Chicago — The White Sox’s playoff dream is dead.
The Tigers officially ended their ill-fated run, completing the three-game sweep at Guaranteed Rate Field with a 4-1 win Sunday. It was the sixth straight home loss for the White Sox and the first Tigers series sweep in Chicago since 2018.
“Best trip of the season,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Win a series in Baltimore when they were fighting for something. We sweep the White Sox when they were fighting for something. It’s important for us to play well, number one. And number two, when we get the results that we want and get rewarded for playing the game well, the guys love that.”
The Tigers broke open a 1-1 game scoring three times in the top of the eighth inning against reliever Kendall Graveman.
Jonathan Schoop, who had hit into a bases-loaded double play earlier in the game, and Jeimer Candelario both singled home runs. A third run crossed after a wild pitch.
“We won in a couple of different ways and on a day when one of the best pitchers in baseball was pitching,” Hinch said of White Sox starter Dylan Cease, who lasted just six innings. “I loved the way we battled back. A lot of good things happened this weekend. We knew what was at stake for them.
“It was just nice to finish the season series against them better than the way we started.”
The Tigers lost 12 of the first 16 games against the White Sox before taking the last three.
The game might have looked very different in that eighth inning were it not for two spectacular defensive plays by rookie center fielder Riley Greene.
In the third inning, he raced more than 100 feet into the gap in left-center field to track and catch a 384-foot liner by Adam Engel. The ball left the bat 101 mph and had an expected batting average of .650, according to Statcast.
That was impressive. The catch he made in the fourth was better. And at the time more impactful.
Yoan Moncada led off the inning ambushing a first-pitch cutter from Tigers starter Tyler Alexander and hit it 410 feet over the wall in left-center. It was the first run of the game and the first run Alexander had allowed in 11 innings.
After AJ Pollock singled, Andrew Vaughn ambushed another first-pitch cutter and hit it 405 feet. That ball, too, was heading over the left-center field wall.
Greene, though, tracked it 107 feet, timed his leap perfectly, reached above the wall and brought it back.
“It was really windy,” Greene said. “It was swirling. One ball would take off and another wouldn’t go as far. I was playing in the gap in right field but he hit it pretty high. I got a good jump and kind of knew where I was at. Once it hit the track I knew I’d have to get up there.
“I jumped, said a prayer and threw my glove up.”
Alexander threw his hands in the air when he saw Greene come up with the ball.
“Saved me two runs,” he said. “I throw a pitch that didn’t go where I wanted it to and he hit it well. I was hopelessly looking up, watching him track it down. I knew he was going to jump at the wall but I wasn’t sure if he caught it. I had to wait and then when he came up throwing, I was pretty happy.”
Alexander ended up allowing just the Moncada homer through six innings, his second straight strong outing.
“I thought I was commanding the ball well,” he said. “I was throwing some good four-seamers up and in. Things got a little wonky in the fourth when I didn’t command the ball up and in and I got great defense.”
But facing Cease, their nemesis and one of the favorites to win the American League Cy Young award this year, that skinny deficit seemed deep.
Cease is 10-1 in his career against Detroit with a sub-2.00 ERA. But this one wasn’t as breezy as most of his other outings have been. He had to extricate himself from bases-loaded jams in the fifth and sixth innings.
Schoop doubled and Candelario walked to start the fifth. They were sacrificed up a base by Ryan Kreidler’s deft bunt. After Cease struck out Victor Reyes, Greene worked an eight-pitch walk to bring Javier Báez to the plate with the bases loaded.
Báez fouled out to catcher Seby Zavala on the first pitch.
The Tigers loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth on singles by Harold Castro (three hits for the second straight game) and Eric Haase before Kerry Carpenter was hit by a pitch. Again Cease shut the door.
Schoop bounced into a fast 5-2-3 double play and Candelario flew out to center.
“Those are big moments,” Hinch said. “It’s hard to ‘just’ hit the ball to the outfield or ‘just’ make contact. Our chase during that inning wasn’t our best. But again, we hung in there and found a different way to win. That’s a good characteristic to build from.”
The Tigers finally put a run on the board in the seventh against reliever Reynaldo Lopez. Kreidler singled and scored on a double by Reyes. Reyes, though, inexplicably with no outs, got himself caught in a rundown between second and third and was tagged out.
Schoop and Candelario got their atonement in the eighth.
“That was awesome,” Greene said. “Our goal is to come and play hard, no matter whether we’re in the playoffs or not. We’re going to play hard every day and try to win as many as we can.”