‘They played to win’: Chicago White Sox get timely hitting and pitching in a 6-5 victory against the Atlanta Braves

16 July 2023

Jake Burger got in an 0-2 hole against Atlanta Braves pitcher Spencer Strider with two outs in the sixth inning of Saturday’s tied game at Truist Park.

What does one do in that spot against the pitcher with the most strikeouts in the majors?

“I was just staying short and not trying to get too big,” Burger said.

That approach worked. Burger connected on the next pitch, driving the ball over the right-field wall for a go-ahead solo homer.

A night after getting blanked, the Sox bounced back against one of the top pitchers in the National League and beat the Braves 6-5 in front of 43,344.

“He’s a great pitcher,” Burger said. “We went into the game knowing we had our hands full and we’re going to have to buy into our approach and make sure we’re swinging at the right pitch. Fortunately it fell our way today.”

Strider struck out five of the first six batters. The Sox put together a series of nice at-bats in the third.

Zach Remillard and Oscar Colás singled. With one out, Andrew Benintendi drove in a run with a single. And with two outs, Luis Robert Jr. knocked in two with a double.

“We didn’t try to do too much against (Strider),” manager Pedro Grifol said. “We let him supply a little bit of the power and we stayed within ourselves. That’s what we want to do every day. I know it’s easier said than done.

“There was a good game plan going in and these guys executed a game plan against one of the best pitchers in baseball, if not the best. This guy has really, really power stuff. And he pounds the strike zone with (a) 100-mph fastball.”

The 3-0 lead didn’t last long.

Eddie Rosario began the Braves’ half of the third with a homer. They tied it later in the inning with a two-run homer from Ronald Acuña Jr.

Benintendi hit a slicer in the fifth that got past Rosario in left field. Seby Zavala scored from first, giving the Sox a 4-3 lead. The Braves tied it again in the fifth on a two-out RBI single by Austin Riley.

Burger broke the tie with his 20th homer of the season. Strider (11-3) allowed five runs on eight hits with 10 strikeouts in six innings.

“That was huge,” Burger said of reaching 20 home runs. “Wanted to get to it before the (All-Star) break, but I’ll take two games after the break.

“I was just staying short and not trying to get too big,” Burger said. “(Strider’s) got an electric fastball. Just slowing it down and being able to drive the ball and just make contact with it because it’s electric.”

The Sox added a run an inning later when Colás doubled against reliever Joe Jiménez and scored on a Benintendi single. It was his third hit and third RBI.

Lance Lynn navigated through 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits with six strikeouts and three walks.

“That’s a good team, from top to bottom a deep lineup,” Lynn said. “They’ll foul some balls off. They’ll leave the ballpark if you make a mistake. Made a couple of mistakes tonight and they were able to capitalize on those with the two home runs.

“But all and all, I was able to make enough pitches to where it didn’t get out of hand.”

Gregory Santos allowed one hit in an impressive 1 2/3 scoreless relief innings.

Keynan Middleton escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, getting Michael Harris II to pop out to first baseman Andrew Vaughn.

Acuña homered leading off the ninth against reliever Kendall Graveman, cutting the Sox lead to a run. Ozzie Albies singled and stole second.

With one out Matt Olson lined a single to left. Albies had to hold up before advancing to third.

Graveman broke Sean Murphy’s bat, and the catcher grounded into a game-ending double play started by shortstop Tim Anderson.

“If there’s one common denominator today about our pitching, it’s they made pitches when they had to,” Grifol said.

Before the game, Grifol said he wasn’t seeing the attention to detail that he would like from the team.

“We’re not as detailed as I want to be, we’re not as focused as I want to be,” Grifol said. “Those are things that we have to get better at. Pretty simple.

“That starts with me. I’m responsible for that. We’ve got to continue to address it. I’ve got to continue to address it with our coaches and we’ve got to pass it on to our players and we all have to hold each other accountable for it.”

After a sluggish start to the second half with Friday’s 9-0 loss, the Sox made the big pitches and got the timely hits for an impressive win against the team with the best record in the majors.

“We beat a pretty damn good pitcher today and a really damn good team,” Grifol said. “I’m proud of these guys the way they played. They played hard, they were detailed. And they played to win today.”


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