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Five straight wins. Dare I say, it appears the White Sox have flipped the switch.
As a team and individually, the White Sox took care of business against the Tigers, without inviting any controversy or carryover from Monday’s bench-clearing brouhaha. They outhit the Tigers 13-7 with six free bases on top of it, generating enough pressure on Wily Peralta innings after inning until he finally caved.
Meanwhile, Tim Anderson went 4-for-4 with a walk to raise his average to .306, virtually ensuring a third straight season over .300. José Abreu hit his 30th homer and drove in three other runs, giving him the faintest chance of making up the four-RBI gap against Salvador Perez with two games to play.
And then there’s Lance Lynn, who threw five solid innings. He only ran into trouble in the fourth, when he gave up a single to Akil Baddoo to start the inning, a stolen base, then an RBI double to Robbie Grossman that allowed Detroit to tie the game at 1. Lynn stranded Grossman with a groundout, strikeout and a flyout, and the Sox managed to suppress the Tigers offense the rest of the way.
Detroit’s pitchers couldn’t claim the same. José Abreu’s first attempt at giving the Sox the lead in the third inning didn’t last long — he hit a solo shot just inside the left-field foul pole for his first homer since Sept. 10 — but after threats in the first two innings fizzled, the fourth inning finally gave the Sox the crooked number they’d sought.
Granted, the Tigers helped. César Hernández bounced into a possible 3-6-3 double play after a Gavin Sheets leadoff single, but Jonathan Schoop’s throw deflected off Sheets’ left shoulder and into left field, allowing him to take third while Hernández got to second. Tim Anderson then shot a single through the middle for his third hit of the game and a 2-1 lead. Anderson almost got cut down at second when the throw home was cut off in front of the plate, but a crazy slide evaded the tag while keeping one extremity on the bag at the times the glove was on him, and it survived a challenge.
Anderson wasn’t done running. He took third on Luis Robert’s sac fly that scored Hernández and made it a 3-1 game, then got a great jump on Abreu’s grounder to a drawn-in Niko Goodrum at short and beat the throw home easily for an RBI fielder’s choice.
The Sox never looked back, although if they did, they might’ve seen the tying run come to the plate against Garrett Crochet in the sixth, and Ryan Tepera in the seventh. Perhaps they sensed it, and that’s why they kept stretching the lead. After Crochet slipped out of his inning unscored upon, Anderson scored all the way from first on José Abreu’s double to right center, his 30th two-bagger of the season. And after Tepera posted a zero while allowing four baserunners, Yoán Moncada and Leury García strung together doubles, Sheets scored them both with a single, and Sheets eventually came around on a single by Hernández and walks by Anderson and Abreu.
(Moncada didn’t score on García’s double because it was initially ruled foul, only for a replay to show that it glanced off Grossman’s glove in fair territory. García was awarded a double, but Moncada was placed at third.)
Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks made easier work of their innings, combining to strike out five of six batters, so all the key Sox contributed to one form or another with just two games remaining.
*Tepera allowed two soft singles and two walks, throwing only 11 of 23 pitches for strikes in his first appearance back from a finger laceration. He’ll likely get another outing.
*The White Sox allowed four stolen bases, which remains an exploitable flaw in just about their entire pitching staff.
*Lynn finished his first season with the Sox 11-6 with a 2.69 ERA. Now we’ll see what kind of Cy Young support he gets.
*Anderson would have to go 0-for-12 over the final two games in order for his average to fall below .300, so he’s good.
*Houston lost, so the White Sox’s hopes for home field remain alive by a thread. They need to win out, and Houston needs to lose out, in order to flip the location of Game 1.