“No doubt it was a big series,” Cruz said. “It was tough. I guess they showed they are definitely a better team than us. They did a lot of things better. They pitched. They hit in the clutch.”
It was complete domination against a Twins team that wanted to use the series as a springboard to get rolling and rise up the AL Central standings. Instead, Chicago won 8-5 on Thursday to take all three games and move 14 ½ games ahead of the Twins in the AL Central standings. The White Sox batted .356 in the series and are 8-1 against the Twins this season, outscoring them 76-37.
This series will be remembered as the latest stop on the Josh Donaldson Spin Rate Awareness Tour, as he attempted to prove a point about Chicago ace Lucas Giolito and his possible connection to illegal substances used to help him better grip the ball.
The real point that was made, though: The Twins just aren’t ready for prime time.
Not with this pitching staff. Not with these lapses in offense. Not with poor defense and baserunning. Their pitching isn’t good enough to cover up those issues, which makes going on an extended winning streak impossible.
Cruz didn’t hide from that when asked what needs to change. Read this carefully, because hitters and pitchers usually stay in their own lanes.
“Well, just do the little things. Especially the pitching,” Cruz said after Thursday’s loss ruined his 41st birthday. “We have to do a better job in situations. We need to shut down the opposition from scoring and try to shut them down, and that’s how you win ballgames. Pitching. That’s where we need to improve.”
It’s unlikely this will rankle the clubhouse. It’s just fact. The Twins entered the game with a 5.00 ERA that was 27th in baseball.
Thursday offered the Twins a chance to salvage the series finale with staff ace Jose Berrios on the mound. But he struggled in the first inning before giving up a leadoff home run to Brian Goodwin in the second. Something was off, and the numbers showed it.
In five innings, Berrios gave up 10 hits. He failed to strike out a single batter for the first time since April 29, 2018. He got swings and misses on only five of the 89 pitches he threw. The White Sox had five lefthanded hitters in the lineup, knowing that opponents have a robust .870 on base-plus-slugging percentage against Berrios from that side (as opposed to .476 for righthanded hitters).
And — you can draw your own conclusions here — Berrios’ spin rates were below his season average.
But the Twins were in a 4-4 game. Chicago had scored twice in the second to take a 3-0 lead before the Twins scored four off Carlos Rodon in the fifth. The White Sox tied the game in the bottom of the inning with a sacrifice fly.
Berrios was battling. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli decided to go to his fresh bullpen in the sixth inning and, like so many times this season, the results were immediately awful.
Ninth-place hitter Zack Collins greeted Jorge Alcala with a home run off a fastball to give the White Sox a 5-4 lead. Billy Hamilton doubled, stole third — because Donaldson missed the tag — then scored on Jose Abreu’s sacrifice fly for a 6-4 lead. It was the third sacrifice fly of the game for Chicago.
Chicago added two more runs in the seventh and cruised to the win.
Berrios at 80% still might be better than some of Baldelli’s relief options. Keeping games close and converting saves has been an issue all season.
The sweep leaves the Twins 13 games out of the wild card as they head to Kansas City. If you’re still wondering about the postseason after this, be thinking 2022. It’s more realistic.