The Chicago White Sox were in third place in the American League Central when they began a stretch of 19 straight games against sub-.500 teams July 26 in Colorado.
The Sox trailed the division leaders, at that time the Minnesota Twins, by four games and were 48-48.
The string wrapped up Sunday, and while they didn’t take full advantage by going on a tear, the Sox are tied for second in the Central with the Twins — 2½ games behind the first-place Cleveland Guardians — after defeating the Detroit Tigers 5-3 in front of 32,154 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Sox completed a three-game sweep of the Tigers and are three games over .500 (59-56) for the first time since they were 6-3 on April 17.
“It was a good sweep for us,” Sox starter Lance Lynn said. “We have to start winning games, we have to start winning series and then we can sweep the team, especially with the team coming in (the Houston Astros). Hopefully we can keep riding high.
“We have a good team coming in this week, so we have to keep playing good baseball.”
The Sox went 11-8 against the Colorado Rockies (1-1), Oakland Athletics (2-1), Kansas City Royals (3-4), Texas Rangers (2-2) and Tigers (3-0). With Sunday’s win, the Sox swept a home series for the first time this season.
“We got results for our effort,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said of the series. “There are times it’s been frustrating because the ball has been hit hard, but we hung with it. We hang with it very well. Hopefully we get rewarded.”
There were some injury hurdles during the 19-game stretch. The Sox lost shortstop Tim Anderson for about six weeks with a sagittal band tear on his left middle finger and played the final two games of the Tigers series without center fielder Luis Robert, who left Friday’s game with a sprained left wrist.
“He’s improved,” La Russa said of Robert. “And we just have to wait until Monday to see. He feels better. He did more work with it. If it’s not (Monday), it should be soon after.”
AJ Pollock, inserted in the leadoff spot with Anderson out and playing center field with Robert sidelined, got the offense rolling with a solo homer in the third to cut a deficit to 2-1.
“You look at his credentials,” La Russa said of Pollock. “He’s a quality big-league hitter and big-league defender. He saw the need when Tim was missing. If he had to hit second, third or fourth, he’d do that too.”
Pollock doubled leading off the fifth and scored the tying run on a double by Eloy Jiménez. José Abreu singled, giving the Sox runners on the corners with one out.
Tigers starter Tyler Alexander appeared to get out of the inning when Andrew Vaughn hit a grounder to short. Vaughn tossed his helmet after crossing first base, thinking the Tigers completed an inning-ending double play.
“I was running as fast as I could,” Vaughn said. “Just trying to beat it out and didn’t think I did.”
But Kody Clemens didn’t hold on to Willi Castro’s throw to first. Jiménez scored on the play, putting the Sox ahead 3-2.
Vaughn added a solo home run as part of a two-run eighth.
In addition to the timely offense, the Sox got solid pitching from Lynn, Jimmy Lambert, Jake Diekman and Kendall Graveman.
Lynn allowed two runs on five hits with seven strikeouts in six innings.
“We won the game, so that’s all that matters,” he said.
He kept the focus on the offense.
“Offense keeps doing their thing,” Lynn said. “Starting to put some things together, especially with runners in scoring position, and getting that big hit. It’s part of the gig. We just have to keep going and hopefully make a run at this.
“We have a tough opponent this week. They are a playoff team and we just have to go in and keep putting quality at-bats and make quality pitches and see what happens.”
Vaughn referenced starting pitcher Johnny Cueto’s “we need to show the fire that we have — if we have any,” statement Wednesday in Kansas City while assessing the weekend for the Sox.
“Johnny said it best: ‘I want some more fire,’” Vaughn said. “We got some fire. It was good.”