MINNEAPOLIS — The .500 mark never felt this good.
So it goes when an underachieving team such as the White Sox plays poorly for three months, inhabiting the dark side of the won-lost record for almost all of it.
But the Sox could forget about that after an 11-0 trouncing Sunday of the Twins that boosted their record to 46-46 going into the All-Star break. The victory was the Sox’ third in the four-game series and fifth in their last six games overall, and it completed a 5-3 road trip against the teams they trail in the American League Central. And it left them at 11-7 in July after a challenging stretch of 18 games in 17 days.
Here’s how big this victory was: Instead of trailing the Twins by five games with a loss, the Sox are three games back going into a needed four-day rest. Ahead of them is one of the softer schedules in baseball.
‘‘It was important to make a statement and show that we’re still here,’’ said right-hander Dylan Cease, who dominated the Twins by allowing one-hit in seven innings. ‘‘I think it’s going to be a good second half.
‘‘Taking three out of four against them, it was important. We showed up, and we showed that we’re still here.’’
Adding to the feel-good vibe was the way the Sox won. Cease, pitching with a chip on his shoulder after being overlooked for an All-Star Game appearance, took a no-hitter into the fifth and struck out eight.
‘‘I don’t know how he’s not in the All-Star Game,’’ first baseman Jose Abreu said. ‘‘It’s crazy.’’
Cease, who dropped his ERA to 0.46 in his last 10 starts, became the fastest pitcher in franchise history to reach 500 strikeouts, doing so in 399⅓ innings. (Chris Sale had been the fastest at 472⅓). He will take a 9-4 record and 2.15 ERA into the break.
After shortstop Tim Anderson’s two-run single and Andrew Vaughn’s two-run double against Chris Archer broke open a scoreless game in the fifth, Yoan Moncada, Vaughn and Josh Harrison homered against Joe Smith in a six-run seventh.
The rout was on, and the Sox outscored the Twins 32-10 in the series. They outhit them 16-1 on Sunday and had 50 hits in the series.
Vaughn and Adam Engel had three hits apiece. Engel, who has played center field since Luis Robert left the game Friday with light-headedness, went 7-for-13 in the series, including a three-run home run Friday.
Engel and right fielder Gavin Sheets made sliding catches in the outfield, and left fielder Leury Garcia made two.
Cease was appreciative. And his teammates appreciate what he has done after his latest performance, which featured 21 swinging strikes on 94 pitches. He has a major-league-leading 150 strikeouts in 104‰ innings.
‘‘He’s been unbelievable for us,’’ Abreu said.
Abreu went 2-for-5 for his 30th multihit game this season and reached base safely for the 23rd consecutive game.
‘‘We all know the kind of team that we have and the kind of team that we are,’’ Abreu said. ‘‘It’s not easy when things aren’t going your way or when injuries are affecting you. But everybody pushed and gave their best effort, and we got to this point. It wasn’t easy.
‘‘The most important thing when you are passing through bad patches is to stay united, and we did. We’re united.’’
The Sox scoffed at a recent report of unrest in the clubhouse. They were criticized for looking flat during losses. But there was plenty of life in the dugout in Minnesota.
‘‘It’s easy to talk and complain about how the team wasn’t performing the way everybody expected us to,’’ Abreu said. ‘‘But we didn’t pay attention to that. Everybody trusts [manager] Tony [La Russa]. He knows how to get through rough patches, and he has experience. We trust him, and that’s what we do here. We have each other’s back.’’
‘‘I know the team understands what we accomplished the last 18 games,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘They had to work to get that record back to .500. They need the days off, and we’ll be ready Friday.’’