Heading into the 2021 season, the White Sox figured that their stiffest competition for AL Central supremacy was the Minnesota Twins, a franchise that has historically been a thorn in the sides of the Sox, and who won the division last year.
The Twins, however, limped into Chicago for their first meeting with the newly-minted first place White Sox and the Sox promptly swept the Twinkies out of town, solidifying their division lead, and burying the Twins a full 10 games back in the standings midway through May.
Tuesday saw the Twins score the first three runs of the game, but the Sox scored the last nine, cruising to a 9-3 win. Jose Abreu broke a 3-all tie in the sixth with a 2-run homer, and Yasmani Grandal hit a long 3-run dinger to tie the game. It was only the sixth game all season where the Sox hit multiple home runs, but the Sox, who are have the third-highest team batting average in MLB, won going away.
The bullpen held the Twins off the board, and Garrett Crochet got his first career win while throwing 2/3 of an inning of relief. Dylan Cease allowed three runs over five innings in what he called a grind of an outing.
Wednesday’s game was an interesting one, but the Sox piled up 13 runs on 14 hits, highlighted by Andrew Vaughn’s first career MLB homer. It came on the same day that comments from Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino appeared in the media in which he reportedly told Vaughn “F*%k the home run”. That comment could easily have been about the offense as a whole, but his point to Vaughn is to focus more on being a .300 hitter, and the homers will come.
Homers may be coming for Grandal, as he homered for the second straight night. But the offensive star of the night may have been Billy Hamilton, who went 4 for 4. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada also added a pair of hits each, as the Sox offense kept rolling.
Dallas Keuchel battled through 5.2 innings but got the his second win of the season. He allowed six runs on eight hits and only struck out one, while walking one. The bullpen only allowed two more runs, allowing the Sox bats to tack on more to make things comfortable.
Thursday’s game got off to a hot start, as Tim Anderson hit the first pitch Twins starter Michael Pineda threw into the left-field seats to give the Sox a very quick 1-0 lead. Jake Lamb added another solo shot in the 3rd to double the lead before the Twins capitalized on one of the Sox three errors on the day to get back within one. Vaughn gave the Sox some breathing room in the sixth with an RBI single, but a Max Kepler solo shot narrowed the gap once more.
But in the bottom of the 8th, with Zack Collins due up with runners on first and second and two out, Tony LaRussa turned to rookie Yermin Mercedes, who served a two-strike pitch into left-center field to give closer Liam Hendriks some insurance to work with in the 9th. He covered the final five outs of the game in just 19 pitches to record his 7th save of the season, and give the Sox the best record in MLB at 22-13.
Billy Hamilton made a terrific leaping grab in left-center field to end a bases-loaded threat and keep the Sox in the lead. He got a great jump on the ball, and made the catch in front of the spot on the wall that commemorates Dewayne Wise’s leaping grab that preserved Mark Buehrle’s perfect game in 2009.
They’ve won six in a row and are now 8-2 in their last 10 as the Royals come to town for a weekend set, starting with a split-doubleheader on Friday. Lucas Giolito gets the ball in game 1 on Friday, and Michael Kopech will start the nightcap against a Royals team that has lost their last 10 games.