An eight-game, seven-day trip against the Guardians and Twins remains an ominous task.
But the inconsistent White Sox overcame an array of challenges Sunday to seize a remarkable 4-2 victory over the Tigers to help their task of eventually overtaking the Guardians and Twins not so insurmountable.
They pounced on an error by left fielder Robbie Grossman — his first after 440 errorless games — with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning, as pinch-hitter AJ Pollock hit a tie-breaking single off Gregory Soto and Eloy Jim?nez followed with an insurance RBI hit.
This came after starter Michael Kopech overcame a brutal start and a lack of his overpowering fastball to last 5 1/3 innings, and the offense produced four two-out RBI hits after being blanked for four innings by unheralded Drew Hutchison.
“Hopefully these two wins get us (momentum),” manager Tony La Russa said after the Sox (41-43) cut their deficit to one-half game behind the Guardians (41-42) and stayed five games behind the Twins (48-40) in the American League Central.
“I know because I listen to the conversations in the locker room. They know starting this week, and then what’s ahead playing the eight games in seven days. They know what a challenge that is and how deep the team is going to have to dig to compete and see how many wins we can get.”
Gavin Sheets, who hit his second homer in as many games, a tiebreaking shot off Hutchison in the sixth, concurred.
“Get after it,” said Sheets, who is batting .423 (17-47) with four doubles, three home runs, 12 RBI in his last 15 games. “We got a couple games, and then we got a four-day break. It could be a tough stretch, but we got a break coming, so there’s no reason for us not to get after it and get some wins.”
The Sox earned the victory without All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson, who rested his groin and could get a break during one of the games during Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Guardians.
“You’ve just got to pay attention and communicate a lot with the coaching staff and training staff,” said La Russa, alluding to the fact that Anderson returned July 4 after missing three weeks due to his groin injury. “You play in your division, those are two-for-one games. But if the guy shouldn’t play, he shouldn’t play.”
But Luis Robert wasn’t thinking about his sore legs as he sprinted to second after Grossman’s dropped his fly in the sun and wind.
Nor was Kopech, started the game by throwing five balls before Javy Baez hit the next pitch for a two-run homer, leaving the game after he was slow to cover first base in the second and required medical attention.
“Well, there ain’t no bad win,” La Russa said. “The win Saturday (8-0) was a real good one. Coming from behind, hanging in there, because of what our pitchers did to keep us in the game and some clutch two-out hits. It’s supposed to and I think it’s just momentum is confidence.”
Kopech’s resiliency typified the Sox’s determination to regain a semblance of the “authority figure” they established in winning the 2021 AL Central, according to closer Liam Hendricks.
“Just inside this clubhouse, gain that (sense of) we are better than everybody else and we can do this,” Hendricks said. “We need to get that mindset back, and that’s something we’ve had spurts of but hasn’t really caught fire yet. I’m hoping games like Saturday and (Sunday’s) wins will help spark that fire a little bit.”