The White Sox did not make a deal prior to Monday afternoon’s Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. CT.
Instead, they saved their biggest move for the American League Central standings later in the night, claiming sole possession of first place with an 8-5 victory over the Twins during the series opener at Target Field. Kansas City rallied at home in the eighth for a 2-1 win over Cleveland, leaving the Indians one game out and dropping the Twins 2 1/2 games behind.
“It's what we've been waiting for, man,” said White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito, after his team improved to 22-13 overall, 11-0 against left-handed starters and 12-2 in their last 14. “It's been a lot of losing baseball the last few years. We knew what we were capable of and now that we're starting to show it, coming out every single game with confidence, all nine players on the diamond, it's a lot of fun.”
This was a statement victory for the White Sox when you consider the following.
Giolito didn’t have his best location working on an extra day of rest after he no-hit the Pirates this past Tuesday. The White Sox as a team started the night 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position. They also fell behind, 4-0, after three innings, committing three errors during a three-run second.
“Even though we started the game with four runs down, we never put our head down,” said White Sox center fielder Luis Robert, through interpreter Billy Russo. “With the team that we have, with the lineup that we have, four runs is nothing.”
Robert, who leads all rookies with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs, has become the game-changing equalizer. He tied the score with a home run in the seventh and then won the game with a ground-rule double off Taylor Rogers scoring pinch-runner Yolmer Sánchez during a three-run ninth.
After his three-run walk-off home run beat the Royals on Sunday, Robert’s last at-bat heroics for a second straight day were only made possible by right fielder Max Kepler dropping Edwin Encarnación’s routine fly ball on what would have been the inning’s second out. Robert became the first White Sox player since Matt Davidson in 2017 to produce the game-winning hit in the ninth inning or later on back-to-back games.
“It's incredible,” Robert said. “It's incredible, the vibe that you have when you're able to respond in those situations, just how the team reacts. It is a fun moment for us.”
“He's just scratching the surface, ladies and gentlemen,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “Once it all clicks, it’s going to be pretty special.”
Giolito battled through five innings and 94 pitches, striking out eight and walking one. Over Giolito’s last three starts, the right-hander has fanned 34 and allowed seven hits and two earned runs, while issuing three walks in 21 innings.
It was José Abreu who delivered after the White Sox missed on previous scoring opportunities, connecting on a 3-2 pitch from Tyler Clippard for a two-out, two-run, game-tying double in the sixth. The Twins had first base open with runners on second and third but elected to pitch to quite possibly baseball’s hottest hitter in August, with the struggling Encarnación on deck.
Minnesota took the lead back in the bottom half of the frame on a Jake Cave single, but Robert’s 10th home run, covering 449 feet to center, quickly tied the score. It was the 54th homer in August for the White Sox, extending their single-month franchise record, and adding further proof this first-place squad rarely finds itself completely out of a game.
“Just go out there, grind through it, try to put up zeros,” Giolito said. “If not, try to keep the crooked numbers down, get as deep as I can and then let those guys take care of the rest.
“This is the most fun I've ever had playing baseball, not even close. But the work's not finished. We've just got to keep doing what we're doing. The preparation is there, the confidence is there. We just keep it rolling.”