One of the advantages to moving back to Sox Machine is the tagging system, which allowed me to keep track of events and ideas that I normally have to scramble back and track in hindsight.
For example, the post rounding up the year’s top winners required me to go through each game recap to see if I’d missed anything. This year, I could just click on the “top game candidate” to see which ones made such an impression in real time.
The tag only includes 13 games, which feels rather generous for a 62-win season. It could’ve been inflated if I included more first-half games against the Kansas City Royals, and an 11-1 thrashing of the Baltimore Orioles could’ve also made the cut if news of Welington Castillo’s suspension didn’t hang over the affair. A couple other games were a little too redundant to more successful evenings to stand on their own, including one of the first 13.
Limiting the list to a dozen in order to have some sense of standards, here are what I’ve determined to be the best games from the worst season most of us can remember.
Palka put the final touches on his clutch case with a walk-off single that capped off an unlikely three-run comeback against Carlos Carrasco. The Indians weren’t really playing for anything, as evidenced by Carrasco facing Palka in the first place, but this game seems more “top game” material than a 5-4 victory in extra innings that prevented the Sox from going winless in Cleveland the week before.
The White Sox trailed this one 5-1 heading into the seventh, yet won it without a save situation. A Toronto bullpen game helped, as the White Sox blew up the sequence of Tyler Clippard-Jaime Garcia-Ryan Tepera for eight runs over the seventh and eighth innings. The six-run explosion in the latter frame was the Sox’ biggest inning to date, with Palka putting the Sox ahead with a two-run single.
The White Sox put together a rare burst of competence against a strong opponent, taking two out of three against Milwaukee. They took out some of their frustration on Matt Albers, with Daniel Palka hitting a no-doubt, two-run game-breaker off the former Sox reliever.
Albers was in the middle of a renaissance season, posting a 1.08 ERA over his first 25 games. After getting touched up in both games against his old team, his season ultimately resembled his disastrous 2016 in Chicago. His numbers before and after the series against the White Sox:
- Before: 21 G, 25 IP, 17 H, 2 HR, 5 BB, 21 K, 1.08 ERA, .198/.245/.279
- After: 13 G, 9.1 IP, 28 H, 8 HR, 7 BB, 11 K, 24.11 ERA, .519/.571/1.074
The White Sox opened this one with seven consecutive hits for five runs, which was more than they scored in the entire previous series against the Houston Astros. Besides the fact that this victory snapped a seven-game losing streak, the Sox were also dealing with the aftermath of Danny Farquhar’s brain aneurysm, so everything about this evening was sorely needed.
The last White Sox winner of Harrelson’s broadcast career was a romp, as the South Siders outhit the North Siders 19-9 while Reynaldo Lopez suffocated the Cubs with a pillow. It would’ve ranked higher had the White Sox bullpen not made a mess of the last two innings, or if the White Sox didn’t make a mess of the last two games.
The White Sox entered this game 3-10 against Detroit, and they were on their way to being 3-11 before a six-run explosion in the eight inning during a three-run deficit into a three-run lead. Omar Narvaez and Adam Engel set them up, and Moncada, Garcia and Palka knocked them down.
The Sox went 4-2 against Detroit the remainder of the season, which improved the winning percentage enough to avoid future narratives, but not so much that it altered the draft order. The Tigers would be picking ahead of the White Sox with a couple more wins.
James Shields fell behind 4-0 after four batters, but Matt Davidson launched three homers on Opening Day as the White Sox began systematically flushing their Kauffman Stadium failures out of the system. The Sox then came back the next day with a Castillo go-ahead double, but once it became clear that 1) the Royals were really bad and 2) the Sox couldn’t replicate their success elsewhere, it didn’t quite make the cut.
Here’s another game where the White Sox trailed 4-0 after four batters, this time with Lucas Giolito on the mound. The biggest deficit was 7-2, but the White Sox erased it with two outs remaining with Avisail Garcia’s second homer of the season (and one of Jason Benetti’s finest calls to date).
That sent it into extras, and Yoan Moncada gave the Sox their first lead of the game with a two-run triple, which was made more satisfying by the fact that Rick Renteria called for a safety squeeze earlier in the at-bat.
Another former White Sox facing his old team, Chris Sale was magnificent. He allowed just seven hits over eight innings, with no walks and 10 strikeouts. Thompson’s flared RBI single — which drove home Kevan Smith after a blooped double — generated the only run he allowed. And yet Dylan Covey beat him. Nobody believed in Covey more than the Section 108 guys, who bet $108 on the game and put the winnings on the bar for our meetup afterparty.
Speaking of 108, the Red Sox led all of baseball with 108 wins, and yet the White Sox won the season series. Who are the real regular-season champs?
The White Sox locked in their first winning month of the season with maybe their most professional effort of the season. The infield showed up in all facets. Moncada tied the game with a bases-loaded double, Sanchez made a few slick picks, and Anderson scored an insurance run on a wild pitch that wasn’t that wild.
The groans and boos after that run tell the rare story of the 2018 White Sox outclassing a superior opponent.
As I said before, victories against the Royals would’ve padded the list, but this one was extraordinary. After Reynaldo Lopez gave up three homers in the second inning to fall behind 6-0, the White Sox answered with three homers in the fourth:
- Jose Abreu single
- Daniel Palka single
- Avisail Garcia three-run homer
- Nicky Delmonico single
- Tim Anderson two-run homer
- Omar Narvaez solo homer
And because it was a home Sunday, Hawk Harrelson was on the call for all of them.
And if that wasn’t enough, in between those two outbursts, the White Sox announced that Michael Kopech would be making his MLB debut the following Tuesday. All of this created the kind of electricity the White Sox were both unable and unwilling to generate elsewhere in the season.
Trayce Thompson only had 14 hits over 48 games with the White Sox, but a couple of them were huge. He delivered the season’s first walk-off win — and Minnesota’s fifth walk-off loss — with a two-out solo shot off former teammate Addison Reed. It should’ve been most memorable for capping off a four-run comeback against a division rival, but Yolmer Sanchez ended up stealing the show with a celebration that stands as the season’s most memorable moment.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) May 4, 2018
Sanchez helped lighten the load of a rebuilding year with variations on the theme, including a more athletic self-dousing during the White Sox’ Sept. 3 walk-off over Detroit. I suppose that game could’ve also made the list — Palka tied the game with a homer and Davidson won it with his own — but rising to life after eight sleepy innings to sneak ahead of an equally bad team into third place in front of 15,000 fans is something the Sox probably want to avoid in future seasons.