After toying with the weaklings of the American League Central, the White Sox know they must at least maintain their improved play this week against the division-leading Astros and Guardians at less than full strength.
“We have to start winning series and then we can sweep the team, especially with the team coming in,” Lance Lynn said Sunday after pitching the Sox to a 5-3 victory that completed a three-game sweep of the Tigers. “Hopefully we can keep riding high. We have a good team coming in this week, so we have to keep playing good baseball.”
The Sox (59-56), who remained 2½ games behind the first-place Guardians in the AL Central, will open a four-game series Monday night against an Astros team that looks as formidable as it did when it eliminated them in the 2021 playoffs en route to the league title. A weekend trip to Cleveland to face the Guardians also awaits the Sox.
The Astros (75-41) possess the AL’s best record and lowest ERA (3.02) and are third in runs (525).
The Sox, already without All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson for perhaps the rest of the season, hope center fielder Luis Robert’s left wrist sprain heals enough for him to return to the lineup after missing the last two games.
AJ Pollock filled in sufficiently for Anderson at the top of the order by hitting his second home run in as many games and sparking the winning rally in the fifth with a double.
“We have to keep things rolling,” said Andrew Vaughn, whose fielder’s choice scored the go-ahead run in the fifth and added a homer in the eighth.
“We’ve got a big series against the Astros coming up. If we can roll into that, hopefully give ourselves some momentum going forward.”
The Sox displayed a knack for scoring late in all three wins against the feeble Tigers (43-73), playing adequate defense and displaying timely pitching.
It was a contrast from last week’s disappointing series at fourth-place Kansas City, where veteran pitcher Johnny Cueto said the Sox need to “show the fire” while dropping three of four.
“Johnny said it best, ‘I want some more fire,’ ” Vaughn said. “We had some fire. It was good.”
Vaughn slammed his helmet after thinking he grounded into an inning-ending double play to end the fifth, but first baseman Kody Clemens dropped a catchable throw from second baseman Willi Castro that scored Eloy Jiménez with the go-ahead run.
Meanwhile, La Russa said Robert was able to perform more baseball work Sunday but wouldn’t declare him ready for Monday.
“You’ve got to think about who you’ve got, not what you don’t have,” La Russa said. “It’s really critical. I was taught a long time ago, the competition is usually so fine that every edge that you have improves your chances and every edge you give up makes it tougher.
“So obviously, if we’re bemoaning not having Tim, or Tim and Luis, you’re going to lose an edge.”
After allowing an RBI double to Javier Baez, Lynn retired nine of the final 10 batters to improve to 5-0 with a 2.36 ERA in his last six starts against the Tigers.
“We got results for our effort,” La Russa said. “There are times it’s been frustrating because the ball has been hit hard. It started that way. The way Pollock hit [for an out in they first inning], ‘not again.’
“But we hung with it. If we hang with it very well, hopefully we get rewarded.”