like we’ve seen the last two nights is not only evidence that the White Sox lineup is loaded with dangerous hitters, but according to Dallas Keuchel, it’s a huge help for the pitching staff.
“Our lineup is just as good as anyone in baseball’s,” Keuchel said. “We just have a lot of young guys that need to prove some things or prove some things again in order to get some street cred.
“It helps the pitching staff a whole lot because one crooked number in one inning is all it takes for a lot of young guys. Giolito, Cease, you name it. Even me and this isn’t my first go around.”
That five-run first inning probably helped Keuchel on Monday night after he had an adrenaline-filled pregame bullpen that he actually cut short to go rest before the first pitch.
“I was telling McCann before the game after we finished warming up that it was such a brutal bullpen session because I wasn’t used to all of the adrenaline, the blood pumping as much as I had the last ten minutes of warming up so I just cut it short.”
Despite being amped to finally face another team than his own in 2020, the savvy veteran was able to settle in and make easy work of the Cubs lineup.
Among pitchers with at least 100 innings in 2019, Dallas Keuchel led the way in inducing ground ball outs from opposing hitters, which is one reason why the White Sox gave him the payday he was looking for this past December. In his final tune-up before the regular season starts, Keuchel lived up to the scouting report against a formidable Chicago Cubs lineup.
The 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner went five innings on Monday night, allowing no runs on one hit and faced the minimum. He retired 10 Cubs via the ground ball while getting three fly-outs and a pair of strikeouts, and it only took him 55 pitches to do it.
Keuchel retired the final 11 hitters he faced, and despite Sox skipper Ricky Renteria opting to end Keuchel’s day after just five innings and 55 pitches, Keuchel said that he could have gone deeper into the ballgame, but expressed that he’s happy that he got up and down five times with no issues. Keuchel sees that benchmark as a sign that he’s ready to go in 2020.
“It feels great. It feels weird at the same time, but in the body, it feels like we’re ready to go,” Keuchel said. “For me personally, I feel ready to go. I was able to do a lot of the things that I wanted to do and be successful, so I’m ready to turn the lights on for real and get this thing going.
As for the rest of the team, Keuchel sees a group of hungry young players looking to be a dangerous opponent in 2020.
I mean, the excitement is for real. The biggest thing for me is when I wake up in the morning, I know we have a chance to win every night, and that hasn’t been there (in Chicago) in the last four or five years. Once a team knows that’s possible, that’s when really good things start to happen.”
Keuchel will next take the ball on Saturday in the White Sox’s second regular-season game against the Minnesota Twins.
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