The playoffs don’t start for another two weeks, but Monday night’s White Sox-Twins game at Guaranteed Rate Field definitely had an October feel.
It also felt like another big step forward for a burgeoning Sox team that beat Minnesota 3-1 while winning for the 21st time in 26 games and improving their record to 31-16, the best in the American League.
“This is a lot of fun, man,” said Adam Engel, who came through with a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth inning to snap a 1-1 tie. “It means a lot to a lot of guys who have worked really, really hard to get where we’re at. Being on this team over the last few years, we’ve all seen it coming.”
After Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert led off the eighth with walks against Twins reliever Taylor Rogers, Engel faked a bunt, pulled back and slashed a clutch single up the middle.
In the midst of seven straight losing seasons, the White Sox have a great mix of young talent and proven performers. It’s blending to perfection, and the Sox have trimmed their magic number to 4.
They beat the Twins despite walking 10 batters, headed by 5 from starter Dylan Cease over 4⅔ innings.
With the game on the line in the sixth inning, Evan Marshall came out of the White Sox’s bullpen with two outs and the bases loaded and struck out MVP candidate Nelson Cruz.
“Everybody knows this is playoff baseball, basically,” Marshall said. “Tonight was huge, You can’t put enough emphasis on starting the series off with a win. We still have to hold them off, beat them down.”
Rookie second baseman Nick Madrigal’s RBI single gave the White Sox a 1-0 lead in the second inning before Jorge Polanco tied it with a run-scoring single in the fifth.
Cease went 4⅔ innings and allowed 1 run on 5 hits while throwing 99 pitches.
Growing pains: After tearing it up through the first five weeks of the season, White Sox rookie Luis Robert has fallen apart in September.
The 23-year-old center fielder only has 5 hits in his last 40 at-bats and has been noticeably overanxious at the plate.
New Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino was with Robert at Class AAA Charlotte last season, so the duo has some history.
“From my small sample size with him last year, his approach to that is, ‘I’m going to swing out of it,’ ” Menechino said. “Well, hold up now. That’s what they want you to do. Try to swing out of it. So these are the important lessons he has to learn where sometimes less is more. Go up there and see some pitches and prove to these guys you’re not going to swing at everything. It’s a learning experience for him.”