White Sox

White Sox rally to force extras, but lose to Angels in strangest game

White Sox rally to force extras, but lose to Angels in strangest game

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The White Sox lost the strangest game on Tuesday night.

There were a couple of bloopers that found holes in the bottom of the 11th to set up the winning rally. Melky Cabrera slipped on the wet grass in the outfield and couldn’t recover in time to make one catch. Don Cooper was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. And then there was Todd Frazier’s 33-hop single that scooted through the infield to drive in two runs during a furious ninth-inning rally.

But it all still added up to a difficult loss for the White Sox. Having rallied from three down to pull ahead late on a Tim Anderson home run, the White Sox couldn’t hang on. A pair of bloop hits and Albert Pujols’ game-winning single to deep center lifted the Los Angeles Angels to a 7-6 victory over the White Sox in front of 36,089 at Angel Stadium. Anderson’s homer with two outs in the 11th put the White Sox ahead but David Robertson couldn’t hold the lead. The White Sox have lost eight of 10 and dropped to 17-20 overall.

“Baseball is a crazy game,” Robertson said. “We had the pop fly to left with (Cameron) Maybin and I thought ‘How often does your left fielder fall down and trip, loose his footing?’ Things happened. It’s a crazy game. I mean, I’m smiling about it now, but I’m furious that we lost. But looking back on it, a lot of weird things went on. We definitely had a chance to get out of it, just couldn’t make it happen.”

Anderson had a triumphant return to the White Sox lineup. Playing for the first time since he attended the funeral of his best friend this weekend, Anderson’s 11th-inning solo home run off Yusmeiro Petit put the White Sox in line for a stunning victory that included a three-run rally in the ninth. 

But the Angels wouldn’t give in — even after the tying run had been cut down at third in the 11th. With Andrelton Simmons on second courtesy of a single and a passed ball, Robertson opted to throw to third on Danny Espinosa’s bunt and Tyler Saladino applied an athletic tag for the first out.

But Ben Revere’s pinch-hit bloop single set up Maybin’s game-tying, bloop double to left field. Cabrera initially broke back on a ball that normally results in a hit 11 percent of the time, according to Baseball Savant, and slipped on his way back in. Anderson still nearly tracked the ball down but couldn’t haul it in.

“I just slipped,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “This little square, kind of a different grass. I just slipped there.”

“If I don’t slip, I catch the ball.”

Robertson walked Mike Trout intentionally to load the bases for Pujols, who ripped a deep drive to center. Leury Garcia couldn’t handle the ball (it would have gone for a game-winning sac fly no matter) and the White Sox lost in equally stunning fashion.

“We battled,” said starting pitcher Derek Holland, who allowed three earned runs in six innings. “We can’t sit and beat ourselves up. We came back and tied it up. We took the lead. It’s one of those nights that got away from us. I know we’re capable of getting that, but unfortunately things didn’t go our way, and we have to move on and get ready for the next one.

“It was a crazy game.”

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Stymied for seven innings by J.C. Ramirez, the White Sox scored three times off David Hernandez in the ninth to send it to extras. Before their rally, the only White Sox offense came via a two-run Yolmer Sanchez homer in the sixth that got them within a run.

Cabrera and Jose Abreu singled off Hernandez to start the ninth-inning rally. Avisail Garcia nearly homered, but settled for an RBI double. Then came Frazier’s must-be-seen-to-be-believed game-tying hit, a multi-hopper to the right side that somehow avoided the glove of first baseman Luis Valbuena and scooted through the infield for a two-run single — a play that ended with a fantastic slide by Avisail Garcia at the plate. The White Sox brought the winning run to third base but couldn’t forge ahead as pinch-runner Willy Garcia was easily thrown out at home on Saladino’s safety squeeze attempt. Garcia previously moved to third on Anderson’s sacrifice bunt.

