CHICAGO — Billy Hamilton stepped to the plate in the eighth inning of a thrilling 9-5 comeback victory for the White Sox over the Twins Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field with the go-ahead runner on second and two outs in the frame.
The veteran outfielder admittedly needed a moment to calm his nerves before delivering a first-pitch, game-winning single to left off closer Hansel Robles, scoring Zack Collins.
“I kind of get a little antsy and want to do too much,” said Hamilton after the White Sox won for the ninth time in 11 games. “I was just like ‘Calm down and just get a nice little base hit.’ That whole inning, the guys never give up.
“One thing about this team, you get a chance, we go down, and guys are like ‘OK. It’s OK. We’ll come back in the eighth inning and get a chance to win the game.’ We did that. I love it.”
This five-run eighth inning for the White Sox (58-37) served as a microcosm of this season for a team now leading the American League Central by 9 1/2 games over the Indians. The sum of the team’s whole parts always has been greater than any individual.
Adam Engel and Collins drew one-out walks off reliever Jorge Alcala (2-4), and Andrew Vaughn came through with a pinch-hit single to center to tie the game. Despite getting a great read off the bat, Engel beat the throw home with a perfect slide to get the plate before Mitch Garver’s tag.
“What an athlete,” said White Sox manager Tony La Russa of Engel. “He read the ball with a late jump and he went to that other gear. He’s so athletic. Amazing. That’s what he is. He’s just a great athlete who plays baseball.”
Vaughn, who hit for catcher Seby Zavala, heard the crowd’s loud reaction as soon as he came out of the dugout.
“I definitely felt it,” Vaughn said. “It was one of those you could hear, but also kind of shakes you a little bit because it’s so loud. It was a dang cool feeling.”
But it was José Abreu who put the finishing touches on a 12th win in 15 games against the Twins (40-55), launching a three-run home run to left off Robles and producing a reaction from the crowd on impact usually saved for the postseason. Abreu drove in four and finished a single short of the cycle, giving him 75 RBIs for the season.
Yoán Moncada finished a triple shy of the cycle. He homered in the third off Bailey Ober, marking his third homer in four games, while the switch-hitter also had multiple extra-base hits in a game for the first time this season.
Moncada’s blast looked as if it would provide the margin of victory, but the Twins rallied for two in the top of the eighth off Ryan Burr (2-0) via a two-run home run from Jorge Polanco. With a runner on second and nobody out in the eighth, the right-hander managed to keep the Twins from doing any further damage.
“Yeah, I mean the White Sox have found a way to get things done all year long and they’ve lost some players too,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “They’ve lost some good players and they’ve replaced them and brought other guys in and they have a lot working for them right now. They’re playing with confidence. They look like they believe they’re in every game.”
“When you’re fighting from pitch one to the last out, a lot of times some special moments, some magic moments happen,” said White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel, who allowed two runs over five innings. “And we’re not even near 100 percent health. To keep doing this against some quality hitters and a quality lineup like the Twins have is kind of remarkable.”
With left fielder Eloy Jiménez and center fielder Luis Robert on their respective Minor League injury rehabs, it’s uplifting for the White Sox and a little daunting for the opposition to think this team will get even stronger soon. But even without that talented duo, or catcher Yasmani Grandal, or second baseman Nick Madrigal, something special appears to be transpiring on the South Side.
“Ever since that first Friday game back [from the All-Star break], it’s kind of been more electric, and that’s what we want,” Keuchel said. “We’re going to keep playing well, and hopefully we can get some more rowdy fans like that.”
“There’s something about this team,” Hamilton said. “We have a lot of fight, and it’s exciting to be a part of it. We have a long way to go, but with the way we are going, it’s looking good. Keep getting better every day.”