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The White Sox can be forgiven for the occasional stinker, especially when they rebound with improvement across the board.
The Sox played one of their most complete games of the season tonight, and while it might’ve come against one of the league’s lesser teams, it achieved a necessary goal — erasing the aftertaste of Tuesday’s dud to win a season series that need to be won.
Dane Dunning pitched six shutout innings, attacking the strike zone and showing no particular tail-off in stuff for a first win he richly deserved. He was supported by a White Sox offense that gained comfort against J.T. Brubaker with each trip through the lineup, and a defense that played better than the error column indicates. The Sox took yet another season series against a sub-.500 team, this one by a margin of three to one.
James McCann played a big part, opening the scoring with a solo shot in the third, then adding a second homer in the form of a two-run shot that put the game away in the sixth. In between, the White Sox combined for a team effort in a four-run fourth that featured all nine White Sox hitters.
Yoán Moncada, playing with a pre-COVID verve the past two nights, opened with single to right, and his legs allowed him to take advantage of Gregory Polanco’s poor attempt at collecting it. Yasmani Grandal then pounced on the first pitch to shoot a single through the vacated left side to score Moncada for a 2-0 lead.
José Abreu reached on an infield single that stretched his hitting streak to 22 games, followed by an Eloy Jiménez walk that loaded the bases. Luis Robert struck out on three pitches, but McCann followed with a sac fly that made it a 3-0 game.
Nomar Mazara reloaded the bases with a five-pitch walk, but the White Sox still needed a hit that created an imposing margin, and Madrigal rose to the occasion. He fell behind 0-2, but battled until Brubaker threw an elevated sinker on the sixth pitch that Madrigal spanked through the middle for a two-run single that capitalized on the inning-long threat.
The Sox could cruise from there, and Dunning let them. Through six innings, he’d dealt with just four baserunners — two singles, a walk and an error on a flip from Grandal that only cost Dunning three pitches. He retired 13 of 14 before he came out to start the seventh, and Rick Renteria lifted him with smile after Colin Moran led off the seventh with a double.
Out came Gio González, who headed from the bullpen to the mound to the dugout to replace a glove the umpires said was distracting, then back to the mound to throw a couple of inefficient innings in his return from a groin strain. He issued back-to-back walks with two outs to load the bases in the eighth, which allowed Polanco to drive in a run with yet another catcher interference call on McCann, but a Josh Bell lineout to center kept the Pirates from really getting back into the game.
Both catchers committed errors, but the Sox played strong defense elsewhere. Moncada made a terrific off-balance throw his body probably wouldn’t have allowed him to complete last week, and Eloy Jiménez might’ve made the best catch of his life with a ranging catch to PNC Park’s cavernous left-center alley.
*Every White Sox starter hit safely, and the team went 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
*Dunning only induced seven swinging strikes on his 78 pitches, but 10 groundouts and a double play meant he never really courted danger.
*All the Pirates wore No. 21 for Roberto Clemente, while the White Sox wore No. 21 patches.