When Gavin Sheets stepped up to the plate with a man in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago White Sox starter Johnny Cueto turned to Leury Garcia in the dugout.
“A home run here would be good for us,” Cueto said he told Garcia. “And then he hit a home run and it was good. For us, it is more important to get the victory, and we did it.”
Sheets’ two-run homer tied a game the Red Sox had lost since the first inning, and his double leading off the ninth led to the game-winning run in a 3-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
“We keep swinging,” manager Tony La Russa said. “Our offense deserved to win that game, and our pitching and defense definitely did.”
The Red Sox evened the series at one game apiece and will send Dylan Cease to the mound on Sunday to try to earn his first series win of the second half. They remained three games behind the division-leading Minnesota Twins and one game behind the second-place Cleveland Guardians.
Cueto, the Sox’s most consistent starter outside of Cease, pitched a solid seven innings, allowing solo homers in the first and third innings. He walked away with the Red Sox trailing 2-0 before Sheet’s 400-foot takeoff off Austin Pruitt gave the Red Sox life again in the seventh.
Sheets had jumped to second with runners on second and third and no outs in the fourth inning, another inning in which the Red Sox couldn’t capitalize against A’s starter Paul Blackburn with men in scoring position.
“Frustrated with that, but excited to get two more chances,” Sheets said. “I mentally stayed on it and get ready for two big ones.”
After Jimmy Lambert and Liam Hendriks pitched scoreless innings, Sheets started the bottom of the ninth with an opposite-field double off Zach Jackson. Adam Engel ran for Sheets and got to third on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Josh Harrison.
Tim Anderson, who had a couple of hits after appealing a three-game suspension for making contact with the plate umpire on Friday, he came to the plate with a chance to play hero. The remnants of the crowd of 28,142 came to life, learning Anderson’s story to get ahead in important situations.
But on a 2-1 count, Jackson threw a slider that bounced past catcher Sean Murphy, allowing Engel to come home with the winning run.
“There was a period of about two or three weeks at home, we were behind and we came back, a really energetic comeback, and the victory was there, and we didn’t win the game,” La Russa said. . “But we never get discouraged. We know where we are. We have a chance.
The Sox are back to .500 again at 50-50 and have 62 games left to prove what they’re made of.
Sheets admitted that his season, and the team’s, haven’t gone the way anyone expected.
“We got a taste of the postseason last year and we want to go back,” he said. “Below average right now. I’ll tell you that. Anyone would tell you that. This is the fun part, the time to make some moves. This was a great game tonight to get a big win.”
The only hiccup afterwards was Anderson’s reaction when the media waited to talk to him.
“If you want to talk about the suspension, I’m not going to talk,” he snapped, adding that he wouldn’t talk about the game either.
Anderson, whom the Sox have branded as the face of baseball, isn’t doing himself a favor by refusing to give his side of the story. La Russa defended Anderson before the game, incorrectly claiming that umpire Nick Mahrley was “going forward” on Anderson when the shortstop got in his face after he was ejected. Anderson then made contact with his batting helmet, prompting the suspension.
Being a repeat offender was part of the reason Anderson got three games plus a fine.