Bats come alive as White Sox top Rangers 8-2 to gain series split

Andrew Vaughn’s homer was one of 15 hits for the Sox, who just hours before were limited to two hits in an 8-0 loss Saturday.

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Andrew Vaughn hit his 11th homer in the White Sox victory Sunday.

Andrew Vaughn circles the bases after his home run during the third inning against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Sunday. (AP)

AP Photos

ARLINGTON, Texas — “If we swing at the ball in the strike zone, and we get the barrel on it, we get production,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said Sunday morning.

Like the ball Andrew Vaughn barreled over the left-field fence at Globe Life Field a few hours later. Or the ones AJ Pollock barreled for two doubles and Luis Robert hammered for one.

Hit ball hard and far, win ballgame.

“The offense put it on them,” Pollock said. “It’s what we needed.”

It’s what the Sox (55-53) have failed to do for much of an exasperating season and what they couldn’t do in the first three games of the series. But they demonstrated some needed slug in an 8-2 victory against the Rangers (48-60), just hours after ex-teammate Dane Dunning and the Texas bullpen limited them to two hits in an 8-0 loss Saturday.

It gave them a split of their four-game series after scoring four runs and getting 13 hits with no homers in the first three games. In the finale, the Sox had 15 hits.

Coupled with a Twins loss, the Sox are two games out of first place in the American League Central and one game behind the second-place Guardians.

The Sox are 40-25 when they hit a homer (17-3 when they hit two or more), so Vaughn enhanced their chances when he cranked his 11th with Jose Abreu on base in the third inning against Spencer Howard (2-4, 7.41 ERA), who was knocked out the next inning after Pollock and Robert hit back-to-back doubles in a three-run fourth.

Lucas Giolito (8-6, 4.91) threw 103 pitches in five innings and exited with a 6-1 lead. He has given up leads, so protecting this one was something of a small step for the right-hander, who’s trying to regain his past All-Star form.

“I really found a nice groove in the fourth and fifth innings,” Giolito said. “But the story today is the offense coming out with a vengeance. The -series didn’t go the way we wanted it to early. We knew that today was an important day, and they came out swinging.”

The Sox’ offense has been puzzling. The team is third in hits and fifth in batting -average in the majors but 26th in homers and 30th in walks. Last season, with essentially the same team, the Sox were fifth in hits and average, third in on-base percentage and 19th in homers.

“Discussed it a lot,” La Russa said. “Why is it different? We have some ideas, and we work on them every day. But if you look at the team batting average, it shows you we’re making contact and putting it in play.”

Just not selective enough to get better pitches in the middle of the zone to drive.

“If you put pitches on the edges in play, it’s not real sharp contact,” La Russa said. “Putting it in play, but it’s just a little fly ball, bloopers, ground balls. Middle of the barrel, the ball jumps. That’s when we have our better at-bats; that’s when we’re more productive.”

Vaughn, Pollock, Abreu and Leury Garcia — playing shortstop in place of Tim Anderson, who’s serving a suspension — each had three hits.

The Sox are 7-5 during a stretch of 19 games against teams with losing records. They’ve won six of their last nine and 14 of 22 as they search for a sustainable high level of play and an elusive hot streak.

“It’s really just about us,” Pollock said. “I don’t think we’ve played really good baseball. We’ve had really short bursts, and we have to focus on what we’re doing and not what anyone else outside this locker room is doing. That’s our focus, and we’ll see what happens.”

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