It wasn’t his longest outing, but Lance Lynn looked like Lance Lynn. Lesser names in the White Sox bullpen got the game to Craig Kimbrel, who couldn’t finish the job.
But Leury Garcia ended things, hitting a ninth-inning walk-off home run to center field to give the Sox a 2-1 victory Sunday against the Red Sox.
“That’s big power. What timing,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s just a really difficult game. The two starting pitchers were given nothing. It had to end that way I think. We had the last hero.”
Making his first start after coming off the injured list Friday with right knee inflammation, Lynn threw five scoreless innings. He struck out nine, walked none, and got 13 swings-and-misses over 70 pitches in front of an announced crowd of 36,178.
The Sox, clearly not wanting to stretch Lynn in his first appearance since Aug. 28, replaced him with Garrett Crochet despite the burly righty allowing just two hits. Though he felt something in the knee, Lynn wanted to pitch beyond five innings.
“We talked before and it was 75-80 [pitches] and going back out at 70 would’ve probably pushed it past that, and then I would have gotten mad at whoever came and took me out in the middle of an inning,” Lynn said. “It was good to do five at where we’re at and then the next time we’ll build off of that. So we’re in a good spot.”
A healthy Lynn, along with Carlos Rodon’s return last Friday and Lucas Giolito’s expected start Tuesday, means the Sox’ rotation is getting back together with the playoffs less than a month away.
And the win combined with the Indians’ 11-1 loss to the Brewers dropped their magic number to win the American League Central to nine.
A tight series with three one-run games against a Boston team trying to grab a wild-card spot can’t hurt as the Sox look ahead to October. La Russa said it was an “outstanding experience” to play the Red Sox, something that forced them to match their intensity during a weekend series that had postseason implications.
“It’s what we have to do every game from here to the end if we want to get better. Keep stressing it because it’s true,” La Russa said. “We’ll get better if we just keep putting pressure on ourselves.”
Garcia helped relieve some pressure for the Sox after Kimbrel allowed Boston to tie the game in the ninth on an Alex Verdugo sacrifice fly. Pitching for the third consecutive day with Liam Hendriks, Ryan Tepera, Michael Kopech and Aaron Bummer unavailable, Kimbrel was unable to close a game that saw the Sox get scoreless outings from Crochet and Jose Ruiz.
“The way I look at that, you are going to have tough situations but it’s really tough when you give up the run and all of a sudden they have two or three on the board,” La Russa said. “All they got was one. That run scored and [Kimbrel] got the next guy out and we had a chance to win it.”
Garcia made good on that chance, sending a 97.7 mph Garrett Whitlock fastball over the wall. In what was likely his last day as the Sox’ everyday shortstop before Tim Anderson returns Tuesday, Garcia hit his first career walk-off homer and moved the Sox to 21 games above .500.
”Felt great, man, felt great,” Garcia said. “Especially playing at home, this is one of the best moments for me so far.”