MINNEAPOLIS — The Chicago White Sox initiated a teardown a little more than three years ago, rebuilding through trades that fetched rising stars like Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jiménez and Yoán Moncada.
The most impactful move of all might have been signing Luis Robert.
The Cuban rookie hit a tying homer in the seventh inning and the go-ahead double in the ninth, and the White Sox took the AL Central lead into September by rallying past the skidding Minnesota Twins 8-5 on Monday night.
“It’s incredible, the vibe that you have when you’re able to respond in those situations,” the 23-year-old Robert said through a translator. “It is a fun moment for us. We’re enjoying the good times. It’s a good atmosphere in the clubhouse.”
The White Sox are in sole possession of first place for the first time since April 2, 2018, leading Cleveland (21-14) and Minnesota (20-16). The last time Chicago entered September alone in first place was 2012, the last winning season on the south side. The White Sox have not won the division since 2008.
“It’s what we’ve been waiting for, man. It’s been a lot of losing baseball the last few years. We knew what we were capable of,” Giolito said.
The afterglow from Giolito's no-hitter faded fast, as the right-hander fell behind 4-0 in his follow-up start, but the White Sox (22-13) surged back to win for the 12th time in 14 games.
Miguel Sanó homered and scored three runs for the Twins, who have lost six straight games.
“We got Giolito out of the game. That’s a good thing. That’s what we’re aiming for,” manager Rocco Baldelli said, “and then it seemingly unraveled at a certain point. We need to be able to stop that.”
José Abreu tied it with a two-run double off Tyler Clippard in the sixth before Jake Cave's RBI single in the bottom of the inning pushed the Twins back in front.
The dynamic Robert responded with his 10th homer, a soaring drive that cleared the juniper wall beyond centre field off Trevor May. With Twins closer Taylor Rogers (1-3) in for the ninth, right fielder Max Kepler dropped a lazy fly ball for a devastating one-out error. Robert put the White Sox ahead two batters later. Nomar Mazara tacked on a two-run single.
Matt Foster (4-0) pitched a perfect eighth for the win. Alex Colomé picked up his seventh save.
“With the offence that we have, I know that if I give up three or four runs early, we’re still in the game,” Giolito said.
Robert, who signed a $50 million contract in January to record the largest deal in major league history for a player with no service time, has 24 RBIs in 33 games with a .960 OPS.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch him work,” said Giolito, who grinned his way through his postgame video conference interview.
The White Sox improved to 11-0 against left-handed starters, even though Rich Hill left with the lead. He walked three straight batters to start a fourth inning he didn’t finish.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” Hill said.
After a bases-loaded line drive died in front of Luis Arraez and fell out of his glove, the second baseman flipped the ball to shortstop Jorge Polanco on the bag for one out. Polanco threw to first instead of home, where another out could have been recorded. Adam Engel then ripped a two-run single to cut Minnesota’s lead in half.
The Twins reached a third straight day in third place, their longest consecutive stay there since July 2-4, 2018. The defending division champions dropped to third on Saturday, the lowest they’d fallen since April 10, 2019.
Giolito, who no-hit Pittsburgh last week with his second straight 13-strikeout performance, gave up his first hit five batters in. He struck out eight in five innings, with two of four runs unearned.
Sanó singled and advanced after the first of three White Sox errors in a three-run second inning for Minnesota. After Arraez's RBI single, Nick Madrigal's wide throw past second base not only ruined the double play attempt but allowed Arraez to race home for a 3-0 lead.
Sanó homered in the third, giving him eight home runs and 19 RBIs in 20 games against the White Sox since the start of last season. In the burly first baseman’s last 12 games overall, he’s batting .366 (15 for 41) with 11 runs, six doubles, three homers and seven RBIs.
Neither team struck any deals on trade deadline day, and each side expressed plenty of confidence its roster as currently constructed can be a post-season force. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn met with several veteran players and club leadership to assess the chemistry and trajectory. There's collective excitement about the exposure of the young core to a pennant race.
The Twins weren't tempted to part with prospects for rentals, either, with several sidelined players — starting pitchers Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi and Homer Bailey, centre fielder Byron Buxton, third baseman Josh Donaldson and catcher Mitch Garver — expected back in September.
White Sox: Moncada missed a second straight game with discomfort in the back of his left leg, from running the bases on Saturday. 2B/3B Yolmer Sánchez was added to the roster, returning to his original club. The 2019 Gold Glove winner was recently released by San Francisco.
Twins: Buxton (left shoulder inflammation) and Donaldson (strained right calf) played in an intrasquad game at the alternate training site. Both are expected to return this week.
White Sox: LHP Dallas Keuchel (5-2, 2.70 ERA) takes the mound for the middle game of the series. He has allowed two runs or fewer in six of his seven turns and just three in the other one.
Twins: Pineda will come off the restricted list to pitch Tuesday for the first time in 361 days, his 60-game suspension for testing positive for a banned diuretic finally finished. The right-hander went 11-5 with a 4.01 ERA in 26 starts last season.
More AP MLB coverage: https://apnews.com/MLB