White Sox hit five homers against Guardians rookie starter in 8-2 victory
Gavin Sheets and Andrew Vaughn hit back-to-back jacks in the second inning to start the barrage.
CLEVELAND — They’re all must-wins at this point, but the White Sox’ 8-2 victory Thursday against the Guardians seemed absolutely imperative.
Lose and fall five games behind the first-place Guardians in the American League Central with 18 to go.
Lose and watch the Guardians run their winning streak to seven games behind a rookie making his second career start.
Lose and maybe start making offseason plans. As it was, the Sox had a 12.7% chance of winning the division before the game, according FanGraphs.
They still might not have enough time to overtake the Guardians, but belting five home runs in the first five innings against right-hander Hunter Gaddis showed the Sox, who won for the 11th time in their last 15 games, weren’t chilling on a perfect sunny afternoon.
‘‘It was a big one,’’ acting manager Miguel Cairo said. ‘‘You see this is who we are. We got good at-bats, we were aggressive and we hit a couple of homers. It’s good to see the guys come back from [a 3-0 home loss Wednesday to the Rockies] and put some big numbers up there.’’
Gavin Sheets, Andrew Vaughn, Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal and Elvis Andrus went deep for the Sox (74-70), who trail the Guardians (76-66) by three games overall but by four games in the loss column.
‘‘I think it was a must-win,’’ said Sheets, who hit his 13th homer — but first on the road — to get things started. ‘‘Every game is a must-win, but obviously against them, even better. We wanted to come out and swing the bats early and give [right-hander] Lance [Lynn] the lead, and Lance threw the ball extremely well.’’
Lynn allowed two runs in 6⅓ innings. He allowed six hits, struck out six, walked one and lowered his ERA to 3.99. He has a 1.43 ERA in his last seven starts.
The Sox’ September power surge also is trending. They have hit 28 homers in their last 16 games, and the five against one pitcher were the most against the Cleveland franchise since the Red Sox hit six against Luis Tiant in 1969.
Sheets and Vaughn homered in the second before Moncada homered in the third, Grandal in the fourth and Andrus in the fifth.
Moncada had four hits, including a double, and Jose Abreu had three hits, including a double. Abreu drove in two runs and raised his average to .313.
‘‘We have to keep focused and keep the momentum going,’’ said Moncada, whose right leg was wrapped below the knee because of shin splints. ‘‘That’s going to be important.’’
The Sox and Guardians play three games next week at Guaranteed Rate Field, and one victory for the Guardians would clinch the season series and the tiebreaker for the division title.
The Sox were fortunate to get Gaddis because the Guardians moved expected starter Triston McKenzie to the weekend to avoid using three consecutive rookie starters against the third-place Twins.
‘‘I’m going to tell you, it doesn’t matter who is on the mound; our guys have been preparing,’’ Cairo said. ‘‘They’ve been doing their homework and are ready to play. That’s something that they have been doing every day, and they are going to continue.’’
The game was a makeup of a rainout Aug. 21. The Sox flew in after their home loss Wednesday and afterward flew to Detroit, where they play three games against the cellar-dwelling Tigers.
It figured to be a short but happy flight to Detroit. As everyone agreed, it was not a game the Sox could afford to lose.
‘‘No,’’ Lynn said, succinctly telling it like it was.