Frustration boiled over at times on a long day at the ballpark -Saturday, but the White Sox managed to tread water in the American League Central.
Johnny Cueto and Lance Lynn delivered quality starts, but a pair of bullpen meltdowns kept them from picking up wins before the Sox managed one final rally to salvage something from the day.
The Guardians won the opener 7-4 after giving up a 4-1 lead, and the Sox took the nightcap 5-4 after letting a 3-0 edge slip away.
A.J. Pollock’s two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning in Game 2 erased a 4-3 deficit and Matt Foster finished for his first save.
That left the Sox (47-48) four games behind the division-leading Twins and two behind the second-place Guardians.
“We’ve had a lot of teams sneak a couple wins on us late, so it was good to get one lined up,” Pollock said.
With 67 games left, the Sox still believe they have time to become the dominant team they were expected to be.
“I can’t speak for everyone, but for me it’s every day,” Pollock said. “There’s nothing we can do about the past. It’s just, every day is going to be important. And you got to show up tomorrow and then put a good game in.
“This team’s talented enough that if we just play good baseball, it’ll work itself out.”
There was good baseball from Lynn and Cueto, as well as Yasmani Grandal, who went 4-for-7 with a walk and an RBI in his second day back from an injured-list stint of more than a month.
Lynn’s outing — six innings, three hits, no runs, one walk, six strikeouts — was welcome for a rotation that has been spotty after Dylan Cease and Cueto.
“Things I’ve been working on are starting to click,” Lynn said. “You’ve just got to keep working in between starts, so hopefully that’s a good [chance to] get my legs under me for the second half.”
He left with a 3-0 lead courtesy of a pair of RBI from Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez’s 407-foot homer to left-center field.
But Jose Ruiz and Reynaldo Lopez gave up the lead in the seventh. And for the second time of the day, fans took out their frustrations on manager Tony La Russa with chants of “Fire Tony!” before Pollock and Foster helped ease their angst.
The first chants came in the opener when usually reliable All-Star closer Liam Hendriks unraveled during a three-run ninth.
It was hard to see how La Russa was at fault for Hendriks giving up four hits and a sacrifice fly in the first six batters he faced. Hendriks has been brilliant lately, retiring the last 21 batters he faced over 15 appearances before Saturday.
But Hendriks’ being human was more than some fans of a team expected to roll to the AL Central title could handle in the moment.
It’s a team that seemed to be turning a corner when it won three of four on the road against the Twins heading into the All-Star break.
Still, even after dropping two of three to the upstart Guardians to start the second half, the Sox have a chance to earn a series split -after the back-and-forth nightcap -victory.
“It was a very gutty, tough victory,” La Russa said. “Starts with the job of Lynn, [who looked] like Lynn. That’s a big boost, not just today but going forward.”
Ditto for Cueto’s continued consistency. He worked around trouble all day other than the fifth inning, when the Guardians strung together a walk, a hit batter, -Steven Kwan’s RBI double, Amed Rosario’s run-scoring single and an error for four runs.
Cueto didn’t strike out anyone for the first time in 12 starts this season, but he wasn’t concerned.”
“I wasn’t trying to strike out anybody,” Cueto said. “I just tried to pitch to contact, to have good outs and to pitch as long as I could.”