Prior to that the White Sox were kind of a mess. Holland danced in and out of trouble several times. The White Sox bullpen then combined for three straight walk in a two-run Angels seventh. Cooper was so displeased with the strike zone he was ejected. 

“(The ninth inning) was a little quirky,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Everything that ended up developing in that whole inning, I look at the guys we have on our club, they showed a little tenacity. Good things happen when you continue to fight and battle and don’t give up and I thought we obviously put ourselves in a position to possibly win a ballgame and we fell a little short.”

Luis Robert's legend grows, suggesting White Sox should ready for superstardom

Luis Robert's legend grows, suggesting White Sox should ready for superstardom

The legend of La Pantera grew even larger Saturday. And he made it seem rather mundane.

"I was sitting on a soft pitch on the outside, and then this pitch was in and I had to react and swing the bat, and I think that was why I fell when I hit the ball."

Luis Robert's description of the event dramatically undersold what happened. The dude homered while he was falling down.

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Of course, Robert makes everything look easy. Why wouldn't he make it all sound easy, too?

The truth is that the much hyped Robert can do just about everything on the baseball field, and that apparently now includes sending a ball over the fence while simultaneously toppling to the ground in a somewhat cartoonish fashion. If you didn't think the hype train could move at a higher speed after he thrilled minor league audiences last season with a true five-tool display, then you weren't prepared for the highlight from Saturday's intrasquad game on the South Side that caught like wildfire across the baseball-loving sections of the internet.

Robert's arrival in the major leagues, however delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, is part of the reason the White Sox look capable of making their long awaited leap out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode this season. He's being described as the best of the team's collection of talented youngsters and talked up as one of baseball's next superstars.

The best part of all of that for the White Sox?

"I'm glad he's on my team," said pitcher Carlos Rodón, who had the unfortunate distinction of being the guy who gave up that bananas home run.

Indeed he is on this team, and thanks to the big-money deal that paved his way to the Opening Day lineup, Robert is going to be on this team for a long time. A pair of options at the end of that contract allow for Robert to remain in a White Sox uniform through the 2027 season. Rick Hahn's always talking about keeping this team in contention mode for as long as possible. Inking Robert's name into the projected lineup for the next eight seasons surely helps.

"I'm smiling from ear to ear," White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing said Saturday. "We are as an organization because we are going to have an opportunity to see this for a long period of time.

"He's an individual who you pay to go watch play. ... You can come to the ballpark and understand he has a chance to do something special every day in every aspect of his game, whether it's running, playing defense, throwing, hitting.

"What he did today, ... I saw him sitting on the ground and I was like, 'Run, run, run!' and then I realized the ball was 15 rows deep. He's a pretty special talent, and we are fortunate and lucky to have him on our side."

The question, though, doesn't seem to be how good Robert will be one day but how good he'll be from Day 1.

RELATED: 2020 White Sox lineup: This looks like what it could be come Opening Day

Robert was expected to have a full six months in his first taste of the big leagues, expected to have time to make the kinds of adjustments Eloy Jiménez did as a rookie last season, when he started slowly only to catch fire for a white-hot month of September. Robert won't have that luxury, with the season squeezed down from its typical six-month marathon to a two-month, 60-game sprint.

But Robert doesn't seem to view that as much of a problem. Like the uber-talented White Sox youngsters who have arrived on the South Side before him, he's a confident kid. And while he's not going as far as Jiménez did in January, when the left fielder called his new center fielder "the next Mike Trout," Robert's expecting to be able to hit the ground running while seeing big league pitching for the first time.

"I am feeling very confident," he said Saturday through team interpreter Billy Russo. "I feel real good right now, mentally and physically, and I think that is important. I think that's why I have been able to get the results that I've been having during this time.

"Being here facing major league pitchers, even though they are my teammates, has helped me a lot because that's an advantage for me to know what I'm going to face once the season starts.

