The celebration on the field has been muted, in part because the Sox and Indians had Game 2 of their doubles program to play, but also because the White Sox have much bigger goals in mind. They made the playoffs as a wild card team in 2020, but lost in the first round.
“Last year left us with a bitter taste in our mouths so it was our turn to come back,” shortstop Tim Anderson said after the game. “And we did. “
Chicago lost to the Oakland Athletics in the first round, but then went out and signed A’s closest Liam Hendriks to a multi-year deal and traded for starter Lance Lynn, fortifying an already talented squad.
“This is the reason I came here,” said Hendriks. “A chance to win a division and a chance to make the playoffs. We complete this and now we have a chance to win a ring. “
This is the sixth divisional championship for the White Sox and the first since 2008. They are the first MLB team to win a division this season and make their first consecutive playoff appearances in franchise history.
“Everything for me is Fantasy Island,” manager Tony La Russa said. “Come back like this. We all know the truth. The first three jobs, the clubs were struggling when I took over. Managers don’t find themselves in a situation like this, with a team so ready to win. So I am very, very lucky. “
La Russa, 76, previously led the White Sox from 1979 to 1986 before stopping in Oakland and St. Louis where he won three combined World Series and reached the Hall of Fame. He came out of retirement last winter, after a decade of absence, to take over the team he first led 42 years ago.
“I absolutely felt he was the best guy for the job,” said Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the White Sox. “I never had the slightest doubt in my mind. It wasn’t like I hadn’t seen him for 10 years. I saw him, I spoke to him. I knew what he had left. What I wanted was someone who I thought could really handle the pitchers and could relate to the players and I knew Tony could do that. “
His players accepted.
“He came in and allowed us to be ourselves,” Anderson said. “He always says the players first. It allowed us to play the game as we would like and allowed us to have fun. “
The decisive victory came from the strength of four home runs, including two over the White Sox All-Star shortstop in the game’s opening two innings. Voltigeurs Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert had back-to-back home runs in the second set.
“The way I see it, it’s a special opportunity that this team has won in six months,” La Russa said before the game.
The White Sox will likely face the Houston Astros in the ALDS next month. Despite the division title, the White Sox weren’t as strong in the second half, posting a 32-31 record in Game 1 of the doubles program.
The theme of the White Sox season has been overcoming injury. They lost Jimenez, Robert and second baseman Nick Madrigal for long stretches, while Anderson was hampered by leg injuries throughout the second half.
Rookies and actors such as Andrew Vaughn, Gavin Sheets and Leury Garcia stepped in without wasting time.
“There were the first punches of losing Eloy and Luis,” said general manager Rick Hahn. “Quite soon after losing Luis we were able to win more than we lost and there was this attitude that we still have the horses to do it. “
The White Sox rocketed to first place in May behind the strength of their starting staff. All-stars Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon led a rotation that had the American League’s second-best ERA on Thursday. Chicago increased their enclosure on the trade deadline with the addition of all-star reliever Craig Kimbrel, although he struggled at times in a White Sox uniform.
A record of 19-10 May changed the trajectory of the AL plant.
Reigning AL MVP Jose Abreu was once again a force on the plate, completing 113 races as he tried to lead the league in RBI for the third consecutive season. He beats Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals by two in the category. La Russa will make the playoffs for the 15th time in their 35-year managerial career. The White Sox won the AL West by 20 games under La Russa in 1983.
“When it all works out we’ve turned out to be a really good ball club,” said Anderson. “We showed it today. “
Reinsdorf hopes the team will show more in the coming weeks.
“It’s always a great feeling to win something,” he said. “But this is just a step on our way to what we hope will be a bigger prize. ”