MINNEAPOLIS — The either-or scenario for the White Sox heading into the All-Star break is this: Win Sunday and take an important four-game series against the first-place Twins. Lose and call it a disappointing series split after winning the first two in convincing fashion.
Dylan Cease, the Sox’ most All-Star worthy pitching candidate, will oppose Twins right-hander Chris Archer, who is coming off the injured list.
The Twins worked over Sox starter Lance Lynn early in just the latest disappointing outing for the 2021 All-Star.
“It’s frustrating,” Lynn said.
Lynn gave up a homer to the first batter he faced, All-Star Luis Arraez, then watched Carlos Correa jack a two-run homer into the first deck in the third. After a bloop single by Byron Buxton and infield hit by Max Kepler following Correa’s bomb, Jorge Polanco hit a three-run homer to put the Sox behind 6-0.
“I put us in a hole early and we weren’t able to come back,” Lynn said.
The Sox got three against Dylan Bundy on Jose Abreu’s RBI groundout in the fourth and Andrew Vaughn’s two-run single in the sixth. They went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base in the last six innings, although manager Tony La Russa lauded his team’s fight to the last out against 100-mph fireballer Jhoan Duran, who pitched the eighth and ninth. Tim Anderson’s ground out with Adam Engel on base, a 10-pitch at-bat ended the game.
“I heard Tony say when Tim was up there, ‘that’s an All-Star at-bat,’ ” Vaughn said. “He’s fouling off pitches. Guy is throwing 100 mph with a 98 mph splitter. He was just battling.”
And with that, the focus shifted to Sunday.
“Now that today’s over, tomorrow’s the most important game that we’ve got,” Vaughn said.
Of equal importance for the Sox (45-46) is getting Lynn back to who he was when he was signed to a two-year, $38 million extension last July. Lynn retired eight batters in a row after Polanco’s homer, but designs on soaring into the break on a series sweep felt dashed. Now they need to win Sunday to return to .500, which is where they landed Friday for the first time since June 21 when they beat the Blue Jays at Guaranteed Rate. And as they did on June 22 and the three times before that when they reached .500, the Sox lost.
“Get to .500 tomorrow, take a deep breath, see what the second half entails and make a push,” Lynn said. “We’re not in a terrible spot. We could be way worse with the way we’ve played. We’re not. So we have to get going.”
Lynn, meanwhile, has become a concern, heightening the Sox’ necessity to consider starting pitching additions before the trade deadline. With Michael Kopech’s innings being monitored as he navigates a hoped-for wire-to-wire pitching log as a starter, starting pitching could be underlined next to lefty relief pitching and a lefty bat for the second half.
Lynn (1-3, 7.50) allowed six runs on seven hits and no walks while striking out six and getting 14 swings and misses. The break is coming at the right time for him.
“I got to use this time to get things right,” said Lynn, who has made seven starts since being sidelined by knee surgery. “We’ve worked on some mechanical things. Physically I’m in a good spot to do the things I need to do. Now it’s finding that rhythm and going out and doing it.
“It’s time to take a deep breath of, ‘Hey, the first half is done. You got back, you’re here, you’re healthy and it’s time to go [bleeping] get it, to be honest. There’s no other way to say it. That’s where I’m at.”
Where are the Sox? In need of a win Sunday.
“Getting a win tomorrow, winning a series, there’s something tangible there,” La Russa said. We’ll go after it tomorrow.”