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The White Sox snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, which would feel better if the way they fell behind didn’t feel so predictable.
Nevertheless, Gavin Sheets singlehandedly dragged the Sox back into the game. He hit a game-tying two-run shot in the seventh, then followed with a leadoff double that turned into the game-winning run via wild pitch two innings later. The White Sox are back to .500 at the 100-game mark by that unlikely series of events, which feels like the kind that the phrase “any means necessary” is intended to cover.
The White Sox trailed this one 2-0 because Johnny Cueto had the nerve to give up a pair of solo shots over seven innings, while another ordinary righty in Paul Blackburn proved uncrackable to the White Sox offense.
Fortunately, the White Sox were able to crack the scoreboard against righty Austin Pruitt in the seventh. He plunked Andrew Vaughn with a 2-2 fastball to put the leadoff man on board, and when he started Sheets with a grooved fastball, Sheets deposited it over the visiting bullpen in right to make it a 2-2 game.
In the ninth, Sheets came out on top of another lefty-righty matchup when he greeted Zach Jackson with a double sliced to left field. Adam Engel pinch-ran for him, and then Josh Harrison bunted him over to third. Tim Anderson came to the plate, and while Anderson had an ugly at-bat with runners in scoring position earlier in the game, he managed to lay off a pair of low curves to get ahead 2-0. Jackson pumped a fastball past him for a 2-1 count, but his third and final attempt to get him to swing over a breaking ball bounced well in front of home plate, and deflected off Sean Murphy toward the third-base dugout. Engel scored easily, and now the White Sox have a rubber match on Sunday.
It shouldn’t have been that hard, but based on the way the White Sox struggle against right-handed starters, it was eminently predictable.
Paul Blackburn opened the game with five scoreless innings against the Sox, short-circuiting a couple rallies along the way. In the fourth, he got Yasmani Grandal to hit a firm grounder into a 6-4-3 double play, which negated a pair of one-out singles. In the fifth, Eloy Jiménez smoked a single off the wall to right, and Andrew Vaughn hit a double off third base to put runners on second and third with nobody out.
Then, three bad at-bats. Sheets fell behind 0-2, then popped out to second. Harrison got ahead 0-2, then swung through three straight pitches, two of them thigh-high. Anderson swung at the three pitches he saw, fouling off two before chasing a slider out of the zone to kill the threat.
Meanwhile, Cueto gave up a couple of no-doubt homers — a first-inning blast to Murphy, and a third-inning moon shot to Seth Brown. Both came with nobody on base, but even though Cueto scattered four singles and a walk over the rest of his seven innings, the Sox trailed the entire time he was out there.
The Sox did tie it up before Jimmy Lambert took over, which at least got Cueto off the hook. Lambert pitched around a one-out double for a scoreless eighth, and then Liam Hendriks did the same in the ninth for his first scoreless outing in four tries in the second half. It was good enough for the win.
*The White Sox were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, while the A’s were 0-for-7.
*José Abreu had a good game at first base, making a tough catch near the netting earlier in the game, then smothering a grounder down the line with two outs in the eighth to help strand Lambert’s runner.
*Minnesota won and Cleveland lost, so the White Sox still trail the Twins by three games, but are now only a game behind the Guardians.