No pithy branding for this one, just some good fun in recounting the top contests of 2022
We started this Soxivus season with the Calling of Managers, then moving on to Grievances and Feats of Strength. Last week, we took a look at the Worst Games of 2022. And we still have more Soxivus celebrating to do in 2022!
Enjoy this week’s feature, the Best Games of 2022.
Chicago White Sox 3, Tampa Bay Rays 2
Jackie Robinson Day
White Sox Record: 5-2
Championship Leverage Index: 1.06
As an African-American, Jackie Robinson is an integral part of why I am a baseball fan, along with Minnie Miñoso and Roberto Clemente. Tim Anderson is my favorite current player and White Sox legend and Hall of Famer Frank Thomas is my favorite player of all time. Representation is important, and this team has had plenty of African-American players over the years. This is why I made sure to be able to attend this game, and it ended up being my first game of the season.
Now let’s talk about the game. Dylan Cease went 5 2⁄3 innings, with eight strikeouts and only three hits allowed. Jake Burger had two RBIs, including a home run. Anderson had a steal, and the vibes at the park that night were great. The rest of the season did not go as we wanted, but at that point the team was 5-2 and everything just felt right.
Chicago White Sox 3, Tampa Bay Rays 2
Clutch Win for a High-Water Mark
White Sox Record: 6-2
Championship Leverage Index: 1.11
In such a rough season, highlights were hard to come by. So travel with me, back to the heady days — wait, DAY — when the White Sox were the best team in baseball in 2022. I distinctly remember a podcast — OK, now I gotta go and find it, maybe it was this one, dunno — where we were abuzz with a turbo-charged offense. It may or may not have been (OK, it was me) me saying that maybe this year, the offense pays the rotation back for the arms carrying the team in 2021. Whoops.
The White Sox lost eight of their nine most-clutch (cLI, see above) games of the season, and this was the lone win. Michael Kopech started, and threw wonderfully, with five innings of one-hit, one-(unearned) run ball. The eventual winning runs came in on José Abreu’s first home run of the season. We had holds from both José Ruiz and Bennett Sousa.
Best of all, this win swelled the White Sox division lead to two games — the highest it would be all season. Sigh.
Chicago White Sox 3, Boston Red Sox 2
Longest Winning Streak and Maybe Weirdest Win
White Sox Record: 14-13
Championship Leverage Index: 0.96
Year of the Hamster
Like Brett’s, this was a weird game, and a weird win. Dallas Keuchel threw his longest White Sox start of the season (six innings) and best of the early season. Bennett Sousa got his first career save, and Ryan Burr, Matt Foster and José Ruiz all got holds, so it was a bullpen junkyard day — wait, a complete junkyard pitching game — the White Sox got away with. Luis Robert manufactured the winning run by getting on base via error, stealing second, moving to third on a fly out, and scoring on a Yasmani Grandal single. This was also the final victory of the longest winning streak of the season (six games) and largely offsetting the longest losing streak of the season (eight games), a couple of weeks earlier.
Chicago White Sox 5, New York Yankees 0 (doubleheader nightcap)
The Tim Anderson Fuck-You Game
White Sox Record: 21-20
Championship Leverage Index: 0.90
This was the most exciting game of the season, in my eyes. After Josh Donaldson made racist comments towards Tim Anderson earlier in the series (leading to the benches clearing the day before), the Sox were locked, loaded and looking to sweep the Yankees in the Bronx on national television after taking the opener of the doubleheader earlier in the day.
And boy, did they sweep. Michael Kopech had a stellar outing, pitching 5 2⁄3 innings of no-hit baseball and seven shutout innings on the night. The offense scored all five of its runs in the eighth, including a three-run home run from TA that silenced the crowd after he’d been booed all night. It was a massive win and sweep against a team that ended up going to the ALCS, and it made it seem like the season (and the playoffs, if they could get there) were still in sight for the Pale Hose.
Chicago White Sox 5, Chicago Cubs 4 (12 innings)
Wildest Game of the Year
White Sox Record: 23-23
Championship Leverage Index: 0.92
The first 45 games did not go as planned for the White Sox, who entered this game at 22-23. Their opponent, the Cubs, were also struggling, as they entered this matchup at 19-26 (though they were expected to struggle in 2022). In this game, the Cubs had a 1-0 lead entering the bottom of the ninth. That run scored on a Jake Burger error back in the seventh. If the North Siders held on, they would secure a 2-2 tie in the 2022 Crosstown Showdown.
The White Sox’s backs were up against the wall after Yasmani Grandal struck out to open the inning, dropping the White Sox’s win probability to 11%. However, Gavin Sheets kept a glimmer of hope alive with a one-out double against former White Sox reliever David Robertson. The next batter was Adam Engel, who hit a weak infield grounder on a check swing, but incredibly, no fielder was in a good position to make a play on it. Engel used his excellent speed to beat out an accidental infield single. Pinch-runner AJ Pollock advanced to third, and the White Sox had runners on the corners. Yoán Moncada was the next hitter, and his job was made easier when catcher PJ Higgins failed to block a pitch from Robertson. Higgins was outstanding behind the plate all afternoon, but in this case, he let one slip by, and Pollock raced home to tie the game.
