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Dane Dunning, James McCann lift White Sox into sole possession of first place

Dane Dunning pitched six-plus innings of scoreless ball, catcher James McCann homered twice and the White Sox rebounded from a bad loss with an 8-1 victory.

Dane Dunning pitched six innings of scoreless ball in the White Sox’ victory over the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
Dane Dunning pitched six innings of scoreless ball in the White Sox’ victory over the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
Gene J. Puskar/AP

From worst to first.

Rookie right-hander Dane Dunning pitched six-plus innings of scoreless ball, catcher James McCann belted two home runs for the first time in his career and the White Sox rebounded from one of their worst losses of the season with an 8-1 victory against the host Pirates that lifted them into sole possession of first place on Wednesday night.

Coupled with a Royals win over the Indians, the Sox (27-16) broke free from a tie for the top spot in the division with their 17th win in 22 games and will enjoy their day off Thursday all alone atop the American League Central.

Dunning led the way in his fourth start, lowering his ERA to 2.70 by allowing three hits and one walk. He struck out three and got 10 ground balls.

“Big game for us,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We needed a bounce-back after yesterday. Dane set the tone.”

Dunning threw 78 pitches, 51 for strikes.

“He commanded the zone and kept them at bay,” Renteria said. “He was extremely efficient.”

McCann also lifted an RBI sacrifice fly between his pair of jacks in his first three plate appearances, driving in four runs against Pirates right-hander JT Brubaker, and Jose Abreu — with an infield single — extended his hitting streak to a career-high 22 games, the longest current streak in the majors and the eighth-longest in Sox history. The streak is six shy of the club-record 28 set by Carlos Lee in 2004.

Showing signs of life after being slowed by sore legs and fatigue, third baseman Yoan Moncada doubled, singled, scored a run, drove in a run and made a brilliant bare-handed, charging play in the field.

Rookie second baseman Nick Madrigal, batting .380, drove in two runs with a two-strike, two-out single that increased the lead to 5-0 in the fourth inning, a night after he doubled twice but ran into outs after each one in a 5-4 loss to the Pirates. In that loss, the Sox made numerous baserunning mistakes, blew two late leads and saw the game end on catcher Yasmani Grandal’s error.

Dunning, who missed all of 2019 after Tommy John surgery, earned his first career win after three no-decisions.

““Honestly, as long as the team wins, I’m happy,” Dunning said. “I was just trying to do my job, get us to the second half of the game and from there let our bullpen and everybody else do everything. First one’s out of the way, I got a huge congratulations from the guys and we had a little [beer] shower for me.”

McCann said Dunning threw four pitches for strikes.

“He’s composed beyond his years,” McCann said. “It’s fun catching a kid like that who doesn’t let the game speed up on him.

“Ten years ago, everyone threw a sinker. Now everyone throws a four-seamer. He can do both. He’s going to be an integral part of our rotation the rest of this month and probably for years.”

Starting Friday, the Sox play 17 games in 17 days looking to nail down their first playoff appearance since 2008. For many on the roster, including Abreu and shortstop Tim Anderson, this is first time they likely will finish above .500.

“I want to win,” Anderson said before the game. “You see the season has been going great. Obviously, we haven’t had a season like this since I got here. We need those 17 games. You best believe I will be ready for those 17 games. The biggest key is to be ready to play. We need every guy from top to bottom to be able to play and come out with a whole lot of energy, and hopefully we can click at all angles going into this stretch.

“We’re trying to win this thing, trying to win the whole thing. Why not?”

The Sox are 18-3 against the Royals, Tigers and Pirates. They return home to face the Tigers this weekend.

“The talent is very good,” McCann said. “You’ve seen maturity from [Anderson], Moncada and Eloy [Jimenez] growing up, and you mix in the veteran guys, building that culture here, it’s a special thing to be a part of.”