White Sox come back for another victory against Astros

Gavin Sheets’ two-run pinch double in the seventh and Yoan Moncada’s go-ahead single in the eighth propelled the Sox to their fifth victory in a row.

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Liam Hendriks converts his 18th straight save opportunity.

Liam Hendriks #31 of the Chicago White Sox celebrates the final out to defeat the Houston Astros 4-3 at Guaranteed Rate Field on August 16, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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Dylan Cease was just OK. Justin Verlander was good but not great after the White Sox got to him late.

So much for a riveting battle of the top two Cy Young candidates in the American League at Guaranteed Rate Field on Tuesday. Pitching-wise, it wasn’t bad.

Drama-wise, however, it raised a curtain for the eighth and ninth innings after pinch hitter Gavin Sheets’ double into the right-field corner against Verlander in the seventh scored Josh Harrison and Seby Zavala to tie the score.

Yoan Moncada’s bloop single to center with two outs against Hector Neris scored pinch runner Adam Engel with the go-ahead run in the eighth, and Liam Hendriks converted his 18th consecutive save opportunity as the Sox beat the Astros 4-3 for their second victory in two nights against them.

The result gave the Sox (61-56) their fifth consecutive victory and moved them one game behind the AL Central-leading Guardians.

‘‘We’ve got a lot of fight, and we’re a good team,’’ said Sheets, who is 5-for-10 as a pinch hitter this season.

‘‘The numbers aren’t important,’’ said Moncada, who has struggled offensively this season. ‘‘What’s important is doing what it takes to win games.’’

Verlander allowed three runs and eight hits in seven innings, striking out four and walking one. Cease yielded three runs and six hits in five innings, striking out four and walking three.

‘‘I was very excited going into it,’’ Cease said, ‘‘but it definitely wasn’t one of my sharper outings. The team picked me up, and it turned into a cool night.

‘‘That was electric. Putting it on them late and the crowd going crazy, that was special.’’

Twenty-four hours after the Sox’ biggest victory of the season, Cease and Verlander treated 23,476 cranked-up fans to the best pitching matchup of the season.

For most of the night, Verlander, 39, showed why he is the man to beat in the Cy Young race in his phenomenal bounce-back season from Tommy John surgery. Cease, 26, had his streak of 14 consecutive starts with one earned run or fewer allowed halted in his shortest start since July 2 at San Francisco. Two walks to open the third, a well-struck ball that could have been caught that inning and a home run by Jose Altuve in the fifth were Cease’s undoing.

Fans and media had talked about the matchup for a few days. Players, however, had been talking about it for much longer.

‘‘We’ve been talking about it for a couple of weeks now,’’ Sox right-hander Jimmy Lambert said.

An infield single by Harrison off Altuve’s glove scored the first run in the second, but the Sox had to settle for one despite four singles in the inning.

The Astros scored twice in the third when Cease walked Altuve and Yuli Gurriel to open the inning. He struck out Yordan Alvarez, picked Altuve off second and was a pitch away from escaping, but Alex Bregman doubled off the tip of right fielder Andrew Vaughn’s glove, scoring a run. Kyle Tucker followed with an RBI double to give the Astros a 2-1 lead.

Cease saw his ERA rise to a still-spiffy 2.09. He wanted to beat Verlander but knew the importance of the game for the Sox, who are an AL-best 20-11 in their last 31 games.

‘‘[Cease] wasn’t sharp, but if he doesn’t compete like he does, we don’t come back against Verlander,’’ manager Tony La Russa said. ‘‘I’ll remember this one when I think about him for a long time.’’

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