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Nearing end of tough '19, Palka hits 1st 2 HRs

5 White Sox pitchers blank Indians to pick up series win
@scottmerkin
September 27, 2019

CHICAGO -- Daniel Palka, who launched 27 home runs during his rookie season with the White Sox in 2018, had gone 86 plate appearances without an extra-base hit during this rough ’19 campaign. And it had been 108 at-bats since his last long ball. The powerful left-handed-hitting slugger made up

CHICAGO -- Daniel Palka, who launched 27 home runs during his rookie season with the White Sox in 2018, had gone 86 plate appearances without an extra-base hit during this rough ’19 campaign. And it had been 108 at-bats since his last long ball.

The powerful left-handed-hitting slugger made up for that lapse in a big way during the White Sox 8-0 victory over the Indians on Thursday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. Palka went deep twice, raising his average to .113 and further denting Cleveland’s fading postseason chances. The Tribe trails the Rays by two games for the second American League Wild Card with three to play.

Box score

“We all know Tampa had a day off, and if we got them one game, it puts them down another half-game,” Palka said. “But we want to beat … everybody. It doesn't matter who it is. That's all it is.”

It was the White Sox second straight victory over the 93-win Indians and their 11th win in 19 games. It was also their 70th win of the season, improving their record to 36-36 against AL Central opponents. They notched the victory without starter Dylan Cease, who was scratched from his scheduled start minutes before first pitch with a left hamstring strain.

Right-hander José Ruiz filled in for Cease and got the start, with four other relievers following him to the mound. From the last out of the second through the first out of the eighth, White Sox relievers retired 17 straight. Josh Osich threw a career-high 3 1/3 perfect innings and owns a 0.58 ERA when throwing two-plus innings in 14 games this season.

“Nobody knew really where they were going in right there, except for Ruiz, when they told him he was going to start that game,” Osich said. “That's when the bullpen understands that you can go in at any time, you can go out there and throw strikes, try to work efficiently and get through innings.

“We came out today and pitched well and hit well and played defense well. We did everything right today.”

Jose Abreu doubled and tripled and collected his AL-best 123rd RBI, James McCann broke a scoreless tie in the fourth with a three-run homer and Zack Collins drove in two with two hits.

McCann’s homer was followed by Palka’s first of the season, a connection off Cleveland starter Aaron Civale that traveled 409 feet, per Statcast. Palka received the silent treatment in the White Sox dugout after homering for the first since Sept. 21, 2018, against the Cubs.

On Palka's second homer, a 439-foot solo shot that came in the sixth against James Hoyt, his teammates properly celebrated.

“They got me on the second one,” Palka said.

“You could see in his swings and his approaches over the last three or four days how it was bound to happen,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He has had his struggles and then goes out and puts some really good at-bats together and is able to drive the ball. The ball jumps off his bat very, very well. We are really happy to see that.”

Despite being mired in a season-long slump, which had him at 2-for-64 on Sept. 18, Palka has not changed. He’s answered every question with class, dignity and good humor, but on Thursday, he had the chance to discuss a return to success.

“It's been a roller coaster, but at the end of the day, I've learned so much about myself, my swing, my mechanics,” Palka said. “Today -- even with all the good days I had in [Triple-A] Charlotte -- today was the day where it clicked, where I was covering the zone top to bottom.

“Yeah, and it's a good thing, because the ball looks like a beach ball right now, but I'm not swinging at absolutely everything. I'm still picking my pitches, so that's always a positive.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.