The White Sox thought their magic number might be 2021. Turns out, they arrived a year early.
In what has been anything but a magical year with a pandemic that, among other things, shortened MLB’s season to 60 games, the Sox gave their win-starved fans something to celebrate Thursday, clinching their first postseason berth since 2008 with a 4-3, come-from-behind victory over the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field. They won three of four games in the series to finish 5-5 this season against the Twins.
The Sox (33-17), who followed the Dodgers as the second team to clinch a spot in the 16-team field, have 10 games remaining and a three-game lead over the defending American League Central champion Twins (31-21), who along with the Indians were picked by most to finish ahead of the Sox. The Sox also clinched the tiebreaker by virtue of a better record in the division.
“At the beginning of the year, we said we would be disappointed if we didn’t make the playoffs,” said Eloy Jimenez, whose RBI double in the seventh against Sergio Romo broke a 3-3 tie. “Now we made it, so we keep playing hard and try to win the division.”
Trailing 3-2 in the seventh, the Sox tied it when Jose Abreu beat out an infield single to shortstop Jorge Polanco, scoring Jarrod Dyson, for his league-leading 51st RBI. Jimenez, who struck out his first three times up, scored pinch runner Yolmer Sanchez and pumped his fists while standing on second.
“I felt real emotional after striking out three times,” Jimenez said. “To get that double and score the man from second, that was a special moment, and I just let it go.”
After closer Alex Colome recorded the last four outs for his 12th save in 13 opportunities, the Sox’ celebration on the field was relatively subdued after the win. Coronavirus restrictions were at play, but also a sense of more goals to attain.
“Hopefully it’s the first step,” manager Rick Renteria said.
Abreu, continuing his push for AL MVP honors, also hit his 17th homer, and Edwin Encarnacion slugged his ninth against Kenta Maeda. Byron Buxton hit two solo homers, and Josh Donaldson added a solo shot against Reynaldo Lopez, who allowed three runs and four hits and had six strikeouts in 5„ innings for his second consecutive strong start.
Donaldson, who had disputed a strike call by plate umpire Dan Bellino, kicked dirt over the plate as he completed his home-run trot and was ejected.
Buxton led off the seventh against Codi Heuer with a single and tried to score from first when Luis Robert dropped Ryan Jeffers’ fly ball toward the right-center field gap, but Nick Madrigal’s throw to catcher Yasmani Grandal cut him down.
Heuer (3-0, 1.86) recorded five outs before handing the game over to Colome.
The Sox’ clinching on their home field without fans was not lost on Renteria and his players.
“I’m sure a lot of fans were watching,” Renteria said. “Too bad they couldn’t be here, but we’re glad they’re able to see it and see what their team has been doing. Hopefully we can keep moving forward.”
“Just bringing more excitement to the South Side,” shortstop Tim Anderson said.
Anderson and Abreu, MVP candidates who hadn’t played on a team with a winning record, exchanged a hug in the clubhouse.
“For a guy like ‘Pito’ to beat that ball out, that was huge,” Anderson said. “It sends a message throughout the whole lineup that everybody needs to be hustling. That was a big play by him, and we were able to tie it up. And Eloy comes up and put us ahead.”