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The White Sox secured their postseason berth with today’s win, and if they play to hang around, they’re going to stay composed.
Today’s game shows they can do it. They didn’t play a perfect game. They hung some sliders, they dropped two flies, they tried to focus on breaking pitches at the expense of too many taken fastballs. But they didn’t lose their heads.
As for the Twins? Well, Josh Donaldson got ejected on his own home run in order to show up the home plate umpire, Byron Buxton was thrown out by 20 feet trying to score from first on a dropped fly by Luis Robert, and Eddie Rosario screamed his way down the first-base line after a groundout. Any of those plays could’ve been overlooked in victory, but because the White Sox stayed within striking distance all game, they collectively looked unraveled.
Donaldson’s homer should’ve been an inflection point the other way. After taking a slider just off the plate for a strike, he smoked a liner into the White Sox bullpen on an underpowered fastball that gave the Twins a 3-2 lead. As he approached the plate, he kicked dirt over it, then went back to touch the plate and cover it some more. Home plate umpire Dan Bellino ejected him immediately, and Donaldson exited to high-fives in the dugout.
Donaldson’s replacement, Ehire Adrianza, struck out in his only at-bat to start the eighth. The Twins were trailing by 1 at that time, because the White Sox struck for two runs on another play where Donaldson’s absence was detectable.
The White Sox had runners on the corners with two outs for José Abreu, as Jarrod Dyson led off with a single, survived almost getting caught off first on a lineout to right on a hit-and-run, then stole second and moved to third on Tim Anderson’s groundout. Yasmani Grandal kept the inning alive with a walk, and José Abreu came to the plate.
Rocco Baldelli went to righty-killer Sergio Romo, and on the fifth pitch, Romo got one of the preferred outcomes — a weak grounder to the left side.
Perhaps Donaldson takes charge of the play and cuts it off with a strong throw to first. But Donaldson wasn’t there, and Adrianza let Jorge Polanco play it from a deepish shortstop position. His throw was well late, Dyson scored the tying run, and Eloy Jiménez smoked a double down the left-field line that put the White Sox ahead.
The White Sox struck for two runs in a seventh inning where the Twins kept themselves off the board. Buxton, who hit a pair of solo homers on bad Reynaldo López sliders, collected his third hit with a leadoff single. A pair of fly balls should’ve kept him at first, but Robert let Ryan Jeffers’ one-outer glance off his glove. Buxton was off to the races, and that ended up working for the White Sox. Robert collected himself to start an excellent relay home, with Nick Madrigal delivering an on-target throw and Grandal picking the shorthop for the tag.
Thanks to that TOOTBLAN, the White Sox were able to absorb three homers from the Bomba Squad, because they were all of the solo variety.
The White Sox had answers for two of them. Abreu got enough of Kenta Maeda’s rolling slider for a solo shot in the fourth, and Edwin Encarnación hit another cement-mixer harder for his own blast in the fifth.
As a result, the White Sox were able to hold their own against a Cy Young candidate like Maeda, with López virtually matching him through five innings:
- Maeda: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER 0 BB, 8 K, 2 HR
- López: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HR
Buxton aside, López pitched well enough for the circumstances. Rick Renteria probably shouldn’t have let him start the sixth, because the fastball Donaldson hit out was clocked at 91. Renteria recovered with good bullpen management — Codi Heuer would’ve handled the seventh and eighth had Bellino not given Nelson Cruz an extra life, and when Cruz singled on a slider to keep the latter inning alive, Alex Colomé came in to record a four-out save.
His lineup card also delivered. Encarnación shows he’s still a threat against lower velocities, and Dyson went 2-for-4 in a rare start, stealing two bases and scoring the tying run. There were enough contributions from all over to offset terrible days from Moncada (golden sombrero, twice looking) and Robert (0-for-4, two strikeouts, the error in center).
However it happened, the White Sox split the season series with the Twins. They extended their lead in the AL Central by three games, and by four in the loss column.
*MVP update: Abreu is now up to 17 homers and 51 RBIs over 50 games, while Tim Anderson went 0-for-4.
*Robert’s drop in center looked a little more defensible after Adrianza couldn’t handle a foul pop-up down the left field line — thank Donaldson for that — and McCann mishandled one near the plate.
(Photo by Rob Grabowski / Icon Sportswire)