What Lance Lynn did Thursday was exactly what the White Sox needed.
It's what they needed in this moment, and it's what they needed for a chase for a championship this season, the reason they acquired the big right-hander in the first place.
The White Sox weren't fretting their 3-4 start to the campaign, a West Coast road trip that featured disjointed play, to say the least. There were a lot of defensive miscues. There were four losses hung on what's supposed to be one of the best bullpens in baseball. There were a lot of short outings by starting pitchers.
None of those troubles even threatened to bubble up in Thursday's home opener. Lynn made sure of it. He was dominant, shutting down and shutting out the Kansas City Royals in a 6-0 win for the South Siders, a stellar debut in front of the home fans, who piled into Guaranteed Rate Field for the first time since 2019.
"The first pitch on," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said, "he was just nails."
A lot's changed since the last time those fans got to see this team in person. While they were away in 2020, the White Sox rose out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. They made the playoffs and bowed out early in frustrating fashion.
That's why Lynn's here. The White Sox are legitimate contenders and need elite starting pitching to reach their sky-high, championship-level goals. Lynn was one of the game's finest arms the last two seasons pitching for the Texas Rangers. With one year left on his deal, the White Sox made the kind of win-now move that World Series winners make. Lynn's a World Series winner, himself, doing so in 2011 on a St. Louis Cardinals team managed by his current manager.
While many other pitchers are slowly dipping their toes into the waters of the 2021 season, no one quite sure how this season will go for arms coming off a 60-game season in 2020, Lynn went out and heaved the first complete-game shutout in the majors this season. It's no shock if you paid attention to what he said over the winter, when he forecasted fights if his manager wanted to take him out of a game.
There was no fight Thursday, not with Lynn mowing down the Royals.
"There wasn't much of a conversation," Lynn said. "(La Russa) looked at me and said, 'Are you good?' And I said, 'I'm going to finish it. Does that sound good?' And he said, 'Yeah.'"
The way the White Sox exited the postseason last fall made Lynn an essential add. Without a third reliable starting-pitching option to turn to, the White Sox paraded one reliever after another to the mound in an elimination game. Those arms were sensational during the season. But they weren't that day.
Lynn showed Thursday just how reliable he can be. He chucked a career-best 208.1 innings in 2019. He led the game with 84 more last season. He added nine to his 2021 tally Thursday, and while October is likely to feature teams more likely to win the World Series than the Royals, he gave a glimpse into the future, a future where the White Sox couldn't be more comfortable handing the ball to the guy behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel.
"I had the break and the opportunity to see him early," La Russa said. "He always had talent and (was) a pitch-maker and he had life in his arm, but he was really competitive. And now where he's at, he's experienced.
"The ball does different things. He has like three different fastballs, a nice breaking ball. He's really just become a veteran pitcher who understands, keeps adding here and adding there so the hitters have to see different things. It's really impressive."
The small sample size of the early going always produces overreactions, but rest assured that nothing we saw from the White Sox on that opening trip radically altered those World Series sized expectations. That said, Lynn's performance Thursday should do plenty to calm any left fearful by losses in four of the first seven games.
Prior to Lynn heaving on Thursday, Giolito owned the longest outing by a White Sox starter this season, at just 16 outs each time he took the mound in Anaheim and Seattle. Lynn bested him by 11 on Thursday. And he's ready for this to be the beginning of the starting rotation putting this team on its back and playing championship-caliber baseball.
"The first time and a half through the rotation, we haven’t done what we’re expected to do and are capable of," Lynn said. "So we’ve been talking about it.
"It’s in their court. I started it."
It's hard to call the first week of the season a skid. But Lynn did seem to play stopper a little bit Thursday. It was just what these White Sox needed.
And they'll need it from now through the end of what they hope is a deep October run.