CHICAGO (AP) — It was a very bad day for the Chicago White Sox right up until AJ Pollock’s liner went off the glove of third baseman Ernie Clement and into left field.
Then it got a lot better.
Pollock hit a two-run single with two outs in the eighth inning, and the White Sox beat the Cleveland Guardians 5-4 on Saturday to salvage a split of their day-night doubleheader.
“Very tough, very gutty win for us,” manager Tony La Russa said.
Eloy Jiménez homered and Yoán Moncada drove in two runs as Chicago improved to 9-9 in a stretch of 19 straight games against AL Central opponents. The White Sox (47-48) won the division last year, but they are going to need a strong second half to secure a third straight postseason appearance.
Chicago blew a 3-0 lead in the second game, but Pollock’s bases-loaded single to left against Nick Sandlin drove in Andrew Vaughn and José Abreu. Clement tried to backhand Pollock’s hard-hit ball on one hop, but was unable to make the difficult stop.
Joe Kelly (1-2) got three outs for the win, and Matt Foster worked the ninth for his second career save.
“We’ve had a lot of teams sneak a couple wins on us late, so it was good to get one like that,” Pollock said.
Cleveland dropped to 8-10 during its major league-high nine doubleheaders. It is two games back of AL Central-leading Minnesota after the Twins won 8-4 at Detroit.
Bryan Shaw (4-2) was charged with two runs in 1 2/3 innings in the loss. The Guardians (48-45) got a runner to third in the ninth, but second baseman Josh Harrison snared Steven Kwan’s liner for the final out.
“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,” said Lance Lynn, who pitched six scoreless innings for Chicago in the second game.
Cleveland stretched its win streak to five with a 7-4 victory in the opener. Josh Naylor snapped a ninth-inning tie with a pinch-hit single. Kwan had three hits and José Ramírez drove in two runs with a pair of sacrifice flies.
Rookie Nolan Jones doubled to begin the ninth and Naylor, batting for catcher Austin Hedges, gave Cleveland a 5-4 lead when he singled to center against All-Star closer Liam Hendriks (1-3). Kwan singled in pinch-runner Alex Call and scored on Ramírez’s flyball.
“Nobody has to do more than they need to. Everybody kind of does their job, does their role,” Kwan said. “Obviously Nolan leads off, has a great at-bat and gives us a chance. It’s just nice to be able to rely on guys and not feel like you got to do everything on your own.”
Trevor Stephan (4-3) got four outs for the win, and Emmanuel Clase pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 20th save.
Naylor went 0 for 4 in the second game, but he is batting .359 (14 for 39) with three homers and 16 RBIs against Chicago this year.
Yasmani Grandal had three of Chicago’s 11 hits in the opener in his second game back after being sidelined by lower back spasms. Johnny Cueto was charged with four runs, three earned, and eight hits in seven innings.
“We had three chances to get the go-ahead run, and they were able to make pitches three times,” La Russa said. “It would be nice to play with the lead, see what happens. But that’s not the way it played out.”
Cleveland nearly wasted another solid effort by Triston McKenzie, who pitched 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball despite feeling a little queasy before the game. The wiry right-hander had a scoreless streak of 24 innings before Grandal’s two-out RBI single in the fourth.
McKenzie was in line for his first win against Chicago before Cleveland’s bullpen faltered. He was 0-2 with an 8.63 ERA in seven career appearances against the White Sox coming into the day.
“We’re never scared to give up runs or be in a tie game going into a late ballgame because we know that we have the confidence as a team to string together some hits and put some runs on the board,” McKenzie said.
Ramírez’s two sacrifice flies in the opener gave Cleveland 35 this season, tops in the AL and matching its 35 sacrifice flies from all of last season.
The White Sox signed Noah Schultz to a minor league contract with a $2.8 million signing bonus after selecting the high school left-hander with the No. 26 pick in the 2022 amateur draft. The slot value on the pick was $2,789,400.
Right-handers Shane Bieber (4-5, 3.24 ERA) and Dylan Cease (9-4, 2.15 ERA) meet in the series finale Sunday. Bieber tossed a three-hitter in a 4-1 victory over the White Sox in his last start on July 12. Cease is in the middle of a breakout season for Chicago, going 5-1 with a sparkling 0.65 ERA in his last seven starts.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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