Chicago – The White Sox came into the game Friday with their playoff hopes not completely torn but frayed badly after being swept at home by Cleveland.
They trailed the Central Division-leading Guardians by seven games and were 6.5 games out of wild card contention beginning play Friday. But having beaten the Tigers 12 out of 16 games this season, they expected at least to stop the bleeding.
Didn’t happen. The Southsiders’ season remains on life support after the Tigers delivered a 5-3 win at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“Once we were eliminated, yeah, that sucks,” said rookie Spencer Torkelson, who delivered a key hit RBI double in the eighth. “You can put your tail between your legs and mope around the rest of the season or you can go out and try to ruin someone else’s season. Like, ‘We’re going to the playoffs? Neither are you.’
“That’s been our attitude. These games are fun.”
This one was, for sure, especially with all the managerial moves in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The Tigers broke a 3-3 tie in the seventh inning thanks to Akil Baddoo’s aggressive base running. He singled off reliever Reynaldo Lopez, went to third on an errant throw by catcher Yasmani Grandal and scored on a sacrifice fly by Riley Greene.
“Any time Akil gets on base there’s going to be an opportunity to put pressure on someone,” manager AJ Hinch said. “And he did. He kept his head up and got to third base and that created pressure.”
The Tigers used the same formula to go up 5-3 in eighth. Miguel Cabrera walked and was replaced by pinch-runner Willi Castro. Castro stole second even though the White Sox executed a pitchout on the play. He went to third on a wild pitch and then Torkelson came through with a clutch two-out double, blasting a 3-0 pitch from reliever Jimmy Lambert.
Giving Torkelson the green light was one of the many correct buttons Hinch hit in this game.
Box score:Tigers 5, White Sox 3
“Three-oh is a great time to swing if you can change the scoreboard and if a single is better than a walk,” he said. “And he got a double – even better. I love the green light there. The freedom for him to swing, the aggressive swing on a good pitch. And he hit it hard to the pull side.”
Torkelson, who hit two balls hard for outs earlier in the game, is 3 for 3 on 3-0 swings.
“Three-oh is about the only real guaranteed fastball you are going to see,” he said.
Things got hairy in the bottom of the eighth, which was something considering six White Sox hitters came to bat and not one ball was put in play.
After Alex Lange pitched a clean seventh, Jose Cisnero, getting a rare leverage opportunity, struck out two, but also walked two and hit Josh Harrison to load the bases.
With Adam Engel due up, Hinch sent pitching coach Chris Fetter to the mound, waiting to see if White Sox manager Miguel Cairo was going to use left-handed hitting Gavin Sheets. Lefty Andrew Chafin was ready in the bullpen.
“Sheets was standing by the bats and helmets the whole inning,” Hinch said. “We were kind of staring at them. If he was going to hit for anybody after the three batters Cisnero had to face, we were just kind of waiting until Sheets was called.
“Sheets hitting against a right-handed pitcher is a bad idea. But even if they were going to go back and forth, with Chafin I was good either way.”
The White Sox did announce Sheets as a pinch-hitter and Hinch immediately countered with Chafin. That forced Cairo to call Sheets back, burning him without a plate appearance, and send up right-handed hitting Romy Gonzalez.
Hinch immediately countered bringing Chafin in, forcing White Sox manager Miguel Cairo to burn Sheets and send up right-handed hitting Romy Gonzalez.
After all that, Chafin struck out Gonzalez on four pitches.
“I have all the trust in the world in our bullpen,” Torkelson said. “But Chafin, he wants the rock in his hand. He kind of dominates those situations.”
Closer Gregory Soto worked a clean ninth for his 27th save.
“We know where everyone is in the standings and we know what they’ve gone through to get here,” Hinch said. “I don’t know the pulse of their team but we want to try to win as many series as we can to the end of the year. We were aware they are on their heels a little bit coming off that Cleveland series.
“That’s why we wanted to be aggressive and take the lead early. That worked to our advantage.”
The Tigers jumped on White Sox starter Lucas Giolito early, like the first three batters early. Greene worked a walk, Javier Báez doubled him to third and Cabrera drove him in with a ground out.
Eric Haase, who had two hits, lined a two-out single to put the White Sox in a quick 2-0 hole.
Jonathan Schoop led off the second lofting a first-pitch, 91-mph fastball from Giolito high and far, into the seats in left field. It was his 11th homer of the season. According to Statcast, Schoop hit that ball with a 41-degree launch angle.
Giolito threw 60 pitches in the first three innings and was wobbling mightily. He did not fall. The Tigers mustered just one more hit off him over the next three innings – on just 30 pitches – and Giolito finished with nine strikeouts in his six innings.
It went the opposite way for Tigers’ starter Eduardo Rodriguez. His was a relative cruise through the first five innings.
Last Saturday at Comerica Park, Rodriguez stymied the White Sox hitters by throwing his fastballs away and his cutters and changeups in – opposite of how he normally works. This time he fed them a barrage of sinkers and four-seamers for the first two-plus innings before he added the cutters and changeups.
He allowed a run and five singles through five innings and had a 3-1 lead.
“I was able to locate it very good so I used it all the time,” Rodriguez said. “If I’m locating my fastball early and I am getting quick outs like that without using my secondary pitches – that was my plan today and it worked out pretty good.”
Two batters into the sixth, though, the game was tied. After Eloy Jimenez singled, AJ Pollock lined a 1-1 sinker just over the fence in right field.
Rodriguez gave up a double to Yasmani Grandal before getting out of the inning and turning the game over to the Tigers’ bullpen.
Rookie Ryan Kreidler showed some defensive moxie at third base. He’d made a throwing error in the second inning and then ran in front of shortstop Báez, screening him and causing a misplayed grounder that extended the fourth inning.
On the very next pitch, Adam Engel hit a ball down the line that Kreidler backhanded and, with his momentum carrying him into foul ground, made a strong throw across the diamond to end the inning.
He got the first of two atta-boys from Rodriguez for that.
His second atta-boy was earned after he started a fast 5-4-3 double-play that ended the fifth.
Kreidler had five assists in the first five innings.
“Ryan’s been awesome since he’s been up here,” Torkelson said. “I saw that all last year and this year when we were in Toledo. This doesn’t surprise me. He’s always had it in him. He works really hard.”