Garrett Crochet superb again as White Sox top Braves for first victory

White Sox starting pitcher Garrett Crochet throws against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Chicago.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

The last thing White Sox manager Pedro Grifol needs is to have his team get buried this soon.

After their 9-0 loss to the Braves on Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field dropped them to 0-4, Grifol’s disappointment was apparent. They already had been shut out twice.

“I really don’t have much for you guys,” he said. “These are ones, you’ve just got to flush them and get ready to play tomorrow.”

Get ready and hand the ball to left-hander Garrett Crochet, who did what he could to get the Sox their first win, a 3-2 victory against the Braves on Tuesday night. Crochet (1-1) followed up his six innings of superb one-run ball against the Tigers on Opening Day by allowing one run in seven innings. He then watched pinch-hitter Paul DeJong homer against left-hander A.J. Minter leading off the bottom of the seventh to give the Sox a 2-1 lead.

Crochet (1.38 ERA) allowed three hits, including Marcell Ozuna’s solo homer with one out in the seventh, and had eight strikeouts with one walk. Ozuna homered again against Michael Kopech in the ninth, cutting the lead to 3-2 after Andrew Vaughn’s bloop RBI single in the eighth gave the Sox a 3-1 lead.

Crochet’s 16 strikeouts are a Sox record for a pitcher’s first two starts of his career. Kopech needed 39 pitches (23 strikes) for his first career save.

“I was talking to guys in the dugout, since I got to college that was maybe the third time I got to the seventh,” said Crochet, who threw a career-high 93 pitches. “It was huge for me, especially when we needed to win, it was awesome.

“The team is going to share and relish this one.”

The Sox led 1-0 on Gavin Sheets’ bloop single scoring Andrew Benintendi, who led off the sixth with a bunt single against Reynaldo Lopez (six innings, one run) and advanced from second to third on Luis Robert Jr.’s flyout.

John Brebbia (two walks) and Kopech (one) filled the bases with one out in the eighth but Kopech induced an inning-ending double play.

Kopech pitched around a homer, walk and single in the ninth.

“Pitch count where it was, there was no way I was taking him out of that ballgame,” Grifol said. “He wanted it, he was under control. That’s the way it’s going to be.”

Grifol wore out the flush word last season. Three one-run losses to the Tigers, one of their division counterparts, got a new season with low expectations — from the outside, not Grifol — were not flush-worthy, but 0-3 doesn’t lie. And then on Monday, the Sox — picked to finish last in the division — got walloped by one of baseball’s elite teams.

The hope is to avoid the 7-21 start in Grifol’s first season that set the stage for a 61-101 finish.

Was discouragement setting in before the game?

“No, not really,” veteran catcher Martin Maldonado said. “We’re all sad that we’re not winning ballgames but other than that, we have to go out and try to win every game.

“We played really good games the first three games and yesterday we were a hit away from scoring first. Yesterday was a bad game, but we’ve been playing really good baseball. Stay positive and believe in what we’re trying to accomplish. Keep playing the game the right way.”

A quiet Sox clubhouse after Monday’s loss and Grifol’s demeanor — not that anyone would expect upbeat — said it all.

“Yeah, the first three, dropping them by one run in very competitive games . . .” said Chris Flexen, who allowed four runs and couldn’t complete five innings Monday. “This one kind of got away from us a little bit today. That mentality has to be the same: compete every single day and focus on winning ballgames.”

A task that, if the first five games are any indication, will be fraught with challenges.

“This was a good win,” Grifol said. “I was proud of the guys.”

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