What Lance Lynn did on Thursday was exactly what the White Sox needed.
That’s what they needed right now, and it’s what they needed for a championship chase this season, which is why they acquired the grand right-hander in the first place.
The White Sox weren’t worried about their start to the 3-4 campaign, a West Coast road trip that featured disjointed play, to say the least. There were a lot of defensive mistakes. There have been four losses on what is said to be one of the best bullpens in baseball. There have been a lot of short outings from newbie pitchers.
None of those issues even threatened to bubble in Thursday’s home opener. Lynn made sure of that. He was dominant, shutting down and excluding the Kansas City Royals in a 6-0 win for the South Siders, a stellar start in front of home fans, who crammed into the guaranteed rate field for the first time since 2019.
“The first pitch,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said, “it was just nails.”
A lot has changed since the last time these fans saw this team in person. While away in 2020, the White Sox got out of rebuild mode and went into restraint mode. They made the playoffs and exited frustratingly early.
That’s why Lynn is here. The White Sox are legitimate contenders and need elite pitchers to achieve their dizzying championship goals. Lynn has been one of the best guns in the game over the past two seasons to throw for the Texas Rangers. One year away from his contract, the White Sox made the kind of win-now decision that World Series winners make. Lynn is a World Series winner himself, doing so in 2011 in a St. Louis Cardinals team led by his current manager.
While many other pitchers slowly dip their toes into the waters of the 2021 season, no one is quite sure how this season will play out for guns after a 60-game season in 2020, Lynn stepped out and lifted the first full shutout in the majors this season. It’s no shock if you paid attention to what he said during the winter, when he was planning fights if his manager wanted to get him out of the game.
There was no fight Thursday, not with Lynn mowing down the Royals.
“There hasn’t been a lot of conversation, ”Lynn said. (La Russa) looked at me and said, “Are you okay?” And I said, ‘I’m going to finish it. Does that sound good? And he said, “Yeah”.“
The way the White Sox came out of the playoffs last fall made Lynn a vital addition. Without a reliable third launch option to turn to, the White Sox paraded one reliever after another down the mound in an elimination game. These arms were sensational during the season. But it wasn’t that day.
Lynn showed how reliable he can be on Thursday. He clocked a career-best 208.1 innings in 2019. He led the game with 84 others last season. He added nine to his 2021 tally on Thursday, and while October is likely to feature teams more likely to win the World Series than the Royals, it provided a glimpse into the future, a future where the White Sox won’t. couldn’t be more comfortable handing the ball over to the guy behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel.
“I had the break and the opportunity to see him early,” La Russa said. “He was always talented 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. It has like three different fastballs, a nice brittle ball. He’s really become a veteran pitcher who understands, keeps adding here and adding there so hitters have to see some different things. It’s really impressive. “
The early sample size small always produces overreaction, but rest assured that nothing we saw of the White Sox on that first trip drastically changed those height expectations of the World Series. That said, Lynn’s performance on Thursday should do a lot to calm anyone fearful of losses in four of the first seven games.
Before Lynn rose on Thursday, Giolito had the longest outing for a White Sox starter this season, just 16 strikeouts every time he took the mound in Anaheim and Seattle. Lynn beat him by 11 Thursday. And he’s ready for that to be the start of the starting rotation, putting this team on their backs and playing championship-caliber baseball.
“The first and a half times in the rotation we didn’t do what we expected and are able to do, “said Lynn.” So we talked about it.
“It’s in their backyard. I started it.”
It’s hard to call the first week of the season a slippage. But Lynn appeared to be playing the plug a bit on Thursday. It was exactly what these White Sox needed.
And they’ll need it from now until the end of what they hope will be a deep October race.
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