White Sox top A’s to win home series for first time in more than a month
They’re just a game above .500 but trail the first-place Twins by only two games in the American League Central.
Minor accomplishments, such as winning a home series for the first time in 5½ weeks, mean little to the White Sox.
They enter the final two months of the season with an American League Central title at stake and a semblance of momentum.
‘‘I put it into an Australian football term: The third quarter is the championship quarter,’’ closer Liam Hendriks said after preserving a 4-1 victory against the Athletics for 11-game winner Dylan Cease. ‘‘So I feel like August is the third quarter of the season. And it’s something that can make or break a championship run. And that’s something that hopefully we can take the right trend starting [Monday].’’
The Sox (51-50), thanks to six innings of one-run ball from Cease and home runs from Jose Abreu and Eloy Jimenez, surpassed the .500 mark. That’s a level Hendriks equated to the ‘‘Mendoza Line,’’ a reference to former feeble-hitting infielder Mario Mendoza, whose batting average hovered around .200.
Manager Tony La Russa and Hendriks reinforced the front office’s willingness to upgrade the roster by the 5 p.m. trade deadline Tuesday, and general manager Rick Hahn spoke separately to All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson and Hendriks after the game.
‘‘That’s what I love,’’ Hendriks said of the executives trying to find relief and left-handed-hitting help. ‘‘They come to talk and ask about guys and see if you’ve heard anything or played with a guy [and] what that clubhouse vibe is.’’
The Sox haven’t been two games above .500 since April 20, when they lost the first game of a doubleheader to the Guardians, but they nonetheless are only two games behind the first-place Twins.
‘‘At some point, we need to define our season and make an impact,’’ Hendriks said.
Hendriks acknowledged the Sox don’t have the same cushion they earned in 2021, when they coasted to the division title. They have just begun a stretch of 31 games in 31 days that ends Aug. 28, so there will be little or no time for a breather.
‘‘If we take our foot off the pedal, we don’t make the playoffs,’’ Hendriks said. ‘‘That’s something we need to figure out.’’
The last time the Sox won a home series was June 20-22 against the Blue Jays, but the homers by Abreu and Jimenez provided some snippets of the power potential they’ve lacked at home, where they’re only 23-28.
‘‘We’re literally in contention, so I think we’re going to be excited about it and treat every series like it’s the last one we’re going to play and know we have to get a lot of wins,’’ La Russa said.
‘‘The most fun that you can have during the regular season is to get to the last two months and have a chance. It’s where everything is amped up in every moment and every at-bat. We’re in a position to do that. We just have to get the wins.’’
Cease has pitched on six days of rest in each of his last two starts, but he said he would welcome the challenge of pitching on shorter rest in the next month.
‘‘Good thing I’m young,’’ joked Cease, 26, who has a 1.27 ERA in 11 starts on four days of rest.
La Russa said Cease wanted to pitch longer, but relievers Joe Kelly, Kendall Graveman and Hendriks kept the A’s scoreless the rest of the way.
‘‘I’m sure there will be different times where you can pick and choose when they push us past our pitch mark,’’ Cease said after his 94-pitch effort.
‘‘I’m always trying to throw as much as I can.’’