CHICAGO – The streak is over.
And if the White Sox are going to end their 10-game losing streak, they might as well do so with dramatic gusto, as they did during their 12-9 win over the Rays on a rainy, guaranteed average field on Sunday afternoon.
Down 9-5 in the bottom of the ninth, the White Sox watched a 4-2 lead evaporate as the Rays (23-6) scored five in the eighth and two in the ninth. Yes, more panic and more gnashing of teeth were on their way.
Instead, head coach Pedro Grifoll scored seven times in his final game against relievers Jalen Bix and Garrett Clevinger, using five two-hits to turn the ruled out goal into a wild celebration. Andrew Vaughn threw the winning shot with a three-run home run to stop a 2-2 Cleavinger slider.
“I passed out,” Vaughn said of his first hit. “I honestly don’t remember running the bases. That was such a big fight. That was amazing. One of the most daring baseball games I’ve seen in a long time.”
“It was almost more useful to us as a club than if we went out there and pitched 12 in the first,” said White Sox starting pitcher Mike Clevinger, who struck out eight in five innings. “This is the morale booster we need.”
That run started in the ninth inning innocently enough, when Romi Gonzalez flew to center. Eloy Jiménez got things on a single to left—his fourth single of the game—before Yasmani Grandal hit a groundout, Jake Burger doubled and Oscar Colas hit a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 9–7.
Elvis Andrus’ single cut the lead to one, and Lenin Sosa, who runs back to Triple-A Charlotte when Tim Anderson and Hanser Alberto joined the team from rehab after injury Tuesday, kept the inning alive with a groundout to right. Adam Hasley, hitting a career-high four hits, singled to center to tie the game.
It all paved the way for the iPhone.
“No question,” Vaughn said of knowing the ball was gone on impact. “I knew.”
“I didn’t want to let it go, and I thought I had enough,” Cleavinger said. “It went down and it went down. He takes credit for swinging it so well.”
Those ninth-inning leagues finished with a season-high 18 hits. They also celebrated the White Sox’ biggest ninth-inning comeback since September 7, 2007, when they trailed 10-4 before hitting a six in the ninth against Minnesota and winning in extra innings. It was their biggest ninth-inning comeback without going into extras since April 28, 2004, when they trailed 8-4 before scoring five in the ninth game against Cleveland.
“Sometimes, whacks are contagious,” Hasley said. “It seemed the last inning, everyone who got up to the plate was playing a good bat. Everyone was feeding off each other, trying to keep the line moving, and good things happened.”
“We had some heartbreaking losses against them,” said Grifoll, whose team finished 1-6 against the Rays. “Baseball is a crazy game, and today it was an example. But this club was jumping around, and it was something we needed.”
While Sunday’s performance was certainly memorable, it still couldn’t dethrone Chicago’s 8-21 show during April. The White Sox finished 0-8-1 in series play and 4-9 at home, never winning consecutive games.
Reynaldo Lopez, who was used on high-impact relief opportunities during the first month, also left the Sunday game after allowing three runs in the third of the inning due to a right bicep strain and a possible dead arm. A long way back for the White Sox, not to mention the feud, as they opened a three-game game set Tuesday night with the Twins, who lead them with nine games in American League Central.
Perhaps Sunday’s return can start Chicago on the right track.
“Yeah, I felt a lot of weight on our shoulders,” Vaughn said.
“Going outside today and starting a new series, it’s huge,” Hasley said. “Especially against a team like that. You know they’re one of the best guys in baseball. It shows we can fight and hang out with them.”
“The roller coaster,” Clevenger said, smiling. “It was from the highs to the lows and back to the highs. It was a fun game. Definitely the most fun game of the season.”
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