ANAHEIM, Calif. – Justin Upton‘s tiebreaking homer capped a three-run rally in the eighth inning and the Los Angeles Angels, helped by a flyball that bounced off the head of Chicago center fielder Luis Robert, beat hot-hitting Yermin Mercedes and the White Sox 5-3 on Saturday night.
Mercedes homered, doubled and singled to become the first player since at least 1900 to begin a season with eight straight hits. The 28-year-old rookie flied out in his final at-bat, ending the streak.
“I never imagined that. It is great for me,” Mercedes said. “Now, it’s a new day for me. I want to keep doing well and work with my approach. I want to play every day and I’m excited for that.”
The Angels trailed 3-2 going into the eighth. Anthony Rendon singled with one out and scored the tying run on Jared Walsh‘s triple. Upton then supplied the game-winning shot, sending a changeup from Evan Marshall (0-1) over the wall in left.
“I was trying to stay to the big part of the field. The ball kind of ran in on me so I pulled it,” Upton said.
Marshall said he thought he threw a good pitch, but Upton guessed correctly.
“I couldn’t have tossed it in there any better and he beat it to the spot,” Marshall said.
The Angels got a gift in the third.
Rendon’s routine high fly appeared to be the final out of the inning, but the ball caromed off Robert’s head after he charged in and called off shortstop Tim Anderson.
Right fielder Adam Eaton retrieved the ball after the crazy bounce and tried to throw out Fletcher at the plate. But Eaton’s throw bounced off the mound and then carried all the way to the backstop, allowing Rendon to advance to second. Walsh then hit an RBI single for a 2-1 lead.
“Move the ball, make the defense execute so that they may execute themselves,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “The baserunner scoring on that (from first base) was big, too. When David came in, I told him not everyone scores on that.”
Mercedes was supposed to have the night off, but manager Tony La Russa said he earned his way into the lineup with Friday night’s performance, when he became the second player in the modern era to have five hits in his first career start, and the first to go 5 for 5.
Mercedes, who was the designated hitter for the second straight night, hit a solo homer off Alex Cobb in the second.
“I’m just trying to wait for my pitch and not do too much. Just stay right there and swing hard,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it is two strikes or no strikes, I just want to see the ball.”
Mercedes followed that with a single to center in the fourth inning and an RBI double to left-center in the sixth to put the White Sox up 3-2.
MORE FIELDING WOES
La Russa said before the game he wasn’t worried about the White Sox making three errors in their first two games, but he might start to reconsider that after two more errors, which came on the Roberts play. Seven of the Angels’ 17 runs in this series have been unearned.
“We didn’t have a clean game or hit well. There are a lot of places where we could have done more,” La Russa said.
Robert and Eaton made up for their mistakes some at the plate. Robert had an RBI single in the fourth to tie it at 2, while Eaton had two hits.
Cobb and Lance Lynn took no-decisions in the first start for their new clubs.
Lynn, who came to the White Sox in an offseason trade from Texas, saw his streak of throwing 100-plus pitches end at 37 straight starts. He allowed two runs (none earned) in 4 2/3 innings and was pulled at 99 pitches.
“There were some deep counts and extra pitches, but I was able to make pitches and everything felt good,” said Lynn, who struck out six.
Cobb, acquired from Baltimore in February, allowed three runs in six innings while striking out seven. Maddon said Cobb had good command of his fastball but struggled at times with the curve.
Angels: RHP Felix Pena (right hamstring strain) has started running and could throw his first bullpen early next week.
Shohei Ohtani is back on the mound for the first time since Aug. 2 of last season for the series finale. The right-hander allowed seven earned runs in 1 2/3 innings in a pair of starts last year.
The White Sox counter with right-hander Dylan Cease (5-4, 4.01 ERA last season), who is 0-1 in two starts against the Angels.