The teams traded two runs apiece in the 10th and then one run in the 11th. Finally, the White Sox held the Cubs scoreless in the 12th, when Matt Foster pitched a great inning. Everything came full circle when Burger, whose seventh-inning error was costly, came through with a walk-off single in the bottom of the inning. This was the first time of the season when I thought, “Yes. That game will be the turning point.”
This feeling is foolish in retrospect, but in the moment, it felt genuine.
Chicago White Sox 7, Toronto Blue Jays 6 (12 innings)
.500 Doesn’t Feel So Bad
White Sox Record: 33-33
Championship Leverage Index: 0.90
There’s no doubt that this team’s 81-81 final record was perfectly fitting, and that by the last months of the season .500 was a bogeyman the team couldn’t escape. But on June 21, following a comeback win against Toronto’s All-Star closer Jordan Romano, .500 was a breath of fresh air, because it was the first time they’d been there in nearly a month. This start gave someone who wanted to be hopeful a lot to work with: Dylan Cease was electric, striking out 11 over six innings, with a two-RBI Luis Robert single against Romano in the ninth sending the game to extras. Ultimately, a 12th-inning walk-off single courtesy of Josh Harrison.
For just a brief moment, it felt like the White Sox had gotten over a hump. It was a very brief moment, because they immediately proceeded to drop four in a row and five of six, and begin the Sisyphean struggle all over again. It was a short-lived win, but a real one nonetheless.
Chicago White Sox 4, Houston Astros 3
Two Straight vs. Houston, Five Straight Wins
White Sox Record: 61-56
Championship Leverage Index: 1.02
Midway through August, more than midway through the season, it looked like the Sox were finally becoming the White Sox we thought they’d be. A sweep of the Tigers (whatever) was followed by a stirring comeback win against the Astros, with a two-out, four-run rally in the eighth sparking some life. Some of that life was dulled through the first seven of the second game, as Justin Verlander outdueled Dylan, and the Astros led, 3-1.
But the Sox rallied, again. With two on and one out, Gavin Sheets drilled one into the corner in right, tying the game and ending up at third on some sloppy cut-off throws. Now, there was some typical Soxery, as Sheets couldn’t advance 90 feet, but part of that was because Verlander struck out Pollack on 99 mph high heat on his 99th pitch. It was, objectively, awesome, and the intensity of it made it feel like the game meant something. That these were teams that both wanted not just to win, but to beat each other. It felt like we were watching two good teams.
That feeling grew even more in the eighth. Eloy walked. Abreu, calm as could be, poked one to left to get two on. Grandal, as per habit, hit into a double play. That sucked, but again, my nerves were such that the game had meaning, something we lacked all year. And Engel, pitch-running (on the advice of fans) was at third.
Moncada, again. A flare up the middle that seemed to hang between the base and charging fielders for a lifetime, as it seemed the season did. It drops, I yell, probably louder than I had all year, clap my hands, do a dumb little fist pump. Sox win, again. Five up. The season starts now.
Did it fall apart right away? Spectacularly so. But for one day, it felt like what we had been waiting for had finally arrived. The Sox were poised to take a series against the Astros, and we could all yell again.
Arizona Diamondbacks 10, Chicago White Sox 5
SELL THE TEAM
White Sox Record: 63-64
Championship Leverage Index: 0.69
Heading into this game, the Sox had lost eight of their last 10 and trailed the first-place Guardians by 4 1⁄2 games. Shockingly — insert sarcasm here — they were also one game below .500.
An early first-inning lead by the Sox (on a three-run Gavin Sheets blast) was extremely short-lived. In the top of the second inning, Davis Martin gave up five runs (three earned) on two hits, three walks, and a wild pitch. Additionally, Carlos Pérez dazzled in his major league starting debut, with a catcher’s interference call and passed ball. Joe Kelly also demonstrated why he is paid the big bucks, surrendering three runs and getting ZERO outs in the top of the ninth inning. Needless to say, the Sox lost, 10-5. Weren’t the 57-67 Diamondbacks supposed to be the easy part of the schedule that would help the Sox overtake the top spot in the AL Central? So much for that.
So, yes, this awful game made it on my best-of-the-year list, not because the contest itself was ANY good. On the contrary, like the 80 other losses, this 10-5 defeat to the Diamondbacks was the same old sloppy, unfocused, and listless baseball. However, a handful of other entertaining and enjoyable items put this game at the top of my list.
First of all, it was perfect baseball weather, and my 16-year-old son attended the game with me. Anytime I can steal away a day with him is tops in my book — mom and son time = priceless, AND we made the jumbotron. You know, the little things in life make it sweet. Second, we got some free stuff, including a cool Sox hat and a radical 80s-style fanny pack. I mean, everyone likes awesome free merch, and the 1980s were the best decade. Enough said.
