Gonzalez struck out Max Stassi on four pitches, and then went back to his regular work by picking up his first career three-hit game against the last-place team in the American League West. Just like he imagined it playing out, right?
“Never in a million years,” said Gonzalez with a laugh. “Never.”
In his five plate appearances, Gonzalez knocked two doubles and a single, walked once, scored twice and drove in one as the team’s starting right fielder. But he was just one of many contributors for the White Sox (84-63), who ended a two-game losing streak and cut their magic number to 5 to clinch their first AL Central title since ‘08.
The White Sox could secure a playoff berth as early as Monday night in Detroit, which happens to be the locale where the South Siders clinched the division in ‘05 en route to a World Series title.
Friday’s outstanding overall performance caused manager Tony La Russa to make an additional statement after the question-and-answer portion of his postgame Zoom came to a close.
“When you look at the defense, it was really strong, especially in the infield,” La Russa said. “And that’s a very tough infield to play because the ball has a lot of life. And pitching, the at-bats, it was a completely well-played game, a pleasure to watch it.”
Dylan Cease (12-7) reached double-digit strikeouts for the eighth time this season and raised his season total to 212 by striking out 10 in five innings. The right-hander ranks third in the AL in strikeouts behind Robbie Ray (233) and Gerrit Cole (224).
Cease threw 25 pitches in each of the first two innings, but didn’t allow a run in either frame. He settled down at that point and wanted to go back for the sixth at 92 pitches.
“Really, the first couple innings I wasn’t efficient, and I wasted a lot of pitches,” Cease said. “I was frustrated, but I just locked down and just upped my focus, and it finally clicked. But I’ve got to get into a rhythm a little bit quicker.”
“He’s at a point if it’s at all possible we’d like to bring him back, we’ll see how he feels, on the fifth day against Detroit and if we would have pushed him any further, that wouldn’t have happened,” La Russa said. “He’s really shown, he starts out well and then he may struggle, but he gets back on it.”
Luis Robert had three hits and three RBIs, launching a bases-clearing double during a five-run fourth, José Abreu had two hits and drove in two, giving him 111 RBIs for the season and putting him one behind Salvador Perez for the AL and Major League lead, while Tim Anderson, who wasn’t in the original starting lineup Friday, scored twice.
Understanding how to play sporadically is one of numerous adjustments made by Gonzalez, who was an everyday standout for both Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte before getting called up on Sept. 1. He’s another of the many White Sox Minor Leaguers who have made a contribution this season to the White Sox victory effort, as Chris Getz, the White Sox assistant general manager/player development told MLB.com before the game.
“We’ve been hearing about him for a while. Reports get back to us, you see the stats, but he’s really made an impression on the life of the ball off his bat and his versatility defensively,” La Russa said. “Just watching him take batting practice, you could see that he’s got something special there and today I told him that nothing from the offensive side is more attractive than a hungry hitter.
“You saw it today. He was here for us to take a look at him and now we’re playing him because we’re trying to win.”
Yasmani Grandal, whose 30-game on-base streak came to an end with an 0-for-5 showing, got a shoutout from Gonzalez for the video work he did with the young hitter prior to the contest.
“We were comparing when I had success in Double-A and Triple-A and we were comparing the two videos and made a couple of adjustments,” Gonzalez said. “I want to give him a shoutout. Made some good adjustments.
“Just being here, it’s a blessing. Now that I can contribute and showcase what I got and finally relax and play ball, it’s an incredible feeling.”