The White Sox are entering a stretch of games that could determine their 2022 prospects.
The first test did not go well.
Minnesota scored four times in the 10th inning to beat the Sox 6-3on Monday. Johnny Cueto contributed six innings of two-run ball and Jose Abreu hit a solo home run, but Byron Buxton and questionable baserunning from the home team allowed Minnesota to take a 5 1/2-game lead over the Sox in the AL Central.
Buxton, who hit a two-run homer in the fifth, got the Twins out of a jam in the seventh after Yoan Moncada singled to tie the game at 2. With no outs and pinch-runner Adam Engel at second and Moncada at first, Buxton ran down AJ Pollock’s drive to deep center. Engel and Moncada apparently didn’t think the ball would be caught, and were both out on a triple play.
The Sox got the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the 10th but Tim Anderson struck out against Jhoan Duran, starting a two-week stretch of divisional games on a sour note.
“This is a real crunch time for us,” said closer Liam Hendriks, who came off the 15-day IL after recovering from a right forearm strain and struck out the side in the eighth inning.
The Sox entered this key stretch coming off a three-game sweep of the Giants but still in third place behind Minnesota and the Guardians with the All-Star break and trade deadline looming. But to Engel, that doesn’t mean the Sox are playing with more urgency than before.
“This team is going to be a really, really good, scary team when we’re all there,” said Engel, who was reinstated from the 10-day injured list after going down with a strained right hamstring. “I think that’s what we’re all excited for, and to say that we’re more urgent than we were prior, I don’t think would be the right phrasing for it. The timing, if we can continue to play good baseball, obviously this is as good of timing as any, for sure.”
Sox manager Tony La Russa was ejected in the top of the 10th for arguing balls and strikes.
Monday was an important night for determining when outfielder Eloy Jimenez (torn tendon in right hamstring) might come off the IL and return to the Sox. Jimenez batted third and played left field for Triple-A Charlotte, collecting two hits.
Asked whether Jimenez might return to the Sox by the end of the week, La Russa said a lot depends on Monday.
”Talking to him this weekend and this morning, he’s feeling good,” La Russa said. ”But to play and feel good, the guys watching him have to evaluate that. He can’t come here to get in shape and then get hurt. But right now, we watch everyone very closely as far as that decision goes.”
The Sox also are waiting on catcher Yasmani Grandal to return from back spasms. La Russa said Grandal was supposed to throw to bases Monday, but that plan was delayed by the pregame rain.
”He’s getting better,” La Russa said. ”I don’t think there’s a time frame yet [for Grandal’s return].”
To make room for Engel and Hendriks on the roster, the Sox optioned outfielder Adam Haseley and reliever Jimmy Lambert to Charlotte.