Johnny Cueto dazzles in White Sox’ 2-0 win over Guardians

CLEVELAND — Johnny Cueto has been an inspiration on a team that has inspired few this season.

On Saturday night in Cleveland, the 36-year-old right-hander gave yet another invigorating performance, throwing 8 2/3 innings in a 2-0 White Sox victory against former Cy Young winner Shane Bieber.

The result pulled the Sox (62-59) within 2 1/2 games of the American League Central-leading Guardians (64-56). The Sox also gained ground on the second-place Twins, who lost.

Cueto allowed five hits and one walk while striking out two. He threw 113 pitches, lowering his ERA to 2.58.

In a pitching battle that was worth the two-hour, 55-minute wait to start caused by rain, Bieber (9-6, 3.10 ERA) allowed two runs (one earned) in 6 1/3 innings.

Cueto made his 10th straight quality start, exiting with two outs in the ninth after he retired Andres Gimenez on an infield pop fly with Josh Naylor on first.

“He was clutch for us,” manager Tony La Russa said.

Liam Hendriks faced one batter, striking out Oscar Gonzalez for his 19th consecutive save.

“He said he was good, so give him a chance,” La Russa said of Cueto starting the ninth, but he wasn’t going to face Gonzalez, who had two line drives and a walk against him.

“It’s worth paying just to watch him,” La Russa said. “He’s so damn smart.”

Cueto (6-5), who took a 2.78 ERA into the game, allowed just two runners in scoring position, and Bieber, whose ERA was 3.18 going in, wasn’t scored on until Jose Abreu cleared center fielder Myles Straw’s head with a double that drove in Luis Robert (leadoff single) from first in the sixth.

Elvis Andrus collected his first hit with the Sox, a single, and scored his first run in the seventh. He advanced to second on a throw home from center fielder Myles Straw that resulted in Yasmani Grandal getting thrown out — and injured — easily for the first out of the seventh. Andrus stole third and scored on Josh Harrison’s short fly ball when right fielder Will Benson’s throw home skipped away.

Grandal, who injured his left knee, was on crutches and will be evaluated. Catcher Carlos Perez is expected to take his place on the active roster Sunday.

Despite the loss of Grandal, it was a good bounce-back win for the Sox, who lost the first game of the series 5-2 on Friday. They broke a three-game losing streak.

“I just think if you’re not strong-minded and strong-hearted, then you’re in the wrong place,” La Russa said after that defeat. “So, we get even [Saturday].”

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