"I don't know if I think about doing extraordinary things. I just think in terms of doing the best that I can in every aspect of the game, in every play that I'm involved in. And I think that's the reason why I've been able to do very good things. That's the reason why, I just try to do my best every time."

RELATED: What Michael Kopech skipping season means for White Sox in 2020 and beyond

Robert's presence is just one of a whole bunch of reasons the White Sox appear primed for a big jump in 2020. He's part of a remade lineup featuring veteran additions Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnación and Nomar Mazara. He's one of two highly touted prospects who could take over starting roles this season, along with Nick Madrigal. He's the newest addition to a White Sox core that already had its breakout season a year ago, when Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Tim Anderson did such big things.

And this is just the beginning. So many of those guys are under team control for years into the future. And so even if Robert and the White Sox don't rise to the level of World Series contenders in 2020, they're planning to do it soon — and stay there for a long while.

How good can Robert be during that stretch? The consensus seems to be that the sky is the limit. And if his wardrobe choice for his Saturday session with reporters, a LeBron James jersey, was any indication, the South Side could be in for larger-than-life superstardom.

"I think that every athlete has that in mind," he said, asked if he had designs on being as good as James, one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. "When you see what other athletes have done, whatever the sport they’re playing, it’s something that you use to motivate yourself."


Luis Robert hits home run while falling down during White Sox intrasquad game

Luis Robert hits home run while falling down during White Sox intrasquad game

They say Luis Robert can do it all.

Who knows how often he'll be called upon to hit a home run while falling down, but it turns out he can do that, too.

Robert lifted a Carlos Rodón pitch out of Guaranteed Rate Field during Saturday's intrasquad game on the South Side. While it was happening, or perhaps immediately afterward, he fell over and landed on the other side of home plate.

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Worrywarts have no need to panic, he got right up, picked up his batting helmet and trotted around the bases. The next inning, he returned to his spot in center field.

So instead of a terrifying moment, the White Sox rookie delivered a kooky — and frankly, kind of amazing — highlight for the ages.

And so his legend grows.

Robert has already been the player to command the most fan interest during "Summer Camp" workouts. He heads into his first big league season as the most hyped White Sox prospect in recent memory, topping the excitement levels generated by the debuts of Eloy Jiménez, Michael Kopech and Yoán Moncada.

All that buzz comes after he thrilled minor league crowds last season with a combination of tape-measure home runs, blazing speed and highlight-reel catches in center field. That jam-packed toolbox has evaluators labeling him as the best of the White Sox collection of talented youngsters, and he's already being talked about as the game's next superstar.

"I see or hear all of that stuff," Robert said through team interpreter Billy Russo earlier this week. "I try to not pay attention to that. I know what I can do, and sometimes if you hear all that stuff, you’re going to have more pressure on you. And that might not be good for you because there is more. It’s good if people say that, but I just try to not pay too much attention to it.

"My expectations and goals are always the same. Give 100 percent, always, on the field, help the team as much as I can and hopefully go to the postseason. And if I’m lucky enough, maybe win the Rookie of the Year. Those are my goals, and if I stay healthy I feel confident I can do that."

RELATED: White Sox rookie Luis Robert confident in 'pretty hot' start to his '20 season

Robert has some challenges in this most unusual of baseball seasons. While getting his first taste of major league pitching, he was expected to have a full six months to make any necessary adjustments. Instead, he'll have just 60 games. Jiménez showed how useful having an entire season can be, starting slowly during his rookie campaign in 2019 only to figure things out in time for a white-hot month of September. If Robert doesn't catch fire immediately, he might not have the time to adjust before the season's almost over.

But that's not worrying Robert too much.

"If, for whatever reason, I don’t start the season as hot as I know I can, I will do my best to make the adjustments as fast as I can," he said. "But of course that’s not my mindset right now.

"I’m pretty sure I’m going to be able to start the season pretty hot and display all my talent. I will have to adjust as much as I can if I have any trouble."

After seeing what he did Saturday, maybe he's right.