On a night when the Minnesota Twins pulled off the first 8-5 triple play in major-league history and manager Tony La Russa earned his first ejection of the season, the Chicago White Sox fell 6-3 in 10 innings before a raucous crowd of 32.483 on the South Side.
The Twins pulled 5½ games ahead of the third-place Sox in the first of seven crucial games before the All-Star break between the American League Central rivals.
The Twins scored four runs off Joe Kelly in the 10th, sending most of the crowd to the exits.
“Our goal is to win,” Sox first baseman José Abreu said. “If we win, we’re going to be in a good spot. That’s our purpose. That’s what we try to accomplish every day. If we do that at the end of this stretch, we’ll be in a good position. If not, we’ll assess and see where we are after that.”
The Sox took a quick lead when Abreu homered off Dylan Bundy in the second. Johnny Cueto was in command until giving up a double to Luis Arraez and a two-run homer to Byron Buxton on back-to-back pitches in the fifth.
After Abreu doubled against Griffin Jax leading off the seventh, Yoán Moncada’s single tied the game at 2-2, setting up one of the craziest triple plays you’ll ever see.
AJ Pollock lined a shot to deep center, which Buxton caught on the run near the wall. Both runners — Moncada and pinch runner Adam Engel — took off on the liner and had no chance of getting back to their bases. Buxton wheeled and threw to third baseman Gio Urshela, who tagged Moncada between second and third, then touched second to retire Engel for the 8-5 triple play.
La Russa’s jaw literally dropped after watching the play unfold.
“Never seen one like it,” he said. “Potential difference maker at that point. Yoán was really aggressive, which is not the worst thing you can do when you play this game. Judgment was wrong and costly.”
Engel said “everyone did the right thing but me” on the play.
“I just made a bad read on it,” he said. “Obviously was watching (Buxton). He took his head off the ball to find the wall and when he looked toward the wall, I thought he was looking for the ball to get down and (I) made a bad play, made a mistake on it. And unfortunately cost us some runs right there most likely and probably would’ve gone on to win the game. It was tough. My mistake.”
Engel completed Moncada, saying he probably saw Engel take off early and just followed him.
“It was a big momentum shift in the game,” Engel said.
It was the Twins’ first triple play since June 6, 2021, in Kansas City and the first triple play the Sox hit into since May 21, 2021, against the New York Yankees.
La Russa employed closer Liam Hendriks, in his return from the injured list, in the eighth inning of a tie game. Hendriks struck out the side before Kendall Graveman pitched a scoreless ninth.
“He was going to pitch once in the next two days,” La Russa said of using Hendriks early. “And we were all excited to get him out there in the eighth, gives you a great chance to win. It looked for a minute like there was going to be a kind of a Hollywood ending. He was going to pitch and that was to me the time to use him. Get his inning in while we had a chance to win.”
But there would be no Hollywood ending for the Sox, as Kelly imploded in the 10th.
The Twins took the lead on Arraez’s hard single that went through Kelly, bringing home the ghost runner. La Russa was ejected for arguing a called ball, and though he was not in the dugout, the “Fire Tony” chant erupted after Kelly issued two walks to load the bases.
Jorge Polanco’s sacrifice fly made it 4-2 before Alex Kirilloff chased Kelly with a two-run single that broke the game open.
“Ultimately it’s just pitching (bleep),” Kelly said. “I couldn’t locate pretty much any pitch.”
The Twins are now 4-0 against the Sox and look like a team that doesn’t intend on letting them back into the race.
“At any moment the coin can flip to our favor and we can start winning games against them,” Abreu said. “And that’s going to be our purpose (Tuesday), try to do our best and win our best and who knows? Maybe that will start a stretch of winning games against them.”