Chicago White Sox’s Leury Garcia (28) and Adam Engel (15) celebrate with Andrew Vaughn after Vaughn’s home run off Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Robbie Ray during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) | AP Photos
Andrew Vaughn hits tying homer, starts five-run eighth with sacrifice fly
Bring it, manager Tony La Russa said.
The White Sox opened a three-game series against the Jays Tuesday night, the beginning of a 13-game stretch over 13 days that includes one team with a losing record — the Tigers — to be played at Detroit this weekend.
After that, the Sox host the Rays (39-23) and play four games in Houston against the Astros (34-26).
It should be a good test, starting with the Jays, whom the Sox took care of in a 6-1 victory.
“They’re one of the top-hitting clubs in baseball, lots of talent up and down the lineup,” La Russa said. “We don’t concede anything, our lineup has tough outs up and down, too. Other than Detroit this weekend, for two weeks it’s going to be American League East with Tampa Bay and the West with Houston. If you like competition you’re going to like what goes on the next two weeks.”
In former Sox Marcus Semien, Teoscar Hernandez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Jays had three of the AL’s top four leaders in hits and average and in Guerrero baseball’s leader in home runs, on-base percentage, OPS and total bases and the AL leader in average and slugging. Left-hander Carlos Rodon held the Jays to one run over five innings and Jose Ruiz, Evan Marshall, Garrett Crochet and Liam Hendriks teamed up for four scoreless innings of relief.
“They have a lot of life in their bats and they’ve got some speed,” La Russa said. “I like to look at it as, yeah, they’re tough to play against but we hope they think we’re tough to play against as well.”
Andrew Vaughn tied a tight game at 1-1 with a bases-empty homer against an otherwise dominant Jays lefty Robbie Ray (13 strikeouts) in the seventh, and Vaughn’s sacrifice fly started a five-run barrage in the eighth against the Rays bullpen. Jose Abreu and Yermin Mercedes started it with singles and pinch hitter Adam Eaton (RBI single), Leury Garcia (two-run triple) and Tim Anderson piled on more runs than were needed.
The Sox will be in first place for the 35th day this season Wednesday — every day since May 7 — their most in one season since 2012 when they led for 126 days. The four-game lead they took into Tuesday was the largest in baseball.
Rodon, who started Tuesday on seven days rest, is one-fifth of a stout starting rotation that has had as much to do with the Sox success as anything. He struck out eight, working out of trouble in the first, third and fifth innings, needing 106 pitches to get through it.
“It was an amazing five innings keeping us in the game,” La Russa said. “He refused to give in.”
Rodon said he has been knocked out in the second inning on such nights in past but this is shaping up as a special season for him.
“I had good stuff and good life on the fastball,” he said. “That’s a good hitting team, an impressive young group.”
Impressive is what the rotation led by Rodon (1.96 ERA), Wednesday starter Lance Lynn (6-0, 1.38 ERA over last seven starts), Dallas Keuchel, Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease has been. Sox starters led the AL with a 3.04 ERA and has allowed two runs or less in 39 of 60 games, tied with the Rays for the most in the AL.
Wanting to trumpet the “heart and guts” of his players, La Russa wasn’t ready to call the rotation the backbone of this team, although he could have.
“How many backbones can you have?” he said.
“I agree, when you have a starter every day that gives you a shot but some of the worst games you lose [are when] the bullpen gives it up. So you’ve got to have the backbone of the bullpen. I’m not being glib, I’m just telling you. If you want to have a special year, you want to have a chance for October, all those things have to be in place. There’s a number of backbones.”