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Sox show World Series potential with rocking comeback win

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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Things feel a little bit different at the corner of 35th and Shields these days.

All right, that's a lie.

They feel a whole heck of a lot different.

RELATED: Eloy, Robert returns could shift Sox into another gear

The Chicago White Sox have been a first-place team basically the entirety of this season. They've been talking about World Series expectations since spring training. They've been plotting a multi-year contention window throughout an at times arduous rebuilding process.

But the South Side seems to have truly awoken in the last few days, the feeling at Guaranteed Rate Field downright electric as the White Sox keep winning and keep blitzing through the American League Central en route to October.

On back-to-back nights, the White Sox won on a walk-off home run and then scored five runs in their final at-bat to complete a comeback against the division-rival Minnesota Twins.

And the crowds have been louder, wilder and more excited by this team than they've been in years.

With good reason.

"That had a special feel from the get-go," White Sox starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel said. "I feel like ever since that first Friday game back (after the All-Star break), it's kind of been more electric, and that's what we want. We're going to keep playing well, and hopefully we can get some more rowdy fans like that.

 

"When you're fighting from Pitch 1 to the last out, a lot of times some special moments, some magic moments happen. ... At the end of the day, we're racking up wins, and that's what we want to do."

The White Sox have shown resiliency all year, obviously, and you only need to look at the lineup every night and see all the everyday pieces missing due to injuries, then crosscheck it with the team's best-in-the-AL winning percentage and best-in-baseball division lead to know that things have been, to borrow a descriptor Keuchel used, remarkable.

If a wealth of contributors has defined the White Sox success this year, then there it was in its perfect form Tuesday night.

The Twins, within striking distance throughout, finally flipped a 4-3 White Sox lead into a 5-4 edge when Jorge Polanco homered off Ryan Burr in the top of the eighth inning. But Burr stopped the bleeding after that, and the White Sox struck right back.

Adam Engel and Zack Collins took back-to-back one-out walks to set up an enormously clutch, pinch-hit single by Andrew Vaughn that plated Engel from second thanks to an astoundingly terrific slide into home plate that tied the game.

Two batters later, Billy Hamilton — who had been subbed in as a pinch-runner for Monday's walk-off hero, Gavin Sheets, earlier in the game — lined a ball on the ground through the infield, bringing Collins home for the go-ahead run.

That was enough to get everyone in the building not wearing a Twins uniform rocking, the crowd and Hamilton in equal displays of emotion as the fans busted into "BIL-LY! BIL-LY!" chants.

So when José Abreu launched a three-run homer into the night sky, it was the spark that got The Rate hotter than it's been in years.

"The guys never give up," Hamilton said. "One thing about this team, you get a chance, we go down, and guys are like 'OK, it's OK. We'll come back in the eighth inning and get a chance to win the game.' We did that.

"I love it."

These were the Twins, and calling their 2021 season "disappointing" would be putting it mildly. But it didn't matter. The wins each of the last two nights felt as important to and as informative of the White Sox championship potential than the two dominating pitching performances against the first-place Houston Astros over the weekend, those two games played in front of crowds twice the size of Tuesday night's.

The South Side was rocking. And the White Sox — on the verge of getting massive boosts from the returns of Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert — were showing that they can keep it rocking the rest of the summer and throughout the month of October.

"It doesn't have to be as dramatic as tonight, or even yesterday's. The thing that impresses me is they come ready to play every day, and they're going to play hard nine or 10 or whatever it is," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "When you have to work six or seven days per week and you put that kind of effort, that's hard to do.

 

"That's a real mental and heart commitment. And they've committed to it, and that's why I'm confident we're going to take our best shot from here to end. They're not going to back off.

"We'll see if we're good enough. That everyday commitment to playing hard, that's where it starts and it's very hard to do, and the club is doing it."

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