When Gavin Sheets walked to the plate with a homer in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago White Sox starter Johnny Cueto turned to Laura Garcia in the dugout.
“A homer here would be good for us,” Cueto Garcia said. “And then he hit a homer and it was good. It’s more important for us to just win, and we did it.”
Sheets’ two-run homer tied a game the Sox had trailed in the first inning, and his leadoff double in the ninth led to a 3-2 series win over the Oakland A’s.
“We kept swinging,” manager Tony La Russa said. “Our offense deserved to win that game, and our pitching and defense certainly did.”
The Sox have evened the series with a game to play and will send out Dylan Sease on Sunday to try to get their first win in the series in the second half. They are three games behind the division-leading Minnesota Twins and one behind the second-place Cleveland Guardians.
Cueto, the Sox’ most consistent starter outside of Cease, pitched seven strong innings, allowing solo home runs in the first and third innings. He left with the Sox trailing 2-0 before Sheetz’s 400-foot homer off Austin Pruitt gave the Sox life again in the top of the seventh.
Sheets jumped to second with runners on second and third and no outs in the fourth, another inning in which the Sox couldn’t capitalize against A’s starter Paul Blackburn with men in batting position.
“Disappointed with it, but happy to have two more chances,” Sheets said. “Keep it in your mind and get ready for the big two.”
After Jimi Lambert and Liam Hendrix threw scoreless innings, Sheets started the bottom of the ninth with an opposite-field double from Zach Jackson. Adam Engel singled for Sheets and took third on Josh Harrison’s perfect sacrifice bunt.
Tim Anderson, who had a couple of hits after to appeal the three-game suspension for making contact with the umpire on Friday, came to the plate with an opportunity to play the hero. The rest of the crowd of 28,142 came alive knowing Anderson’s history of coming through big situations.
But down 2-1, Jackson threw a slider that bounced and eluded catcher Sean Murphy, allowing Engel to waltz home with the winning run.
“There was a period for two or three weeks at home where we were behind and we came back, a really spirited comeback and the win was right there and we didn’t win the game,” La Russa said. “But we never gave up. We know where we are. We have a chance.”
The Sox are back to .500 again at 50-50, and they have 62 games left to show what they’re made of.
Sheets admitted that his season — and the team’s season — didn’t go as expected.
“We got a taste of the postseason last year and we want to get back,” he said. “Below average right now. I will tell you this. Anyone would tell you that. This is the fun part, time to take some steps. It was a big game tonight to get a big win.”
The only downside afterward was Anderson’s reaction when the media waited to talk to him.
“If you want to talk about suspension, I’m not talking,” he snapped, adding that he wouldn’t talk about the game either.
Anderson, who the Sox have hailed as the face of baseball, does himself no favors by refusing to give his side of the story. La Russa defended Anderson before the game, claiming the umpire, Nick Marley, was “moving forward” on Anderson when the shortstop got in his face after his ejection. Anderson then touched his batting helmet, resulting in a suspension.
As a repeat offender, Anderson received three games in addition to his suspension.