SAN FRANCISCO -- Although the White Sox entered Sunday already having won the weekend series, their first two games in San Francisco were rife with missed opportunities. Chicago went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position in those games, finishing victorious but somewhat underwhelmingly.
They didn't miss many opportunities on Sunday. The White Sox cruised to a 13-4 win, sweeping the Giants on a rare visit to Oracle Park and wrapping up a 4-2 West Coast road trip.
"This is the brand of baseball that the Chicago White Sox are all about," Lucas Giolito said. "This series, we were kind of able to put our foot on the gas.
"When we play our best, we're loose, we're free, we're having fun. And that kind of leads to being locked in in every single moment."
Now the White Sox will head home, where they'll enter a key stretch of 19 straight games against the AL Central, including 15 games in the two weeks leading up to the All-Star break.
It's a double-edged sword, as the games will have massive implications for the Wild Card and division races, both of which are within reach. The White Sox trail the Rays by four games for the third AL Wild Card spot, and with the Twins' loss to the Orioles, Chicago is now 4 1/2 games out of the division lead.
The White Sox entered the series having dropped six of their last eight but are now in position to go on a critical run. Here are three key takeaways from Chicago's sweep in San Francisco.
Starters on a strong run
After a difficult June in which he pitched to a 7.67 ERA, Giolito dominated on Sunday, holding the Giants to one run over six innings. He was able to tame a Giants lineup that had been particularly aggressive the first time through the order, recording his first seven outs all on strikeouts -- six of which came on his changeup.
"I know that when I execute pitches, there's a good chance I'm going to get swings and misses, a good chance that I'm going to get weak contact," Giolito said. "For me, it's all about having singular pitch focus, and I feel like that was pretty good today."
Giolito's outing came after Lance Lynn and Dylan Cease set the tone in their respective starts in San Francisco. Altogether, the three starters combined to allow two runs, scattering 10 hits across 17 innings.
"We're just making our pitches when we need to make pitches, and we're game-planning well," said Seby Zavala, who caught two of the games. "We've got a really good staff, and they're just doing their job."
Replacement players stepping up
Injuries have nagged at the White Sox all season long, causing key players such as Eloy Jiménez, Adam Engel and Yasmani Grandal to miss time. Chicago is due to get several injured players back over the next month, but many of the players called up in their absence met the moment in the weekend series.
Two such standouts in San Francisco were Zavala and Gavin Sheets, who combined to hit five doubles in the latter two games of the series. Sheets knocked in five runs on the weekend, while Zavala recorded a three-hit game on Sunday.
"Obviously we've got some guys down, but there's no time to wait around for them," Sheets said. "We've got to step up and have big at-bats, and be contributors to this team."
Added manager Tony La Russa: "It was a very good team effort."
Bring the road mojo home
The weekend sweep of the Giants was the fourth White Sox sweep of the season -- and all of them have come on the road. Sunday's win improved Chicago's road record to 22-18, the fourth-best in the American League. By contrast, the White Sox are 16-21 at home this season.
And it's not just the record -- the White Sox are producing more on the road this season as well. Chicago's .272 road average leads the Majors, but the team is batting nearly 40 points lower at home (.233).
"I can guarantee you that those numbers are going to be reversed at home from here to the end," La Russa said. "We're going to be a good club at home."
Home or away, what matters most is the mindset that the White Sox bring into each game. And they're feeling confident heading into this next critical stretch.
"It's going to take all of us to bring that energy every day, and we did a good job this series," Josh Harrison said. "And we've got to carry it going home."