If the bottom of the ninth of the Chicago White Sox-Minnesota Twins game Friday is an indication, the American League Central race is headed for a wild finish.
- The benches cleared after Andrew Vaughn was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
- Sox acting manager Miguel Cairo was ejected after arguing about warnings being issued to both teams.
- A video review overturned what would have been a game-ending hit by pitch with the bases loaded and José Abreu up.
- And the winning run scoring when the Twins couldn’t complete a double play on an Abreu grounder after pitcher Jorge López deflected the ball.
Romy Gonzalez scored on the fielder’s choice to give the Sox a 4-3 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“I’ve been telling guys if this is anything like playoff atmosphere, that’s the (most fun) thing I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Sox pitcher Davis Martin said Friday after throwing five scoreless relief innings. “That kind of energy is what we need day in and day out.”
The Sox and Twins are chasing the Cleveland Guardians for the top spot in the division. Entering Saturday, the Guardians held a one-game lead over the Twins and a three-game edge over the Sox.
“They’ve been playing hard, playing with passion,” Cairo said of the Sox before Saturday’s game against the Twins. “They go out there and do there thing, the way it’s supposed to be done. Just got to keep going. It’s not the way you start, it’s the way you finish.”
With just more than four weeks remaining in the regular season, here is the state of the race.
The Sox and Twins wrap up their three-game series Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field with Lucas Giolito and Dylan Bundy scheduled to start.
But the teams will see plenty of each other in the last month of the season.
The Sox go to Target Field for three games Sept. 27-29, and the teams wrap up the regular season Oct. 3-5 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Twins entered Saturday with a 6-5 edge in the season series, but Friday’s victory was the fifth Sox win the last six meetings.
The Sox have four games remaining with the Guardians: a Sept. 15 makeup at Progressive Field and three at Guaranteed Rate Field from Sept. 20-22. The Guardians hold a 9-6 lead in the season series, with the teams splitting the six games since the All-Star break.
The Sept. 15 game begins a stretch of nine straight either against the Sox (four) or Twins (five) for the Guardians.
The Twins and Guardians have eight meetings remaining, starting with three next weekend at Target Field. They play five games in four days from Sept. 16-19 at Progressive Field with a doubleheader scheduled for Sept. 17.
The Guardians have a 6-5 lead in the season series, but the teams haven’t played since June 27-30 when the hosts won three of five at Progressive Field.
Intriguing non-divisional series
The Sox beat the Mariners 3-2 in their home opener April 12 on the way to taking two of three in the series. The teams begin a three-game series Monday at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
Lance Lynn and Johnny Cueto are the scheduled Sox starters for the first two games, with Wednesday’s starter to be announced.
Any way you slice it, the Mariners have been doing a lot of winning lately. They were 7-1 in their last eight, 12-4 in their last 16, 19-9 in their last 28, 37-16 in their last 53, 40-17 in their last 57, 45-19 in their last 64 and 53-29 in their last 82 games entering Saturday.
The Mariners, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2001, were tied with the Rays for the top AL wild-card spot entering Saturday.
After the Sox series, the Twins go to New York for four against the Yankees from Monday-Thursday. While they still lead the AL East, the Yankees are 15-25 since the All-Star break. The entered Saturday with five losses in six games.
The Guardians have been on a similar slide, losing six of eight entering Saturday during a stretch against the Mariners and Baltimore Orioles, both wild-card contenders. And the Guardians placed starter Zach Plesac on the injured list Friday with a broken hand.
The Guardians wrap up a three-game home series against the Mariners on Sunday and they’ll see another contender Sept. 27-29 with three at home against the Rays.
Winners of 15 of their last 19, the Rays hold one of the wild-card spots and are making a push in the AL East, trailing the Yankees by five games.
Down the stretch
The Sox play the Twins in six of the last nine regular-season games. In between the two three-game series, they go to San Diego for three against the Padres from Sept. 30-Oct. 2.
The Padres are fighting for a National League wild-card spot. They made big splashes at the trade deadline, including acquiring star outfielder Juan Soto from the Washington Nationals. Soto is slashing .250/.417/.417 in 24 games since the deal.
In between the two series against the Sox, the Twins have three against the Tigers in Detroit from Sept. 30-Oct. 2. The Twins are 10-6 against the Tigers this season.
The Guardians have the oddest schedule, finishing with six at home against the Kansas City Royals from Sept 30-Oct. 5. The Guardians hold a 6-4 edge in the season series, with three games Monday-Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo., before the six in Cleveland.
“We need to keep moving forward,” Abreu said Friday through an interpreter. “The past is already the past. If there are 30 games left, we have to do our best. We have to be united. It’s not easy for us. We are dealing with a lot of injuries. It doesn’t matter, we have to keep moving forward and keep believing in ourselves and keep playing as a unit.”