White Sox keep finding ways to win down the home stretch

September 18th, 2022

DETROIT -- The 4-3, 11-inning victory for the White Sox over the Tigers Saturday night was far from smooth sailing for the South Siders.

Davis Martin, who was scheduled to start Sunday in place of an injured Michael Kopech, found out early on Saturday he was taking the mound that night in place of Johnny Cueto, who was under the weather. White Sox closer Liam Hendriks got two big outs in the 10th to strand the potential wining run for Detroit at third.

Then an Elvis Andrus bunt single and an ensuing double steal helped the White Sox (75-71) score twice in the 11th off Detroit closer Gregory Soto. Chicago survived, and with 16 games remaining and 4 1/2 games to make up in the American League Central standings on Cleveland, any win is a good-looking win.

“It was a weird game,” said White Sox left fielder AJ Pollock, whose two-run single in the seventh erased a 1-0 deficit. “Find a way to win and we’ll take it.”

“These last two days, things have been quiet. But we have been trying to find ways to battle,” said White Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada, through interpreter Billy Russo. “To do that, we have been telling ourselves to keep our approach. Don’t get off your approach, and then we were able to do that at the end of the game today.”

Moncada delivered the go-ahead single in the 11th after Andrus’ bunt single put runners on first and third with nobody out. White Sox acting manager Miguel Cairo gave Andrus one swing in that at-bat, which he swung and missed on a slider, and then gave him the option to bunt, which he did two pitches later.

Andrus and Moncada executed a double steal to set up Eloy Jiménez’s sacrifice fly to right, marking Moncada’s first stolen base of the season and providing the final victory margin.

“He's a smart player,” said Cairo of Andrus. “Very smart player, and he knows when to go and when not to go. He decided to go there and it was good."

“All those small plays in an extra-inning game are going to be big,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. “A little uncharacteristic for the road team to bunt in that situation. Andrus got it down, Gregory didn't field it, so those are small things that are big plays in a close game when you're in extra innings."

Hendriks worked for the second straight night with the game tied, which is not always the case on the road for a closer, but Cairo went with the plan of bringing in his best. That plan worked on Saturday, as Hendriks retired Tucker Barnhart on a short flyout to center fielder Luis Robert and struck out Akil Baddoo after pinch-runner Willi Castro was bunted to third.

All of this action followed a pitchers' battle between Martin and Detroit’s Eduardo Rodriguez. Martin worked one scoreless inning for Triple-A Charlotte on Thursday, but was ready for whatever was necessary after rejoining the team Friday night.

In six innings, Martin allowed one run on three hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

“It’s been fun. It’s been some of the best baseball and most fun baseball I’ve ever played in my life,” said Martin, who has a 3.78 ERA for the White Sox this year. “That’s why people never want to leave here because it is the best baseball you ever play. Every pitch matters. Every game matters. There’s nothing like it.”

“Excellent job,” said Cairo of Martin. “We really needed today and taking that spot for Cueto, and that was big."

Cleveland swept the Twins in a split doubleheader, leaving the White Sox elimination number at 13. The Guardians lost a 5-0 lead in the eighth inning of Game 2, just about the same time the White Sox finished off their victory over Detroit, but fought through 15 innings to win via an unearned run.

Hope stays more than alive, especially with the three games at home against the Guardians starting this Tuesday.

“Yeah, we can put some pressure on them, for sure,” Pollock said. “We’re just going to concentrate on us and see what happens. Can’t control what they’re doing over there, but we’ll just keep playing and winning series. Yeah, they’re freaking hot right now.”