White Sox open crucial stretch with loss to Twins

Minnesota scored four times in the 10th inning to drop the Sox 5 1/2 games back in the AL Central.

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The Twins’ Max Kepler slides home safely in the 10th inning Monday night.

The Twins’ Max Kepler slides home safely in the 10th inning Monday night.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The White Sox are entering a stretch of games that might determine their 2022 prospects. The first test didn’t go well.

The Twins scored four times in the 10th inning Monday to beat the Sox 6-3. Starter Johnny Cueto allowed two runs in six innings and Jose Abreu hit a solo home run, but Byron Buxton and questionable baserunning from the home team enabled the Twins to take a 5 1/2-game lead over the Sox in the American League Central.

Buxton, who hit a two-run homer in the fifth, got the Twins out of a jam after Yoan Moncada had singled to tie the score at 2 in the seventh. With pinch runner Adam Engel at second and Moncada at first with no outs, Buxton ran down A.J. Pollock’s drive to deep center. Engel and Moncada apparently didn’t think the ball would be caught, and both were out on a triple play.

The Sox got the tying run to the plate in the 10th, but Tim Anderson struck out against Jhoan Duran, starting this stretch of 15 division games in a row leading into the All-Star break on a sour note.

‘‘We have 80-plus games left, and we have to play hard every single game,’’ Cueto said through a translator. ‘‘[The Twins are] leading the division. It’s going to be what we do against our division rivals.’’

The Sox entered this key stretch coming off a three-game sweep of the Giants but still in third place behind the Twins and Guardians in the division with the trade deadline looming Aug. 2. To Engel, however, that doesn’t mean the Sox must play with more urgency than before.

‘‘This team is going to be a really, really good, scary team when we’re all there,’’ Engel, who was reinstated from the 10-day injured list after going down with a strained right hamstring, said before the game. ‘‘I think that’s what we’re all excited for, and to say that we’re more urgent than we were prior I don’t think would be the right phrasing for it. If we can continue to play good baseball, this is as good of timing as any, for sure.’’

Manager Tony La Russa was ejected in the 10th for arguing balls and strikes.

Back from the 15-day IL, closer Liam Hendriks struck out the side in the eighth.

Injury updates

Monday was an important night for determining when outfielder Eloy Jimenez (torn tendon in right hamstring) might come off the IL and return to the Sox. Jimenez batted third and played left field for Triple-A Charlotte, collecting two hits.

Asked whether Jimenez might return to the Sox by the end of the week, La Russa said a lot depends on Monday.

‘‘Talking to him this weekend and this morning, he’s feeling good,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘But to play and feel good, the guys watching him have to evaluate that. He can’t come here to get in shape and then get hurt.’’

The Sox also are waiting on catcher Yasmani Grandal to return from back spasms. La Russa said Grandal was supposed to throw to bases Monday, but that plan was delayed by the pregame rain.

Roster moves

To make room for Engel and Hendriks on the roster, the Sox optioned outfielder Adam Haseley and reliever Jimmy Lambert to Charlotte.

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