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MLB: Chicago White Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates
Crushing it: Luis Robert Jr. launched a crucial home run against Jhoan Durán to tie the game in the ninth.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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Twins 4, White Sox 3 (10 innings): From thriller to heartbreaker

Ninth-inning heroics by Luis Robert Jr. went for naught

It was an eventful evening at Target Field, as the White Sox (5-7) got off to an explosive start against the Twins (7-4). After that start, though, the South Siders struggled immensely to get on base, and despite a ninth-inning blast by Luis Robert Jr., they fell to Minnesota.

The White Sox could hardly have kicked things off better than they did on Tuesday night. Andrew Benintendi led off the game with an excellent plate appearance, fouling off some tough pitches from Twins starter Pablo López. Finally, on the ninth pitch, Benintendi sliced a single to center. Robert followed with a soft grounder that would have been a near-perfect bunt: López fielded the ball, but even a perfect throw would not have beaten Robert. Instead of a perfect throw, however, López missed badly, so Benintendi advanced to third, Robert to second.

Gavin Sheets drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases with no outs. That set up Andrew Vaughn with a great opportunity to put the White Sox on the board, and he did just that. López threw a 1-1 sweeper that did not get as close to the outside edge as he wanted, and Vaughn took advantage. Vaughn’s drive hit the left field wall to drive in a pair. That was Vaughn’s sixth double of the young season, as his bat has been reliable despite the lack of a home run.

The White Sox still had runners on second and third with no outs, so they had a chance to tack onto their early lead. However, that was not in the cards, as López settled down and worked through the inning without further damage. Yasmani Grandal struck out, while Jake Burger and Oscar Colás grounded out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the first, the Twins made sure to claw their way back into the game against Lance Lynn. Donovan Solano led off the inning with a single, and Byron Buxton flexed his power. Lynn launched a cutter that caught a bit too much of the plate, and Buxton put a great swing on it. His 107.5-mph blast cleared the wall by plenty, and just like that, it was a 2-2 game.

In the second, the Twins got some power from a less likely source. Michael A. Taylor came up to bat with two outs and nobody on. Lynn’s 0-1 curve ball was very hittable, and Taylor did not miss it. The exit velocity was slower than it is on most home runs (98.0 mph), but it carried enough to clear the wall — 3-2, Minnesota.

Despite their rough starts, both starting pitchers finished their outings strong, especially López. Remember those three hits in the top of the first? Those were the only three hits the White Sox got against López, who pitched 7 2⁄3 innings. In fact, López retired the last 23 batters he faced. Meanwhile, Lynn finished with a quality start, lasting six innings and allowing three runs (all earned). More impressively, however, he struck out 10 without issuing a walk. Regardless, the Twins still had a 3-2 lead when he left the game.

Keynan Middleton took over on the mound for Lynn in the seventh, and he performed admirably, striking out the side in order. He collected two strikeouts on lively fastballs, and one on a changeup with a ton of drop. Middleton also retired Buxton to open the bottom of the eighth before Jake Diekman got the last two outs of the inning.

Heading into the ninth, the White Sox desperately needed to end a scoreless drought that had lasted for 24 outs. With Jhoan Durán on the mound, the situation looked grim. Then, Duran threw a hanger to Robert, and he did not miss it.

Incredible. Just when you are confident something will happen during a baseball game, Durán throws a curve ball, and a batter crushes it.

Even though the White Sox made Durán work, Durán struck out the only other three batters he faced. Because the closer needed 24 pitches to make it through the ninth, he did not come back out for the 10th. Overall, it was a fantastic outcome for the White Sox against an elite pitcher.

With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth, reliever Reynaldo López allowed a fly ball to right-center by Christian Vázquez. Robert could not quite get there, but Colás backed him up and made a nice throw to Romy González. Then, González made a great throw to third base, where Hanser Alberto tagged out Vázquez. That play sent the game into extra innings.

Alberto led off the top of the 10th with a ground out, though he advanced the ghost runner (Lenyn Sosa) to third. Colás followed with a fly ball to shallow left field, and Trevor Larnach made the play. At that point, it was up to González, who grounded out to end the inning.

Jesse Scholtens entered the game to pitch the bottom of the 10th, and he had the difficult task of stranding the ghost runner (Willi Castro). On the first pitch, Taylor laid down a good bunt, and Alberto ran over to field it, but he made an errant throw that hit Taylor. The ball got deflected into no man’s land, and just like that, the game was over.

The loss meant that the White Sox were unable to return to .500, as they are now 5-7. They also remain without a winning streak all year.

The rubber match of the series is scheduled to begin at 12:10 p.m. Central on Wednesday. Lucas Giolito (9.00 ERA, 4.95 FIP, nine innings) and Sonny Gray (0.75 ERA, 2.31 FIP, 12 1⁄3 innings) are the probable starting pitchers. NBC Sports Chicago and WMVP 1000 AM will cover the game, and we will see you then.

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