It's a wrap: White Sox pound Indians to clinch AL Central

  • The White Sox celebrate after clinching the American League title after defeating the Cleveland Indians 7-2 in the first baseball game of a doubleheader, Thursday.

    The White Sox celebrate after clinching the American League title after defeating the Cleveland Indians 7-2 in the first baseball game of a doubleheader, Thursday. Associated Press

  • The White Sox's Tim Anderson celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the first inning that helped pave the way to a 7-2 win Thursday at Cleveland that clinched the AL Central for the Sox.

    The White Sox's Tim Anderson celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the first inning that helped pave the way to a 7-2 win Thursday at Cleveland that clinched the AL Central for the Sox. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 9/23/2021 8:16 PM

It was a gray, cold day in Cleveland on Thursday.

The White Sox greeted it sunny-side up.

 

"It's one of those days you long for," manager Tony La Russa said. "You wake up in the morning and you know if things work you can be some type of champion. This is a great day to be a White Sox player."

Playing a doubleheader against the Indians at Progressive Field and needing a win to clinch first place in the AL Central for the first time since 2008, the Sox wasted little time pouncing on a playoff berth.

"I just appreciated the fact they were so ready to play," La Russa said.

Right off the bat, the White Sox took control of the game.

In a 7-2 win that sealed a postseason trip for the second straight year -- a first in franchise history -- Tim Anderson led off the game with a home run.

Anderson added a 3-run shot in the second inning, when the Sox sent 11 hitters to the plate against Indians starter Aaron Civale and reliever J.C. Mejia and broke the game open with 6 runs on 6 hits, including back-to-back solo homers from Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez.

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"That's just an exciting moment, to be able to put your team up," Anderson said. "We came out today and played some pretty good baseball and I think we showed people why we continue to keep battling through our tough injuries. It's just a blessing to be able to clinch today.

"We wanted it a lot more than them today and it was a fun game overall. I'm just glad we took care of business."

In Game 2, the Sox lost to Cleveland 5-3.

"Obviously, it's an exciting time," said closer Liam Hendriks, who helped Oakland bounce the White Sox out of the first round of the playoffs last year. "It's nice getting the cart off our backs, per se, being able to clinch, make sure there's nothing that is hindering us trying to move forward or trying to press too much to get that done quicker.

"Now our focus is on making sure that we get the momentum going through the rest of the season."

The Sox are almost certain to draw the Astros in the AL Division Series, with the first two games (Oct. 7-8) likely to be played in Houston.

"We haven't won any championships yet but today, for the first time in franchise history, we were able to make the postseason in consecutive years," general manager Rick Hahn said. "That's a good milestone, that's a good first step. Given the adversity this team has had to face over the course of this year, whether it's the injuries to core players early on or the jump from 162 games up from 60 or the mere fact we continue to play through a pandemic, this team has had to go through a lot.

"And though the focus, to a man, down the hall right now is on making sure there are three more celebratory days like today in the future, everyone should take a moment to exhale and enjoy what this club has accomplished so far before moving on to the next thing."

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