MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Chicago White Sox have been carefully built into a World Series contender over the last few years, and they’re playing this season like they believe it.
Lucas Giolito gave up two hits over eight innings with a season-high 11 strikeouts, guiding the White Sox over the Minnesota Twins 2-1 on Wednesday.
“I really love the way that we’re going about our business on a daily basis,” Giolito said. “Our next step is having that expectation to win every single day, having that supreme confidence in ourselves as a unit, and I feel like we’re there right now.”
After ending an 11-year absence from the postseason in 2020, the White Sox haven’t broken stride. With their 20th win in their last 28 games, they matched San Francisco for the major leagues’ best record.
“Last year we got that little taste, and now we want the whole thing,” Giolito said.
Giolito (3-4) threw 111 pitches in his longest start of the year, another stride forward after a rough first month. The third-inning fastball that Nelson Cruz hit to center for his 10th home run accounted for Minnesota’s only runner past second base. Cruz also singled in the first.
“He’s a really good pitcher,” Cruz said. “He always has that really good changeup that keeps hitters off-balance.”
Giolito faced the minimum batters from the fourth inning on.
“He just did everything that our team needed, and we can’t give him enough credit,” manager Tony La Russa said. “What you saw today was a combination of his talent and his guts.”
Liam Hendricks pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save in 11 chances, celebrating a game-ending strikeout of Max Kepler with a shout and an exaggerated arm pump. The White Sox are 14-2 after losses this year.
“The most exciting part about this club is the character,” La Russa said.
Before the season began, the fast-rising White Sox looked like the stiffest competition for the two-time defending division champion Twins in the AL Central. One quarter of the way through the season, the White Sox are running away from the field and the Twins are flailing to avoid last place. The White Sox just finished a 13-game stretch against the Twins and Kansas City Royals at 10-3.
Leury García hit a leadoff double against Matt Shoemaker (2-5) in the fifth inning and scored the tying run on an infield single by Adam Eaton. Then García gave the White Sox the lead with an RBI single in the sixth, zapping whatever spark the Twins were seeking from their 5-4 comeback win on Tuesday. Shoemaker finished six innings for the third time this season, one sign of encouragement for a Twins team that has lost 11 of its last 14.
ALL IS CALM
The flap over the home run Yermín Mercedes hit off a 3-0 pitch on Monday from Twins position player Willians Astudillo has bemused White Sox manager Tony La Russa, who criticized Mercedes for missing the take sign being “clueless” about the unwritten sportsmanship rule in baseball that suggested he shouldn’t swing. La Russa said he wasn’t worried about irking his players, many of whom spoke up in support of Mercedes.
“I walked around the clubhouse last night, and nobody was giving me the Heisman,” La Russa said.
MOVING ON UP
Cruz matched Mike Piazza for 50th place on the all-time list with 427 home runs, passing Billy Williams. Both Piazza and Williams are in the Hall of Fame.
White Sox: 1B José Abreu sat out for the third straight game with left ankle inflammation. With an off day on Thursday, La Russa said he still has ”fingers crossed” that the team’s home run and RBI leader will return to the lineup this weekend in New York.
Twins: RHP Michael Pineda, the team’s best starting pitcher thus far, was put on the injured list with a skin problem — called an abscess — on his inner thigh. … RHP Kenta Maeda, bothered by tightness in his groin, will be able to make his next scheduled start this weekend. … OF Alex Kirilloff began a rehab assignment for his wrist with Triple-A St. Paul and could rejoin the Twins this week.
White Sox: LHP Carlos Rodón (5-1, 1.47 ERA) will pitch the opener of the three-game series against the New York Yankees on Friday. He took his first loss in his previous turn against Kansas City, the only time he’s allowed more than one earned run this season.
Twins: LHP Lewis Thorpe (0-1, 4.50 ERA) and RHP José Berríos (3-2, 3.74 ERA) will be the starters for a doubleheader on Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels, a makeup of games postponed for COVID-19 precaution on April 17 and 18. After the whirlwind trip to California, the Twins will turn around and travel to Cleveland for a three-game series starting on Friday.
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