CHICAGO (AP) — Andrew Vaughn and A.J. Pollock each cracked a two-run homer and singled, and the Chicago White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals 7-1 on Thursday.
Leury Garcia and Elvis Andrus added two hits and an RBI apiece for the White Sox, who won their second straight following a five-game slide to climb back within a game of .500 (65-66).
Chicago improved to 2-1 under bench coach Miguel Cairo, who is filling in as manager while Tony La Russa is on indefinite leave to undergo tests for an unspecified health issue.
The defending AL Central champions, who began the day five games behind first-place Cleveland, held a players-only meeting before the game. Chicago is seeking its third straight playoff appearance.
“It’s no secret, you know, we haven’t played really good baseball this year,” said Pollock, who went deep for the second straight game. “We’ve underperformed and I feel like there’s been times where we put a lot into it and it hasn’t worked out and it’s been really deflating.
“But at the same time, we’re got to keep showing up. We’ve got to keep pushing and pushing. We know we’ve got the group. We know we’ve got the players that can make that run. I mean, we can’t wait. This is it.”
The White Sox have 31 games left, starting with a three-game home series against second-place Minnesota.
Many of Chicago’s big offensive names have been injured or just fizzled during much of 2022. But the White Sox were a little pluckier at the plate in three games against Kansas City, hitting seven homers and taking 11 walks.
“They’re not chasing bad pitches,” Cairo said. “And when they see it’s right, they’re swinging.
“If we hit the ball in the strike zone, be careful with this offense. This offense is dangerous.”
Johnny Cueto (7-6) allowed one run on six hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking none and striking out five. The 36-year-old right-hander rebounded from a rough outing last Friday when he allowed seven runs in five innings to Arizona.
Five Chicago relievers combined to throw two-hit ball the rest of the way.
“Today we played hard,” Cueto said through a translator. “Right now, we’re playing with excitement and hype. I think the team really has chemistry right now and we just need to go running on that.”
Vaughn’s homer was his 15th, matching his total last year as a rookie. Chicago is 4-10 since reaching a season-high five games above .500 on Aug 16.
Kansas City rookie infielder Michael Massey had a double in his first three-hit game. The 24-year-old, who made hit major league debut on July 13, finished 3-for-3 with a walk.
Massey, from Chicago’s southwest suburbs, grew up a White Sox fan and had friends and family in the stands for the series.
Fellow Royals rookie Drew Waters had a single and double for his third multi-hit game in nine since making his debut on Aug. 22. The 23-year-old right fielder also made a leaping catch against the wall on Pollock’s drive to end the second.
Daniel Mengden (0-1) yielded three runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings in his fifth appearance and first start for the Royals this season. The righty was recalled from Triple-A Omaha before the game.
Kansas City jumped ahead 1-0 in the third. Waters scored from third when M.J. Melendez grounded into a forceout at second.
Chicago came back with three in the bottom half. Andrus drove in a run with a single and Vaughn followed with a deep drive to left on the Mengden’s first pitch to him.
Filling in for the injured Yoán Moncada at third, Garcia made a running catch with his back to the infield on Ryan O’Hearn’s pop down the left field line in the top of the sixth.
The White Sox upped their lead to 5-1 in the sixth on RBI singles from Garcia and Romy Gonzalez. Pollock went deep in the eighth.
Both teams added players as rosters expanded to 28 for September
The Royals selected Mengden and recalled OF Nate Eaton from Triple-A Omaha. The White Sox recalled RHP Matt Foster and OF Adam Haseley from Triple-A-Charlotte.
White Sox CF Luis Robert is travelling to Florida for the birth of his second child and probably will return within a week, Cairo said. Robert has been limited to defensive replacement and pinch-running roles as he recovers from left wrist soreness.
Royals: C Salvador Perez was returned to the starting lineup behind the plate after sitting out Wednesday with lower back tightness.
White Sox: DH Eloy Jiménez left with right leg soreness in the seventh inning.
Royals: LHP Daniel Lynch (4-9, 4.70 ERA) will face Tigers RHP Drew Hutchison (2-7, 4.01) at Detroit on Friday.
White Sox: RHP Davis Martin (2-4, 4.62) faces visiting Minnesota’s Sonny Gray (7-4, 3.04) in Friday’s series opener.