CHICAGO — A second straight tight win over the so-called class of the AL Central has to leave the White Sox feeling pretty good about themselves.
Currently atop the division at 9-5, what makes the South Siders feel even better is that of late they’ve been winning without key cogs like Lucas Giolito and Edwin Encarnación, both currently on the injured list.
And the club almost added a second starter on the sideline, as Dylan Cease narrowly avoided a much scarier outcome. Ending the third inning, Nelson Cruz crushed a ball back through the box that nearly smashed Cease’s elbow at bone-shattering velocity. A quick move late allowed the righthander to absorb the blow with his forearm, and in fact leap off the mound and retire Cruz at first.
Cease left the game after just 42 pitches, inviting another cavalcade of relievers forced into heroism.
The White Sox smacked Minnesota right back after Cease’s scare, grinding out a run via error-wild pitch-fielder’s choice offense.
Newcomer Fernando Abad, relieving Cease, handed the lead right back in the fourth, when back-to-back Alex Avila and Byron Buxton solo shots made it a 2-1 game.
Once again, the White Sox counterattacked, Zack Collins lofting a solo shot in the bottom of the frame to tie the game 2-2.
In the sixth, Jimmy Cordero served up a two-run shot to Jorge Polanco, but the White Sox trimmed the lead again in the bottom half after a José Abreu leadoff triple turned into a tally when Nomar Mazara knocked him in.
But Buxton had another solo shot leading off the seventh to push the lead back to 5-3. Kelvin Herrera continued his renaissance by relieving Cordero and whiffing both Cruz and Miguel Sano. Moncada matched Buxton’s blast with one of his own, with two outs in the seventh, to trim the lead to 5-4.
And in the bottom of the ninth, the White Sox managed to tie, as Collins tapped a leadoff single, chased by a Moncada hit. After Nick Madrigal bunted ducks onto the pond, Jiménez walked to load the bases.
Stepping to the plate then was Abreu, and while a .186 average and .610 OPS did not inspire awe or fear, he did pack a secret weapon: HBP. Indeed, Abreu was plunked for the fourth time this year (yes, as many HBP as BB for José so far) to drive in the tying run!
But with one out and the table still set and ready, Mazara grounded into to a shallow infield, second to home for the out. And Leury García’s last-ditch attempt at some runs — a dying quail out to center — was snarfed up by a Buxton dive.
On to extras, where yesterday’s hero Steve Cishek took over in the 10th and allowed a single to Cruz, but then sandwiched Ks of Sano and Josh Donaldson around a Max Kepler fly out to escape unharmed.
In the White Sox 10th, Tim Anderson dropped his average to .133 with a whiff, but then James McCann and Collins singled, putting runners on the corners. With his fourth hit of the day, Moncada walked off Twins reliever Zack Littell by singling on his first pitch.
Sunday’s attempt at a sweep rides on the shoulders of Matt Tomshaw, in his second career start, facing Kenta Maeda.
NOTES: Dylan Cease had his forearm heavily iced after the game, but the White Sox are optimistic he will make his next start, hosting the Rangers next Thursday ... with today’s win, the White Sox are now the best team in the American League, and tied for third in all of baseball behind the 12-3 Padres and Dodgers.
Around the majors
- First Star of the day was Amed Rosario of the Mets, who went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a home run, three RBIs and three runs in an 11-3 win over the Brewers.
- Second Star Jason Heyward of the Cubs went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a home run, four RBIs and a run in a 14-8 comeback win over the Cardinals. Teammate Kris Byrant was the Third Star, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, a home run, two RBIs and three runs and a walk.
- First baseman Renato Nuñez hit his seventh home run in the Orioles’ 8-6 win over Pittsburgh. Somehow, Baltimore is now 7-8.
- José Ramírez singled in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th to keep Cleveland mere percentage points behind the White Sox and dropping the Rays to 6-9.
- Shin-Soo Choo had five hits in Texas’ 6-5 win over Houston, evening both teams up at 8-6 on the season.
- Reggie McClain moved to 2-0 for the Phillies, throwing 7 ⅔ innings of shutout ball against the Reds, giving up just three hits and racking up a 77 game score.
- Julio Urias also moved to 2-0, throwing seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball, with nine strikeouts and an 80 game score in the Dodgers 6-0 win over Washington.
- Tommy Pham’s fifth home run of the season was the only tally in 12-3 San Diego’s 1-0 win over the Giants.