AJ Pollock hit a long fly down the left-field line.
For a moment, it looked as if the Chicago White Sox were going to take the lead in the eighth inning of Game 1 of a split doubleheader against the Cleveland Guardians.
But the ball kept hooking and landed foul. Just the way things have gone for the Sox for parts of this season.
The Sox did not score in the eighth and the game remained tied. The Guardians broke through with three in the ninth against closer Liam Hendriks and won 7-4 in front of 18,518 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Sox followed up what manager Tony La Russa described as a “tough loss” with what he called a “very gutty win.”
And it was Pollock who came through with the late hit in Game 2, leading the Sox to a 5-4 win for a split.
His hard-hit grounder bounced off the glove of third baseman Ernie Clement and into left field for a two-run single in the eighth, giving the Sox the lead.
“I was just trying to hit a line drive through the middle of the field,” Pollock said. “(Cleveland reliever Nick Sandlin’s) got that Frisbee slider. He’s pretty tough on righties. I just was trying to stay on it as long as I can.
“Pulled it down the line, but the mechanics were holding enough so that I could do something, hit a ball decent and give myself a chance, and it ended up working out.”
The Sox found a way to rally and earn a split of the doubleheader after nearly wasting a strong outing by Lance Lynn.
Lynn allowed three hits, struck out six and walked one in six scoreless innings. It was his best performance of the season. He had an 8.10 ERA in his previous five starts.
“The things I’ve been working on are starting to click, and that’s all you can do,” Lynn said. “You’ve got to keep working in between starts. Hopefully that’s a good (outing to) get my legs under me for the second half here and help us win ballgames.
“I had the break to get my legs under me with coming back and doing the things that we have been working on. And then just able to hone in on what we needed to, some mechanical stuff, and now everything’s just kind of go out there and pitch.”
The Sox led 3-0 going to seventh behind Yoán Moncada’s two RBIs — a bases-loaded walk in the third and an RBI single in the fifth — and Eloy Jiménez’s solo home run in the sixth.
But the Guardians scored four runs in the seventh.
Clement hit an RBI single and Myles Straw had a two-out triple to right against reliever José Ruiz to bring the Guardians within a run.
Steven Kwan tied the game with a single against Reynaldo López and scored the go-ahead run on Amed Rosario’s triple.
The Sox loaded the bases with two outs in the eight. Sandlin entered to face Pollock, who delivered the hit the Sox desperately needed.
“They knew it was a one-run game and we had a shot,” La Russa said. “They made it happen.”
The Guardians had the tying run on third with two outs in the ninth, but Kwan lined out to second baseman Josh Harrison.
“His toughness matches his talent,” La Russa said of Matt Foster, who picked up the save.
Saturday’s opener also had its ups and mostly downs for the Sox.
The Sox fell behind 4-1 before tying the game with three in the seventh.
Nolan Jones began the ninth with a hustle double, making it to second ahead of the throw from right fielder Gavin Sheets. Jones advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Josh Naylor’s single to center. That snapped Hendriks’ streak of 15⅓ scoreless innings.
Kwan hit an RBI single to left, and the final run scored on José Ramírez’s sacrifice fly to right.
“They attack,” La Russa said. “They had pitches to hit and they didn’t miss them. That’s what they did to (Sox starter Johnny Cueto) as well, that’s how they play.”
Cueto allowed four runs, three earned, on eight hits in seven innings. All four came in the fifth.
Kwan tied the game at 1 with a one-out double to left, and Andrés Giménez brought in two with a single to right. Sheets’ throw to the plate bounced past catcher Seby Zavala, and Giménez advanced to third on the error and scored on Ramírez’s sac fly.
“Just bad luck,” Cueto said of the fifth. “I started that inning giving up a walk (to Jones) and then a hit by pitch to the catcher (Austin Hedges), and that rolled over.”
The Sox had five consecutive hits in the seventh as they tied the game.
Harrison and Moncada both drove in one run against reliever Eli Morgan to bring the Sox within a run. Andrew Vaughn tied the game with an RBI single against reliever Trevor Stephan.
José Abreu singled to right and Yasmani Grandal, who had three hits, reached on an infield hit to load the bases with two outs. Stephan struck out Sheets to end the rally.
Zavala singled to begin the eighth and moved to second on Leury García’s bunt. Pollock hit the long, loud foul ball against Stephan during his at-bat, which ended in a strikeout. Harrison grounded out to second.
“We had three chances to get the go-ahead run, and they were able to make pitches,” La Russa said. “It would be nice to play with the lead, see what happens. But that’s not the way it played out.”
What played out in Game 2 was timely hitting for the Sox, who have a shot at salvaging a series split with Dylan Cease on the mound Sunday against Shane Bieber.
“When you’re up the whole game and then give it up right there, it’s easy to roll over and give up,” Lynn said. “That’s something that we’re not going to do. Obviously it hasn’t been our year so far, but there’s still some games left, there’s still some things we’re capable of doing.”