The White Sox’ magic number to clinch a playoff berth was three going into their 5-1 loss to the Twins on Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field, and they remain tantalizingly close to officially being a postseason team.
It will have to wait another day.
Four Twins pitchers held the most explosive offense in the American League to two hits and retired the last 18 batters, and the Twins, desperate for a win to avoid falling four games behind the Sox in the AL Central, snapped the Sox’ winning streak at six and cut the Sox’ lead in the division to two games. Minnesota will go for a four-game series split Thursday afternoon.
Left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who missed a start when he was on the injured list with back spasms, will not start Thursday, as anticipated, manager Rick Renteria said. Reynaldo Lopez will start instead.
Keuchel and fellow lefties Aaron Bummer and Carlos Rodon participated in fielding drills, and all could be nearing returns from the IL. Renteria suggested the move was not health-related and that Keuchel likely will start against the Reds this weekend in a move that would line him up more favorably for the postseason.
The Sox (32-17) can still clinch a playoff berth Thursday, a feat well worth celebrating even in an abbreviated 60-game season. When it has been no postseasons and too many meaningless Septembers since 2008 — when the Sox last appeared in a playoff series (which they lost to the Rays) — glasses should be raised.
The Sox, surprisingly, boast the best record in the AL in a season in which they were expected to finish above .500 but not this high above it. Most observers, including some in the Sox’ brain trust, saw this kind of success happening a year from now.
But you go for the gusto when putting the rest of the league behind you is a possibility, and the Sox are not settling for just being part of a 16-team postseason field.
“I’m sure they’re probably thinking about it a little,” Renteria said. “But it’s probably not to the extent that it consumes them and takes them away from doing what they have to do between the lines.”
Of more importance than simply clinching a playoff berth, however, is a division title and higher seed in the playoffs.
“There’s still so much ahead of us,” Renteria said.
“I don’t think we’re thinking just about getting in. Obviously, that’s the first step. ... Getting in is very, very important, but you still have a lot of things to try to accomplish. I think that’s what the guys are focused on.”
Sox ace Lucas Giolito, who pitched six innings, wanted to deliver the clincher, but he gave up home runs to Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton to fall into a 3-0 hole.
“Tonight was one of those nights where the other team’s pitching handled us pretty well,” Giolito said.
“Their approach to my changeup was pretty solid. Not much else I can say. I just need to be more competitive in some of these at-bats. Three walks, that needs to go.”
Jose Abreu ripped his 16th homer against Twins righty Jake Odorizzi in the fourth to close the deficit to 3-1.
It was a low liner that left the park quickly, and it gave Abreu his AL-leading 49th RBI. And it was the Sox’ last hit.
Odorizzi left with a blister after 3⅔ innings leading 3-1, but three relievers followed with hitless ball, and Miguel Sano homered against Matt Foster to put it out of reach in the eighth.