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White Sox slug five homers, blank Reds 5-0

Dallas Keuchel pitched four scoreless innings and the bullpen did the rest as the Sox improved to 34-18.

Chicago White Sox’s Tim Anderson reacts while running the bases after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning during a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
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Left-hander Dallas Keuchel was back. And for a White Sox team aiming to go deep into the postseason, it was an important event.

So was the return of the Sox’ home-run power. They swatted five long balls — two in the fifth inning against National League Cy Young candidate Trevor Bauer (1.80 ERA) and three in succession in the eighth against Robert Stephenson — in a 5-0 victory Saturday against the host Reds.

Right fielder Nomar Mazara even got into the act. He finally hit his first homer of the season to break a scoreless tie in the fifth, and Tim Anderson — who homered twice — went deep two batters later against Bauer. Anderson (10th), Yasmani Grandal (seventh) and Jose Abreu (18th) blew the game open with the eighth-inning trifecta.

‘‘It finally happened,’’ Mazara said. ‘‘It’s been frustrating, and I’ve been hard on myself because I’ve been working like crazy. But . . . I have a good rhythm now. Take it into the postseason.’’

It was the seventh time this season the Sox hit five or more homers in a game and the second time they hit three in a row (they hit four in a row against the Cardinals). It was Anderson’s second multihomer game of 2020, and he chatted and joked with Fox broadcaster A.J. Pierzynski from his shortstop position between his homers.

‘‘From top to bottom, we’re dangerous,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘Going back-to-back-to-back says a lot.’’

As entertaining as the homer barrage was for the Sox (34-18), Keuchel’s outing was the most significant development, even though he lasted only four innings.

Signed to a three-year, $55 million contract as a free agent in the offseason, Keuchel brings a World Series-championship pedigree to the postseason rotation. He hadn’t pitched since Sept. 6 because of back spasms.

‘‘Not only the experience, but what he brings to the table [with] his ability,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘Cy Young Award winner, former world champion, it’s really important.’’

After Keuchel, Matt Foster (1.88 ERA) pitched two scoreless innings before Codi Heuer (1.77 ERA), Jimmy Cordero and Jace Fry pitched one each to wrap up the shutout.

Keuchel needed 75 pitches to get through four innings, but he didn’t allow a run and looked fit for one more tuneup game before the Sox’ first postseason in 12 years.

‘‘I felt as expected — really rusty,’’ Keuchel said. ‘‘It was probably one of the luckiest starts I’ve had. Quality of pitches were not there tonight.

‘‘It felt foreign, but chalk that up to not being on a mound in [13] days. Being able to get up four times was a nice sign.’’

Keuchel allowed four hits, walked three and struck out seven. He held the Reds to 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and lowered his ERA to a sparkling 2.04. He probably will line up second behind Lucas Giolito when the Sox set their postseason rotation.

After Dylan Cease pitches the series finale against the Reds on Sunday, the Sox will start Dane Dunning (on five days of rest), Reynaldo Lopez (four days), Giolito (six) and Keuchel (four) from Monday through Thursday against the Indians in Cleveland before finishing up with three games at home against the Cubs.

In the best-of-three wild-card series, Giolito and Keuchel would pitch Games 1 and 2, respectively, on five days of rest if the Sox decide to go that route.

Until then, the Sox have eight games left. If you missed the first 52, you might want to start tuning in.

‘‘We’ve got guys from other teams telling us our team is really fun to watch,’’ Mazara said. ‘‘We have one goal, and we’re going to work really, really hard to achieve that.’’