August 15, 2022

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White Sox newest offensive strategy? The wind

4 min read
Team finds some levity amidst lack of production, 5-1 loss to Mariners
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CHICAGO — White Sox third baseman Jake Burger raised his arms in the air in triumph twice as he ran off the field in the sixth inning during Thursday afternoon’s contest against the Mariners at Guaranteed Rate Field.

He wasn’t celebrating a spectacular defensive play or a long home run. Burger wasn’t even celebrating victory, as the Mariners ended the South Siders’ four game winning streak with a 5-1 win.

This moment of elation dealt with Burger catching Jarred Kelenic’s routine infield popup to finish the top of the frame. There was nothing routine about anything in the air during the series finale: Not with a 29 mph wind at first pitch and that same wind swirling through the middle innings.

Seattle dealt with three such wind-blown pops in the bottom of the fifth, and missed on all three leading to the White Sox lone run. So Burger’s reaction was understandable.

“That was honestly pure joy. It wasn’t just me sarcastically celebrating. I was actually really excited I caught it,” a smiling Burger said. “There were multiple times where I looked down on the dirt and you could see all the pellets just moving across.”

“It was kind of interesting, kind of fun for fans,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “There were a lot of funny things going on out there.”

Logan Gilbert was virtually untouchable on the mound for Seattle aside from that crazy, windy fifth. It cost the right-hander 15 extra pitches and an unearned run.

With two outs and nobody on base, Adam Engel hit a popup that started in fair territory near Eugenio Suárez at third base, but was eventually blown into foul territory where Suárez couldn’t make the play. Three pitches later, Engel hit another popup that ticked off the glove of catcher Cal Raleigh, who was stumbling in his chase against the wind, with Engel winding up on second.

Burger was next in the almost-hit parade, as he skied a high popup toward short that again should have ended the inning. Shortstop J.P. Crawford broke in and then broke back, eventually trying to make a basket catch. When he missed, Burger was credited with a single and an RBI.

“I’m trying to decide if my first big league hit in Detroit or that was better,” said Burger, whose first big league hit on July 2 of last season was a fly ball falling in between a couple of defenders. “At least that one resulted in a RBI.”

“What the flags were doing was completely different from what the stadium felt like,” first baseman Gavin Sheets said. “It was just a really weird day. You just have to bear with it.”

Shortstop Tim Anderson talked with Burger about popup approach after that gusty inning, pointing out how all the infielders had to swarm to wherever they thought the ball would be to get four guys as close to it as possible.

“You can’t blame anybody out there for any of those dropped balls,” Burger said. “You see the ball change five different directions in the air. It’s tough to determine where it’s going to come down.”

“Everybody had to help each other out, because you never knew which way the ball was going to go,” Sheets said. “It was moving about 20 feet out there, at least, in the air.”

Weather took center stage because there really wasn’t much more for the White Sox. Jimmy Lambert allowed a long Kelenic home run over three innings but otherwise acquitted himself solidly in his first ‘22 start. Rookie reliever Anderson Severino struck out three over 1 1/3 innings in his Major League debut, while Anderson picked up his third multi-hit effort in four starts.

Yasmani Grandal had the day off, Eloy Jiménez (left ankle) and Josh Harrison (back) are day to day and Lambert took the spot of Lucas Giolito, who is on the injured list. It still was a second straight series victory for the White Sox, although unless you are giving deserved credit to the Mariners, the strong wind seemed to be the biggest winner.

“It’s a beautiful Midwest day,” said Burger, who is from St. Louis.

“I felt better last night than I do now,” La Russa said. “I’ve never had a problem giving the other team credit when they out-pitch you, out-hit you, out-play you. We had a chance, we hung in there but we couldn’t get anything going. That’s to their credit.”

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