Despite an injury-plagued season and a surprisingly slow start, the defending American League Central champion Chicago White Sox find themselves just three games out of first place heading into a Saturday afternoon game against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis.
The White Sox bring a four-game winning streak into the contest and will turn to Lance Lynn (1-2, 6.97 ERA). The veteran right-hander is 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in six career starts covering 34 innings against the first-place Twins.
However, Lynn is coming off his worst outing of the season, when he allowed eight runs on nine hits over four-plus innings in an 8-4 loss to the host Cleveland Guardians on Monday.
Minnesota, which still holds a 2 1/2-game lead over second-place Cleveland despite dropping six of its past eight games, will counter with right-hander Dylan Bundy (5-4, 4.68 ERA).
Bundy won his last start, a 6-5 decision over the host Texas Rangers on Sunday, when he gave up four runs in five innings. He is 5-0 with a 3.27 ERA in eight career appearances (seven starts) against the White Sox, including 1-0 with an 0.90 ERA in two outings this year.
Chicago has outscored Minnesota 18-4 while winning the first two games of the four-game series, including a 6-2 victory on Friday night.
Adam Engel, who entered the game in the second inning when starting center fielder Luis Robert left feeling lightheaded, hit a three-run homer. Tim Anderson also homered and had two hits and two runs to give Chicago its third win in eight meetings with Minnesota this season.
The victory also moved the White Sox to an even 45-45 during a season that has seen some fans chanting for the firing of Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa at recent home games. If Chicago can win the final two games of the series, it would be just one game out of first at the All-Star break.
“We’ve been talking about it for a while,” said the White Sox’s Friday starter, Michael Kopech, who picked up his first win since June 7 after allowing two runs over five innings.
“We’re going to turn the corner. Things are going to start going our way, and we’re starting to make that corner. Ironically, we’re coming up on All-Star break, and that seems like a good time to make a corner.”
Chicago dominated the AL Central a year ago, cruising to a 13-game cushion over second-place Cleveland. Despite the rocky start this year, Engel called the atmosphere in the White Sox’s locker room “great.”
“Obviously, winning is better than losing. That’s pretty straightforward there. But we have a good clubhouse,” Engel said.
“We have a lot of pretty fun guys. You can just see guys’ personality come out even more once we’re winning some games. Guys are loosening up more and more. … It’s a lot of fun in there. It’s a really good time to be a White Sox right now.”
Minnesota has managed just two runs in each of the first two games of the series and was blanked over the final eight innings on Friday. The Twins went just 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
White Sox closer Liam Hendriks pitched a 1-2-3 ninth and has retired 30 of the last 31 batters he’s faced, allowing just one walk.
“We did make it happen early. That’s kind of what we have been looking for,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of his team’s two-run first inning, which featured three singles, a walk and Alex Kirilloff’s two-run, bases-loaded double off the right field fence.
“Something just like that,” Baldelli said”To have even more chances, to have more good at-bats, to put ourselves in the spots that we really want to be in and not push more runs across, that’s tough. … We do have to figure that out and get more guys home.”
–Field Level Media