Bizarro 9th: Benches clear, White Sox walk it off -- twice

September 3rd, 2022

CHICAGO -- How crazy was the finish of a 4-3 White Sox victory over the Twins Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field? Check out the following facts.

The White Sox gained not one, but two walk-off moments, although only the second one counted via José Abreu’s fielder’s choice grounder with the bases loaded and one out.

Both benches and bullpens emptied when Minnesota closer Jorge López (4-7) hit Andrew Vaughn with a pitch up and in to load the bases with one out in the ninth. Nobody was ejected. (There was some confusion about whether White Sox acting manager Miguel Cairo was tossed, but he was not.)

“We’re getting on a roll,” Vaughn said. “We’re getting consistent at the plate, we’re having good at-bats, pitching well. Got to keep rolling every day.”

Romy Gonzalez and Elvis Andrus singled with one out to set up the game-winning situation, followed by López hitting Vaughn with an elevated sinker at 97.1 mph, according to Statcast. That pitch wasn’t intentional, but when Vaughn and López exchanged words, the fracas quickly began.

Vaughn put his head down and ran to first base, not hearing a word said by López.

“I’ve been hit up high a few times. Got hit in the face a couple of weeks ago. Spur of the moment, I was mad, I was upset,” Vaughn said. “I know he’s not trying to do it on purpose.

“No pitcher is trying to load the bases with an MVP coming up next. I was just mad. I put my head down after I said, 'That was at my head, that ain’t right.' Then just went to first base. And then everybody was on the field. We won, and that’s the most important thing.”

López said he has been throwing inside all season, and Vaughn was giving him that “whatever face,” which he responded to by arguing.

“I came here last time with Baltimore and I did the same thing,” López said. “If they don’t like me pitching in, that’s something they can’t take out of me. … I’m just going to keep pitching.”

“We are living in a moment of unity here. We are united,” said Abreu through interpreter Billy Russo. “We are working toward the same goal and it’s winning as many games as we can, trying to stay together.”

Abreu looked to have the game-winner on the next López pitch, which appeared to hit him to force home the game-winning run. But the call was overturned on a Twins challenge, as replays showed the ball hitting the knob of Abreu's bat.

Two pitches later, Abreu hit a ground ball that second baseman Nick Gordon and shortstop Carlos Correa were unable to turn into an inning-ending double play. In fact, no throw was made by Correa after catching Gordon’s awkward flip.

“Honestly, I love that kind of stuff. I love the intensity, the energy of a game like that,” said Gordon of the ninth-inning competitive tension. “Honestly, just to hear the crowd rowdy and to see us even get a little rowdy, I love it. No one was hurt, so that’s always a positive. But man, it just adds a little fuel to the game.”

“It wasn’t for anybody else. It was for me,” Abreu said of his game-winning grounder. “It was meant to be me.”

Abreu’s 62nd RBI marked a third straight win for the White Sox (66-66), who sit two games behind the Twins (67-63) and three behind the Guardians (68-62) in the American League Central. Cleveland has scored one run combined over its last three losses, while the White Sox have ace Dylan Cease starting Saturday’s contest.

There’s plenty of work to be done, but there’s a different vibe within this team as the final 30 games approach. They have fought through the absence of manager Tony La Russa -- who has been sidelined for health reasons -- to put themselves back in contention.

“They're just having fun right now,” Cairo said. “The game should be played like that: hard, compete, go out there and give everything you've got and enjoy what you're doing."

“Yeah, we’ve just got to keep going day by day,” Vaughn said. “Learn from what we’ve been doing and try to get better at it. I think we’ve got 30 left, a little push.”