BALTIMORE — With apologies to Dallas Keuchel, after an offseason featuring high-priced adds like Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnación and Nomar Mazara, and breaking camp with rookies Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, you'd be forgiven if you felt that most of Chicago's gain in the standings would come with the bats.
However, it has been the White Sox pitching staff that has led the march back over .500 and to the corners of the playoff picture.
Keuchel, the lone high-priced addition to the pitching staff, went out and dragged the offense to another win on Thursday, throwing seven innings of one-run ball (three hits, three walks, seven Ks), his 71 game score pacing a 2-1 win that clinched the four-game series for the Sox.
The southpaw pushed through seven in part because he got busy quickly, with a seven-pitch first. Kid Keuchy may have been stoked by an early lead, staked by Yoán Moncada's wind-aided, 398-foot homer to right on the fifth pitch of the game.
Keuchel was touched for a single run, in the second, after a double and two walks filled the bases. Disaster was averted, and just a single sac fly from Old Friend José Rondón did further damage.
And in a game with little momentum shifting, it seemed that Baltimore might prevail to split the series. In the sixth, the White Sox rallied against Aaron Sánchez (like Keuchel, putting in strong work): runners on the corner with one out. But Eloy Jiménez struck out, and Encarnación's grounder into the hole at short was vacuumed by José Iglesias for a 6-4 fielder's choice.
Another nail in the coffin came in the form of O's reliever Danny Barnes, who relieved Sánchez in the seventh and struck out the Sox side in overpowering fashion.
But miracle pickup Pat Venditte (one earned run in 19 ⅓ innings for the Sox this year ... yup, 0.47 ERA) bridged the eighth and set up a rally for the Good Guys in the ninth. Yoán Moncada legged out an infield hit leading off, and after an Eloy line out moved to second on a bad pickoff attempt by Preston Guilmet. A passed ball moved Moncada to third, where he came in after Encarnación put an little extra sriracha on a grounder in the the hole for what turned out to be a game-winning single.
Aaron Bummer came on for a 1-2-3 save, his seventh.
The White Sox are just seven games behind Minnesota for first in the AL Central and have beaten the Twins in five of six games so far this season. Chicago is also just 1 ½ back of the second wild card.
The big Minnesota series starts back at Sox Park on Friday, with Jake Odorizzi (5-3, 3.05 ERA) taking on Reynaldo López (6-0, 3.44). Ashley Sanders has your coverage at South Side Hit Pen.