All these White Sox do is win.
Bad teams, good teams, it matters not to the American League Central leaders, who beat the defending division champion Twins 6-2 Tuesday for a second straight night at Guaranteed Rate Field, their sixth win in a row and 22nd win in 27 games, improving their AL-best record to 32-16.
The Sox had clobbered the also-ran Tigers, Royals and Pirates to the tune of a 21-3 record but had lost four of six previous games with the Twins heading into their biggest series in years. So a question lingered about where they stood with the best teams. They won comfortably, however, behind shortstop Tim Anderson’s three hits, including a homer; James McCann’s double and homer, and seven strong innings by rookie right-hander Dane Dunning.
The Sox guaranteed themselves of at least a split of four games and have ace Lucas Giolito pitching Wednesday and left-hander Dallas Keuchel possibly Thursday.
“We started slow [with a 10-11 record], but with the lineup we have now, where everybody can hit with power and everyone can run, every time we get on the field we feel invincible,” rookie center fielder Luis Robert said.
Outscoring opponents 173-82 over the last 27 games will do that. The Sox could clinch a playoff berth Wednesday and their magic number to win the division is nine.
Jose Abreu singled his first three times up, and Robert, showing signs of coming out of a recent slump, singled home two runs against Twins starter Randy Dobnak that gave the Sox a 4-1 lead in the third. Robert also stole two bases.
Anderson homered in the sixth against Tyler Clippard to give the Sox a 5-2 lead, and McCann’s homer against Jorge Alcala in the seventh made it 6-2.
Anderson’s homer raised his average to .377, which leads the majors. He has 12 hits in his last 19 at-bats.
“The things he’s doing, spraying balls all over the field and getting big hits, it will be memorable,” McCann said.
Dunning pitched a career-high seven innings of two-run ball (one earned run) in the biggest test of his five starts. Dunning had compiled a 1-0 record and 2.70 ERA in starts against the Tigers, Royals (twice) and Pirates but was equally effective against one of baseball’s top hitting teams.
“I feel really comfortable right now,” Dunning said. “The debut, the nerves were high, but after that, I felt calm and collected. Just trying to go out there and throw strikes.”
Dunning allowed three hits, walked two and struck out seven, lowering his ERA to 2.33.
“I felt really good, especially in that last inning. I felt really comfortable, still driving through my pitches,” said Dunning, who missed the 2019 season after Tommy John surgery. “That’s the first time I’ve thrown 100 pitches in two years.”
The Twins’ only earned run (a McCann passed ball led to the unearned run) came on Byron Buxton’s game-tying, inside-the-park home run leading off the third. Robert drifted back on Buxton’s drive to the wall in center and slightly mistimed his jump, and when he went down at the wall, the long carom allowed Buxton to score without a play.
McCann said Dunning didn’t have his best command or his best four-seam fastball, but “his composure [stood out],” he said.
“His fifth career start, facing a lineup like that in a playoff atmosphere, to go as deep as he did and hold them,” McCann said, “I can’t say enough good things about the way he threw the ball.”
Dunning is 2-0, but the Sox are 5-0 in the games he has started. He’s just happy to be along for what is the most fun ride the Sox have been on perhaps since their 2005 World Series championship.
“Everyone out here is having fun and enjoying themselves,” Dunning said. “It’s fun to be a part of it.”