If the Chicago White Sox come back and win the division, you can look at September 15th as the day that they saved their season.
Entering Thursday’s game, the White Sox were four games back of the Cleveland Guardians with just 19 games remaining in the season. The White were coming off a brutal 3-0 loss at home with Dylan Cease on the mound in what felt like a missed opportunity the day before. The Guardians were riding a six-game win streak.
The Guardians also held a 9-6 advantage in the tiebreaker. With just four games remaining against Cleveland, a White Sox loss on Thursday would set them back five games in the division and crush any hopes they had of claiming the tiebreaker.
So to say it was a must-win is an understatement. It should never have gotten to that point. There have been countless missed opportunities and wins that have slipped through their fingers throughout the season.
But never the less, here they were. The offense responded by providing an uncharacteristic power surge.
Gavin Sheets broke the seal by connecting for a two-run homer that traveled 365 feet. Sheets had to foul off five pitches during a ten-pitch at-bat before getting a four-seam fastball he liked.
This at-bat set not only set the tone for the rest of the game but gave Lance Lynn much-needed breathing room and relive some of the pressure on the team.
Andrew Vaughn followed that up by turning on a high fastball to give him his team-leading 16th home run of the season. Yoan Moncada tacked on an opposite-field blast for the day’s third home run. Yasmani Grandal joined the party with a home run in the fourth inning. Then Elvis Andrus put an exclamation point on the home run party with a 409-foot drive in the fifth inning to give the White Sox a 6-1 lead.
“It feels good when you hit a lot of homers,” Moncada told reporters after registering a four-hit game. “It was fun in the dugout.”
Home runs and fun in the dugout have been scarce for the 2022 White Sox. A lineup built for power has developed into a primarily slap-hitting team. It is also tough to have fun when you are underachieving. But that didn’t seem to matter to the White Sox on Thursday.
It marked the first time since June 30th, 2021, that the White Sox had hit five home runs in the first five innings of a game. Jose Abreu added a pair of RBI singles to push across runs seven and eight of the day.
That was more than enough run support for Lance Lynn. Lynn dropped his ERA to 3.99 on the season after tossing 6.1 innings of two-run ball. He struck out six hitters and worked his way out of a few early jams to earn his seventh win of the season.
Lynn has been on a sneaky hot stretch as of late. After carrying a 7.50 ERA in July, he has struck out 78 batters and only allowed seven walks and 49 hits in his last 67 2/3 innings. During that stretch, he has a 2.13 ERA.
Lynn’s performance has been just what the doctor ordered for the White Sox during this increasingly important stretch of games.
“Every game is a must, but obviously against them even better,” Gavin Sheets said. “We wanted to come out and swing the bats early and give Lance the lead, and Lance threw the ball extremely well. Big win for us today.”
Had the White Sox lost on Thursday, they would be five back and unable to control their destiny. A sweep of Cleveland would probably not even be enough to take back the division lead. Now it’s up to the White Sox to ride the momentum and capitalize.