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Twins 8, White Sox 5: Kepler Launches Two Homers to Carry Minnesota

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Grandal leaves the game with a leg injury, and is on crutches

Chicago White Sox v Detroit Tigers
Diamond in the rough: Though it was a tough night for the White Sox, José Abreu had two hits, one of which was a 411-foot home run.
Duane Burleson/Getty Images

It was a tough outing for starter Dylan Cease, and the White Sox (49-35) could not recover during Monday night’s loss to the Twins (35-48).

After both teams went three up, three down in the first, the second inning was more eventful. Gavin Sheets built on the strong start to his major league career, as he doubled to become the first baserunner of the game. Unfortunately, the double came with two outs, and Andrew Vaughn struck out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the second, Alex Kirilloff led off with a double. Then, Cease fell behind 2-0 to Max Kepler, and his third pitch to Kepler was a slider that caught far too much of the plate. Kepler took advantage of the mistake and launched his eighth home run of the season, and the Twins took a 2-0 lead.

In the third, Cease issued a dreaded leadoff walk to Andrelton Simmons, and Luis Arráez, an excellent contact hitter, lined a single to left. Then, Trevor Larnach hit a grounder that found a hole up the middle to drive in a run. Minnesota’s lead had increased to three, and they still had runners on the corners with nobody out. However, Cease struck out the next three he faced to keep the White Sox within striking distance.

In the fourth, Brian Goodwin and Yasmani Grandal drew back-to-back walks with two outs and nobody on, so Sheets got an opportunity. Unfortunately, the rookie hit a soft grounder to shortstop, and Simmons fielded it without a problem.

The White Sox also got some life with two outs and nobody on base in the fifth. That was when Leury García walked, and Tim Anderson followed with a single that left the bat at 103.3 mph. Anderson’s single extended my streak in MLB.com’s Beat the Streak to a season-long 14, and it gave Yoán Moncada an opportunity with runners at the corners. Then, it appeared that Twins manager Rocco Baldelli considered pulling starter Bailey Ober, but nobody was ready in the bullpen, so Ober remained in. Moncada nearly took advantage, as he hit a sharp liner to right (98.9 mph exit velocity, .350 xBA), but Kepler made a nice play to end the inning.

The White Sox finally got on the board in the sixth, when José Abreu led off against Twins reliever Caleb Thielbar. Thielbar threw a 1-1 slider that Abreu was not fooled by, and the ball cleared the left field fence by plenty.

Abreu’s 411-foot blast reduced the deficit to two runs, and it was No. 213 of his MLB career. Carlton Fisk is now only one homer ahead of Abreu in the all-time franchise rankings. But, after Abreu’s homer, the vibes quickly turned around.

Thielbar struck out the next three he faced, and those strikeouts were not even close being to the worst developments of the inning. On an 0-2 pitch, Grandal checked his swing but quickly found himself in a large amount of pain. Grandal had to leave the game due to an apparent leg injury. Later in the game, the White Sox made the following update:

After the game, Tony La Russa was delayed in his postgame comments discussing what to do about Grandal’s injury. He told the media that his catcher was on crutches, and that the injury was definitely not as simple as a cramp, as had been speculated/hoped.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Twins added a few insurance runs. Cease hit Kirilloff, who led off the inning, and Kepler drew a walk. After striking out Miguel Sanó on eight pitches, Cease’s pitch count was at 101. But, Cease remained in the game to face lefty Nick Gordon, who held the platoon advantage in that matchup. Cease made a mistake, Gordon sliced a triple to the center-field wall, and the Twins led by a score of 5-1. Finally, after 107 pitches, La Russa removed Cease and brought in Jace Fry, who immediately threw a wild pitch to make it 6-1.

In the seventh, Andrew Vaughn led off with a double to center, and the White Sox benefited from some good luck on batted balls. Adam Eaton doubled on a ball with an xBA of .090, and García singled on a ball with an xBA of .170. Just like that, the deficit was back down to three.

Righty Tyler Duffey took over on the mound, and he issued an eight-pitch walk to Anderson, which brought up the potential tying run. Moncada, who had another big opportunity, came through with a triple down the right-field line. García and Anderson scored, and all of a sudden, it was 6-5.

With the tying run on third, Abreu reached out on a knuckle-curve on a 2-2 pitch and hit a grounder to third base. Moncada hustled toward home plate, but Arráez made a good play to throw out Moncada and preserve Minnesota’s lead.

Minnesota added a pair in the eighth to put the game to reduce the White Sox’s odds of winning significantly. Kepler hit another homer, Sanó doubled and advanced to third on a wild pitch, and Simmons made a successful sacrifice bunt to make it 8-5.

In the ninth, Anderson led off and drew his second walk of the game (it’s only the second time this season he has done this). Then, with one out, Abreu singled, but Billy Hamilton grounded into a 5-3 double play to end it.

We will try this again tomorrow night, when Carlos Rodón takes on José Berríos. That game is scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m. Central, and hopefully, it goes better than tonight.