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Healthy leads and trusty steeds: White Sox 12, Twins 2

South Siders announce their presence with authority in series opener

Chicago White Sox v Minnesota Twins
Have a night, Pantera.
David Berding/Getty Images

This is it, everyone.

This is the series that the third-place Chicago White Sox had likely circled on their calendar weeks ago: four games against the division-leading Minnesota Twins. Before tonight, the Twins have pretty much run circles around the Sox, sweeping them in April and nearly sweeping them again earlier this month.

Maybe South Siders felt the urgency. Maybe they took some extra swings in the cage. Maybe they played Joe Esposito's 1984 smash hit “You’re The Best Around” from The Karate Kid soundtrack in the clubhouse before the game and got really pumped up. Whatever the case, the White Sox came out tonight and showed the Twins no mercy, absolutely demolishing them by a final score of 12-2.

And oh, my goodness, it was so much fun.

Leading the calvary through the first six innings tonight was starting pitcher Johnny Cueto. Throughout his start, the journeyman found himself in several tricky situations. After allowing a lone run in the second inning, Cueto never relented, emptying the tank to hold the Twins down. Even after all conventional wisdom suggested that Cueto’s night was done after throwing more than 100 pitches through five innings, he came back out for the sixth and struck out the side.

Cueto threw 118 pitches in tonight’s quality start, allowing seven hits, one run, and striking out five. He improves his record to 4-4 and remains the best thing that general manager Rick Hahn has done all year.

The White Sox offense gave Cueto plenty of help today, exploding for 17 hits and chasing Twins starting pitcher Sonny Gray out of the game after only 3⅔ innings. The Sox jumped to an early lead in the first inning, featuring RBI singles from José Abreu and Andrew Vaughn. Vaughn’s single bounced off of second base, ricocheting away from the middle infield. In hindsight, that weird play breaking our way might have been an omen of what was to come — because from there on out, the White Sox caught a lot of breaks.

How else could you explain Twins manager Rocco Baldelli not challenging this close play at the plate in the second inning when it sure did look like Gio Urshela slid under Seby Zavala’s tag?

And then choosing to challenge this play in the sixth inning, where the yellow batting gloves of Yoán Moncada were very clearly on the plate before the tag was applied?

I’m not sure, but I’ll tell you what — it was really refreshing to see someone else’s manager making tactical errors for once.

Nearly all of the lineup got in on the action, scoring early and often, but we can’t go any further in this recap without talking about Luis Robert. When the White Sox were nursing a one-run lead in the fourth inning, Robert sucked all the oxygen out of Target Field with a monster, 452-foot grand slam.

And it didn’t stop there. La Pantera continued to terrorize the Twins, going 3-for-5 and knocking in five runs, including this RBI single in the sixth inning:

Robert now leads the White Sox with 54 RBIs on the season.

Tonight’s victory pulled the White Sox to within four games of the first-place Twins, and if tonight’s game is any indication, it will be a very fun weekend. (And, as evidenced by the benches-clearing yelling match that happened after the last out was recorded, we might see some fireworks, too.)

Let’s see if the White Sox can carry some of this heat into tomorrow night’s game. There will be a whole lot of Sox fans in attendance, so let ’em hear you!

Tonight’s scorecard highlights:

  • First, can we just take a minute to appreciate the loudness of the White Sox’s side of the card? Just LOOK at all this offense!
Beautiful chaos.
  • Luis hit that ball so hard and far that I think it traveled backward through time and into the third inning.
I mean, it feels radical in kind of a tubular sort of way, but most of all, it feels out there.