The Journal Gazette
Friday, September 24, 2021 1:00 am

Chicago 7-3 Cleveland 2-5

White Sox clinch AL Central crown

2 straight playoff trips 1st time ever for team

BRIAN DULIK | Associated Press

CLEVELAND – Tony La Russa stood in the dugout, soaking in the moment as the Chicago White Sox celebrated winning their first AL Central title since 2008.

The Hall of Fame manager came out of retirement for moments like this, but it was still hard for him to believe it was real. The White Sox clinched the division with a 7-2 win over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday in the opener of a doubleheader split that ended with a 5-3 loss.

“It's like fantasy island because you never thought you'd have this chance – and here we are, the division champions,” La Russa said. “I'm glad the guys were able to win the first game today and not delay it. They did it the first time they had the chance to.”

Chicago, a wild-card team last year, is going to the postseason in consecutive years for the first time. The White Sox are in their first season under La Russa, who will turn 77 on Oct. 4.

La Russa had retired after guiding St. Louis to the 2011 World Series title and was hired to replace Rick Renteria last October.

“I think we got the right guy,” said shortstop Tim Anderson, who homered twice in the opener.

“I'm pleased with the way he's handled everything and been part of the family. It's a blessing to go out and be able to clinch it today,” he added.

Chicago (86-67) moved into first place for good May 7. The White Sox have not advanced in the postseason since winning the 2005 World Series and last hosted a playoff game 13 years ago.

Anderson hit his fifth leadoff home run of the season and added a three-run drive in the second for his sixth career multihomer game. Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez hit consecutive homers in the second as Chicago grabbed a 7-0 lead off Aaron Civale (11-5).

“We wanted it a lot more than they did and we jumped on them,” Anderson said.

“It was an exciting moment, being able to put your team up right away, and I appreciated the chance to do it,” he added.

Aaron Bummer (4-5) retired all three batters in the fifth as four White Sox relievers combined for 32/3 scoreless innings in a game shortened to seven innings under pandemic rules.

Closer Liam Hendriks struck out Myles Straw to end the game, setting off a celebration in front of the visiting dugout that featured players saluting the several hundred White Sox fans at Progressive Field.

“This is the first time the White Sox have gone to the playoffs two years in a row, which blows my mind, by the way,” Hendriks said.

“Winning the division is the first step. No matter what, we want to win our last game this year. That's the goal,” he added.

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