Now though, it’s time for the REALLY good stuff. The boo-birds came out for Tony La Russa’s introduction at the beginning of the game. It was refreshing to know I wasn’t alone in wanting TLR gone sooner rather than later. Fans didn’t even need to see him bumble another intentional walk or mismanage the bullpen again. Right from the start of the game, fans were already over it, and no one had even thrown a pitch.
Finally, arguably the best part of the game was when the sign appeared. You know what I’m talking about: THE SIGN. It was the seventh inning, and the Sox were down, 6-3. I was not paying attention to the terrible game, but instead venting my frustration on Twitter; it was my lifeline coping mechanism. As he points to the left-center field bleachers, my son says, “Hey, Mom, look at that sign.” I looked out to see a couple of incredible fans, one in a Fire La Russa T-shirt, hoisting a huge sign that said SELL THE TEAM. Slowly but surely, the sign made its way all around to the third base side of home plate, where security quickly confiscated it.
I didn’t record the broadcast, so I’m not sure if the sign ever actually made it on television, but it brought me incredible joy to know that front-office individuals would see it; there’s no doubt about it. Indeed, it had no discernible effect on anything, but the message was loud and clear: South Side fans were infuriated, and we’d all had more than enough of this 2022 White Sox baseball mess.
Chicago White Sox 4, Kansas City Royals 2
Tony Is Gone!
White Sox Record: 64-66
Championship Leverage Index: 0.29
The HOFBP is gone! Finally!
Not only that, the White Sox won the first game with Miguel Cairo calling the shots, as Lance Lynn spread four hits over seven innings, along with no walks and eight Ks. The Sox even got home runs from two players whose future with the team would prove short, Elvis Andrus and AJ Pollock. Heck, the Sox even got through a game without making an error, while playing the all-first-baseman-or-DH defensive lineup.
And Leury didn’t play!
Chicago White Sox 13, Minnesota Twins 0
White Sox Record: 67-66
Championship Leverage Index: 0.80
This Labor Day weekend series was an important one for the White Sox (at the time). I was in attendance for the weird walk-off the night before, and Dylan Cease was coming off of an eight-inning outing against the Diamondbacks. I knew that Cease would give as good an effort as any, but I didn’t think it would be this good. The electricity of the crowd as they rallied around his no-hit bid was something I had never been a part of.
Oh, and the White Sox offense decided they wanted to show up? Eloy Jiménez homered, Romy González hit his first career home run, AND Elvis Andrus hit a grand slam. I was truly in baseball heaven.
I should also mention, it was my 25th birthday. The White Sox may have disappointed me many other nights, but I rang in a new quarter century in the best of ways.
Chicago White Sox 10, Oakland A’s 2
Big Win in Oakland, Getting Close to the Top
White Sox Record: 72-68
Championship Leverage Index: 1.03
Like the 1997 comedy of the same name, September 10 would end up being As Good As It Gets for your 2022 Chicago White Sox. Yes, it was a win over the lowly Oakland A’s, but it placed the Sox (temporarily) within a game of the Cleveland Guardians (Cleveland went on to win that evening to extend it back to 1 1⁄2 games).
The Sox were buoyed by a temporarily-energized offense led by former Athletic Elvis Andrus, who went 2-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs. Lance Lynn pitched six solid innings and gave up two unearned runs. Most impressively, Jimmy Lambert, Jake Diekman, and José Ruiz combined for a hitless three innings with four strikeouts among the three of them.
The win improved the White Sox to 72-68, with a four-game winning streak before heading into the series finale. (Which, yeah, they lost, badly.)
Minnesota Twins 10, Chicago White Sox 1
White Sox Record: 81-81
Championship Leverage Index: 0.00
I know, it’s weird to put a loss down as the BEST game of the season, but I’ll be honest, after a season of being strung along by a team that collectively refused to get its head out of its ass, this was such a satisfying, cathartic way to end the season.
A win would have given the team their third winning record in Rick Hahn’s tenure as GM, but every observer knew they did not deserve a winning season. They deserved to walk away as humiliated as every fan conned into believing they had assembled a winner. Hahn deserved to have his smug face rubbed in the cesspool of his own design.
But the team couldn’t let fans go into the offseason without one final piece of their characteristic weirdness. After a curious walk-out for his final plate appearance the previous game, José Abreu, Chicago’s best hitter, was held out of the lineup. No final appearance. No curtain call. No recognition whatsoever. José didn’t seem to want to revel in any glory after what had to have been a trying season, and while I can’t say I blame him, fans were denied a chance to give an appreciative send-off to a franchise legend.
Not that having Abreu in the lineup would have mattered. The pitching stunk, the hitting stunk, and the team capped off the season getting obliterated at home by the hated Minnesota Twins. They fell to .500 on the season, as mired in mediocrity as they’d ever been. The stupid managerial hire, the terrible allocation of resources, the ongoing refusal to sign elite free agents, the constant failure to plug glaring holes on the roster, the repeated 26-man roster and injury mismanagement; it all culminated in this.
Sure, it was a vicious loss, and it didn’t make me happy to watch the team lose. But in terms of satisfying results, this was as good as it got for 2022, which says everything about how it felt to watch this team.