As any Looney Tunes fan knows, a free fall has to stop eventually.
Thankfully for the White Sox, they landed on an ACME-brand trampoline before they hit the ground.
Finally, the South Siders broke out of their funk, grabbing a 9-5 win over the Crosstown-rival Cubs, the importance of which can’t be overstated at the moment. With just three days before the playoffs begin, the White Sox showed they’re capable of doing something other than losing, which they had done in all but one of the previous eight days prior to Saturday night. They showed that while they might not be surging into the postseason, they're at least not face-planting into the first round.
“We never panicked inside that clubhouse,” said White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing, who managed in place of the suspended Rick Renteria on Saturday. “You are going to go through stretches like this throughout a season. … Nobody ever panicked. We know what we are capable of doing when we go out and play the game the right way.”
This was hardly a flawless victory, of course, with Dane Dunning lasting just three innings thanks to a trio of walks and Kris Bryant’s third-inning grand slam. The defense was more than a little shaky, too, even if some of that could be chalked up to navigating an unusually windy night on the South Side.
But the thing that contributed the most to the White Sox ugly stretch was a silent offense, and the bats came to play Saturday, scoring nine runs, hitting the ball over the wall and seeing the MVP front-runner do what he does.
It was only fitting that José Abreu had the game’s biggest hit, a two-out, bases-clearing double in the fourth inning that flipped a 5-4 deficit to a 7-5 lead. Abreu’s now got 60 RBIs on the season, becoming the first player in nearly two decades to have as many RBIs as games played in a season.
Yoán Moncada added his first homer since Aug. 17 two innings after the White Sox put a five spot on the scoreboard, and the bullpen shut down the Cubs to grab the team’s first victory in a week.
Of course, we’ve seen the White Sox bats briefly come alive before only to tumble back into slump mode. Last Saturday, they unleashed five homers in a win over the Reds, the lone victory on their disastrous road trip through Ohio. Then came six straight defeats.
Will things go that way again? Grab the keys to your DeLorean and let me know.
The AL Central title is still in play for the White Sox heading into the final day of the regular season, with playoff seeding still to be determined, as well. But the White Sox accomplished their main objective for the weekend: getting off the schneid.
Who knows if a team capable of flipping the switch, like it did after that doubleheader sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals on Aug. 15, will blast off from here. But whatever comes next, having at least one slump-busting victory under their belts heading toward the postseason is vastly preferable to the alternative.
Earlier this year, the White Sox showed off their “firing on all cylinders” mode on a daily basis, but those memories were somewhat buried by the concerns of the past week. Saturday, they provided a bit of a reminder of why this team got this far in the first place. Whether it be Moncada’s home run, Luis Robert quietly filling up the stat sheet or Garrett Crochet looking like a super weapon out of the ‘pen, the White Sox flashed some potential for what things could look like starting next week if this is the spark that turns their fortunes around in a hurry.
“We know we have a very good team,” Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo. “We have confidence in ourselves, and every time we go out we're going to go out thinking we're going to win that game.”
That was the daily line the White Sox gave during their dominant days earlier in the season — not that it changed during this skid — and Saturday was a taste of those days again.
Of course, as McEwing pointed out, it’s accomplishing a bunch of short-term goals that lead up to the long-term goals, and the White Sox mission on the final day of the regular season now becomes making sure this wasn’t a one-night wonder. The best-of-three opening-round playoff series doesn’t leave much room for error, and if the bats go quiet again just because they’re no longer swinging against a left-handed starter, well that could be more than a little problematic.
But if you would have told this White Sox team before the season started that they’d have a chance to win the AL Central crown on the final day of the regular season and vault up to as high as the No. 2 seed in the AL playoff picture, they’d probably be pretty happy. Expectations change, as Lucas Giolito pointed out earlier this week, but that’s still a remarkable thing for the rebuilt White Sox.
“It would mean a lot for all of us that have been here for the last couple of years,” Moncada said of winning a division title. “It would be a really good stepping point for us for the next season because we have that foundation there.”
The White Sox didn’t go splat — though Wile E. Coyote’s falls always seemed to end in more of a poof, didn’t they? — and instead, they hit the trampoline. Now it’s time to find out if it propels them back into the stratosphere or just into the underside of a rock.
Because once Sunday’s game is over, that’s all, folks, when it comes to the regular season. Then, as Dallas Keuchel called them, “the real games” start.