It would be hard to find a better-hitting catching corps than what Tony La Russa has with the Chicago White Sox.
Zack Collins homered and drove in three runs in a 10-4 victory against the host Seattle Mariners on Tuesday, a night after Yasmani Grandal did the same, as the White Sox have taken the first two games of the series at T-Mobile Park. The three-game set is scheduled to wrap up Wednesday afternoon.
Collins and Grandal’s accomplishments pale in comparison to third-string catcher Yermin Mercedes, whose story White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti has called “Hollywood golden ridiculous.”
Mercedes, a 28-year-old who had just one major-league at-bat before this season, became the first player in the modern era (since 1900) with hits in each of his first eight at-bats of the season. He was honored as the American League’s Player of the Week.
Mercedes, who has been used as the White Sox’s designated hitter in place of the injured Eloy Jimenez, singled in the ninth inning Tuesday to extend his hitting streak to all five games in which he’s played in 2021. He is 13-for-23 batting (.565) on the young season.
Mercedes said Grandal gave him an important piece of advice in spring training: just be yourself.
“He talked with me and said keep doing what you are doing all the time,” Mercedes said. “Don’t try to change if somebody tells you to change this or change this. He said, ‘Keep it Yermín.’
Grandal said he’s never seen a run like Mercedes’ at the major-league level.
“Even in spring training, even when he was going bad there, I had to kind of put him on the side and kind of give him a kick in the behind, you know, so he could get it going,” Grandal said. “We all know he could hit, and we needed somebody to step up after Eloy and it excites me that he was the one that kind of took over that role.”
La Russa had said he planned to sit Mercedes in Wednesday’s series finale against Mariners right-hander Justin Dunn, but left the door open.
“It’s really important for him to know he’s got to earn,” La Russa said. “If he has a good day (Tuesday), he may play Wednesday.”
Although the White Sox have yet to play at home, Mercedes already has become a fan favorite. Mercedes will likely be in the lineup on Thursday when the White Sox host the Kansas Royals in their home opener.
“I’d be booed in the introductions (if Mercedes wasn’t playing),” La Russa said.
Dunn (4-1, 4.34 ERA last season) will be facing Chicago for the first time.
The White Sox are set to start lefty Dallas Keuchel (0-0, 6.75), who is 9-8 with a 3.25 ERA in 20 career appearances against Seattle.
Tuesday’s loss was costly for the Mariners, as left-hander James Paxton left after just 1 1/3 innings with a forearm strain in his pitching arm, and left fielder Jake Fraley exited with a left hamstring strain after making a diving catch in the fifth inning.
Mariners manager Scott Servais said both players would undergo MRIs on Wednesday morning.
“Obviously you are disappointed when you lose a ballgame, but even more disappointing when you lose a couple players,” Servais said.
–Field Level Media