White Sox blow six-run lead in ninth, fall to Guardians in 11

This one was in the bag.

And then it was out of the bag.

The Guardians scored six runs in the ninth inning Monday, capped by Josh Naylor’s grand slam against closer Liam Hendriks, to erase the White Sox’ lead, then got a three-run home run by Naylor against Ryan Burr in the 11th to earn a stunning 12-9 victory.

The result ended the Sox’ six-game winning streak.

It was a colossal collapse, complete with bad Sox defense and big hits by the Guardians, including homers by Andres Gimenez and Naylor in the ninth and a go-ahead RBI double by Gimenez in the 10th, the latter against Reynaldo Lopez.

Reese McGuire’s fielder’s choice brought Adam Engel home in the 10th to tie the score 9-9, but Jose Abreu hit into a force with the bases loaded and two outs.

Hendriks was summoned after rookie left-hander Tanner Banks couldn’t get out of the ninth. Banks allowed a homer to Gimenez leading off the inning, then yielded a single to Amed Rosario, who advanced to third when shortstop Tim Anderson couldn’t corral left fielder AJ Pollock’s throw into the infield. A fielding error by third baseman Yoan Moncada enabled Rosario to score and pulled the Guardians to 8-4.

Two outs later, Banks walked Jose Ramirez. That’s when manager Tony La Russa went to Hendriks, who served up a single to Owen Miller to load the bases before Naylor connected on his grand slam to tie the score and stun most of the 17,168 fans in attendance.

Pollock’s three-run homer in the eighth against Anthony Gose seemingly had put the game out of reach, giving the Sox an 8-2 lead.

Engel had a chance to win the game for the Sox in the ninth with the bases loaded and two outs, but Ramirez made a backhand stop behind third base and Naylor a good stretch at first to get Engel on a close play.

Long forgotten was Michael Kopech’s six strong innings and right fielder Gavin Sheets’ dropped fly ball in the first that allowed the Guardians’ first run. Sheets redeemed himself with a three-run homer against Zach Plesac in the bottom of the inning that put the Sox in front 4-1.

Sheets, who was 4-for-32 in his previous 10 games, was jubilant as he circled the bases and met his teammates in the dugout. The inning — and game — was a microcosm of the streaking Sox’ season that general manager Rick Hahn talked about before the game.

Because of injuries, Hahn had said on Opening Day that the first two months would be rocky. Turns out April — the first losing month since La Russa took over as manager before last season — was outright wonky, with eight victories and 12 losses. That was followed by a loss May 1.

”I didn’t quite foresee losing eight in a row followed by winning six in a row,” Hahn said. ”But it’s not a total shock that we quite haven’t found our sea legs or that this team hasn’t quite found its identity.”

Kopech is establishing an identity as a dominant front-line starter, however. He took a no-hitter into the fifth and allowed only an unearned run in six innings to lower his ERA to a glossy 0.93. Kopech struck out seven and walked two in the latest display of strong pitching by Sox starters, who had a 2.30 ERA in their previous 13 games.

”What the starters have done the last time through has helped carry us,” Hahn said. ”The bullpen has been fantastic. You’ve seen contributions from guys who are getting their first taste of high-leverage situations and responding well to it.

”And with the addition of Moncada [who made his season debut], hopefully the offense is able to start producing on a little more regular basis to give a little more margin of error.”

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