CHICAGO -- The White Sox completed a three-game sweep of the Twins with a 4-2 victory on Thursday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field, moving manager Tony La Russa’s crew to 22-13 after picking up its sixth straight win.
Thursday’s action also knocked the Twins to 10 games back in the American League Central, producing a fairly clear separation between the two preseason favorites in the division.
These results, improving the White Sox to 16-5 in their last 21, also led to Lance Lynn, Chicago's starting and winning pitcher, being asked whether this 2021 White Sox squad is starting to shape up as one of the best teams the accomplished veteran has played for during his decade-long career.
“I'll let you know at the end of October,” said Lynn with a wry smile.
Lynn’s response is perfectly understandable, especially with 127 games remaining in the regular season. It also shows the confidence being built by this team, if you read a little bit in between the lines.
Even without left fielder Eloy Jiménez and center fielder Luis Robert, integral players who are sidelined for months due to injury, the White Sox expect to be playing in October. They actually expect to be winning in October, and they took a small step in that direction with their first sweep of the Twins since May 6-8, 2016.
“It’s definitely a huge confidence builder for us -- lets us know we have to continue to keep pushing. We know it’s a long season," shortstop Tim Anderson said. “Definitely getting off to a great start helps. We have to keep pushing and rallying around each other and keep coming up with huge hits.”
“We know what we've got in this clubhouse; we know the talent level we've got,” closer Liam Hendriks said. “It's just going out there and letting our abilities play. And this is what we expected to do, go out there and go on some lengthy winning streaks. And hopefully we can do something special and keep this going for the rest of the season."
Anderson opened the scoring with a leadoff home run off Minnesota starter Michael Pineda, marking his 10th career leadoff blast and his fifth first-pitch leadoff homer. Jake Lamb also homered, but it was a battle throughout for both teams, with a playoff feel to the contest.
Lynn used 111 pitches to get through five innings, striking out nine. He survived some shaky defense behind him, and getting drilled on his pitching wrist/forearm by a hard-hit Max Kepler grounder in the fourth, to escape bases-loaded jams in the fourth and fifth. That fifth inning ended with a called third strike against Mitch Garver on the last pitch of Lynn's outing.
“That's kind of my thing, so [I'm] glad to be able to do it,” said Lynn, who added that postgame X-rays of his right wrist/forearm proved to be clean, although he was sore. “I wish it was more like the seventh or eighth inning to get through it that way. Five [innings] and 100, 111 [pitches] is too many. But I need to get in this week and get ready for the next one. Physically feel great -- the ball's coming out good.”
“He just refuses to lose, and it’s inspiring to watch him,” said La Russa of Lynn. “He has the heart and guts of a champion, and is a very tough guy.”
Hendriks recorded a five-out save, striking out Trevor Larnach to end the game. Center fielder Billy Hamilton helped Hendriks in the eighth with a running catch in left-center off a Luis Arraez line drive, stranding two and reinforcing how this victory was a total team effort.
This also is a White Sox team looking as if it has bigger accomplishments in front of them, although taking apart the Twins exorcised a few demons brought about by the two-time defending AL Central champs.
“They had their shots at whooping on us,” Anderson said. “So, you know, it feels good for the tables to turn a little bit and for us to finally be in the position to be able to whoop on these guys. Keep pushing.”
“We know they're going to be a challenge,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But we have to look within and focus on bettering ourselves and getting where we need to be before we start worrying about the opposition or anything along those lines."