Miguel Cairo made a clear distinction in his first day as acting White Sox manager by saying that he goes with his gut when he makes decisions, as evidenced by allowing veteran Lance Lynn to pitch seven innings and face opposing batters for the third time Wednesday night.
But relying on his instincts goes only so far. With Tony La Russa continuing to undergo medical tests in Arizona, more chefs got involved in concocting a recipe to beat the Twins entering Friday night’s American League Central showdown.
Joe Kelly was used as an opener, with Davis Martin switching to the role of bulk pitcher. The move didn’t work so well, as Kelly labored during a 34-pitch first inning and yielded a two-run double to Nick Gordon.
But the tension turned to relief and revenge, as the Sox pulled out a zany 4-3 win on Jose Abreu’s fielder’s choice in the ninth.
Abreu’s game-winning grounder, which Gordon knocked down but resulted in only a force at second, allowed Romy Gonzalez to score the winning run.
The game-winning play occurred after a replay reversed what was called a hit-by-pitch on Abreu. One pitch earlier, Andrew Vaughn was hit by a pitch from Jorge Lopez on his left shoulder to load the bases, prompting the benches to empty and gather near the mound. Cairo and Twins counterpart Rocco Baldelli were yelling at each other from close range before Cairo was ejected by third-base umpire Ron Kulpa for arguing a warning.
“What I saw was Lopez saying something to Vaughnie,” Cairo said. “Vaughnie said nothing.”
Cairo said he and Baldelli were merely protecting their players.
Nevertheless, the Sox (66-66) moved to within three games of the division-leading Guardians with 30 games left.
The Sox got a lift from Martin, who threw five scoreless innings that allowed the Sox to rally for two runs in the fifth.
A throwing error by third baseman Josh Harrison allowed the Twins to take the lead in the eighth, but Yasmani Grandal countered with a game-tying towering home run down the left-field line.
As for the decision to start Kelly for one inning, “believe me, I go with my gut,” Cairo said before the game. “But the information that we get from the front office, the information that’s happening in the game, it’s important, too. You’ve got to mix it up. It’s a balance. That’s what counts.”
Finding balance has been a yearlong challenge for the Sox. Their power-challenged offense started without Eloy Jimenez because of his sore surgically repaired right leg, and Cairo reiterated La Russa’s earlier forecast that Jimenez would likely see less of left field because of his legs.
“Eloy being a designated hitter gives him a little time to rest instead of standing in the outfield and not moving that well,” Cairo said. “So being a DH gives him a little time to sit down, keep his legs loose and moving in the cage. We just hope that [Saturday] he’s feeling way better.”
Jimenez grounded out as a pinch hitter in the eighth.
Meanwhile, the Sox theorized that Kelly’s high 90 mph sinker and sharp breaking pitch would harness the best hitters at the top of the Twins’ order. But the strategy failed as American League batting leader Luis Arraez hit a single that left fielder Leury Garcia bobbled for an error, before two walks and a wild pitch set up Gordon’s double.
The Sox used an opener once this season, when Reynaldo Lopez pitched two scoreless innings, and Martin followed with five innings of three-hit ball in an 8-3 victory against the Rangers on June 10.