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The White Sox won’t get home-field advantage in the American League Divisional Series, but they settled for a consolation prize of a rousing come-from-behind victory in front of 36,320 fans. It wasn’t a postseason preview with regards to the opponent, but they made the atmosphere come close.
Thanks to a Yoán Moncada opposite-field homer in the eighth inning, the White Sox won their sixth consecutive game. Unfortunately, they needed that kind of effort and two more Houston losses for a chance at hosting the ALDS, but the Astros beat the Athletics to lock in the second seed.
Still, tonight’s game was pretty neat. The Sox trailed 4-0, before responding with five unanswered runs across the seventh and eighth innings. They scored the final two after Kyle Funkhouser retired the first two batters of the eighth inning. Eloy Jiménez kept it alive with a walk, and while Billy Hamilton replaced him at first base, he wasn’t so much a pinch runner as he was a pinch trotter, because Moncada deposited the first pitch he saw into the White Sox bullpen to give the Sox their first lead of the game, and the only one they’d need.
The Sox just had to wait for Matt Manning to leave the game. The Detroit rookie finished his season making his final three starts against the White Sox, and he saved his best work for last, striking out seven over five shutout innings. He pounded the strike zone for 49 of his 69 pitches, limiting the Sox to just a double, a single and a walk over five innings. He forced the White Sox to damage him, and the best they could muster was a leadoff Yoán Moncada double that advanced no further, and a Yasmani Grandal fly that died short of the wall.
But once Manning left the game, it was a different story. The Sox got two cracks at José Ureña, and they lit him up in the seventh. Grandal led off with a double, followed by a Moncada grounder that took a wicked hop past Miguel Cabrera for an RBI double of his own two batters. Gavin Sheets then cashed him in with a single to cut Detroit’s lead to 4-2.
A mound visit preceded an Adam Engel K for the second out, after which A.J. Hinch replaced Ureña with new enemy Alex Lange. Leury García, who stranded a runner with strikeouts in each of his first two trips, smashed a single through the middle to move Sheets to second, and Tim Anderson did the same to score Sheets to narrow the gap to one. After Aaron Bummer kept Detroit off the board with three groundouts, Jiménez and Moncada did the rest, with Liam Hendriks retiring the side in order for his 38th save.
The late rally overcame an ugly attempt at relief by Dallas Keuchel, who couldn’t finish the seventh inning he started, even though he retired two of the first three batters. The next four Tigers reached — an Eric Haase RBI single, a Daz Cameron RBI double to the left-field corner, an Akil Baddoo walk and a Robbie Grossman flare to right — and Keuchel left after 33 pitches with just two outs to his name. Matt Foster entered, and Adam Engel flagged down Jonathan Schoop’s drive to right center to stop the bleeding.
With the White Sox winning the game, perhaps there’s some benefit to Keuchel struggling as much as he did. For all his veteran gravitas, there’s no use for him on a postseason roster except for a game that’s well in (or out of) hand, and if the coaching staff needs convincing to use that roster spot in a different way, this kind of effort makes the best argument.
The other Sox pitchers were fine. Lucas Giolito put a nice stamp on his season with five innings of one-run ball. The two hits he allowed came in the fourth inning, which allowed the only run on his tab to score, but otherwise he took the quickest route to getting his final five innings in the books. He walked the first batter he faced and nobody else, struck out three, and threw 47 of his 72 pitches for strikes.
The non-Keuchel relievers all stood tall as well. Ryan Burr threw a scoreless sixth, while Foster, Bummer and Hendriks combined to retire all seven batters they faced.
*Luis Robert went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, so hopefully he got some September 2020 out of his system.
*Moncada went 3-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs.
*Giolito needed two strikeouts to reach 200 on the season, and he finished with 201.
*Keuchel finished his season qualifying for the ERA title (162 innings), but not with one he’s proud of (5.28).
*Anderson went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .308. He’d have to go 0-for-15 on Sunday to fall below .300.
*Rain delayed the start of the game by 26 minutes.