Chants of “Let’s go, White Sox” echoed through the guaranteed rate field.
The Chicago White Sox were trailing by two but had runners in second and third with two outs in the eighth inning Monday against the Houston Astros.
Eloy Jiménez ripped a brace down the left field line and both runners scored to tie the game.
Two marches, one intentional and one traditional, loaded the bases of Yoán Moncada. He hit the first pitch he saw to cross a two-run single.
The magic of the eighth inning — and Johnny Cueto’s pitch — propelled the Sox to a 4-2 victory in front of 18,205.
Cueto (5-5) allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits with three strikeouts and one walk in eight innings. The rally in the bottom of the eighth, all with two outs, put him in position for the win.
Liam Hendriks brought out Mauricio Dubón with two runners for his 26th save as the Sox earned one of their best wins of the season.
“This victory just confirms that we have a very good team,” Moncada said through an interpreter, “and we have to believe in it and the people around the team have to believe in it too.”
The Sox extended their winning streak to four and tied a season high by moving four games above .500 for the first time since going 6-2 on April 16. The Sox (60-56) tied for second in the American League Central with the Minnesota Twins, but both teams won a half game over the Cleveland Guardians and are two games down.
“We need every win and it was a good one,” Cueto said through an interpreter. “All of these games are playoff games and we have to be ready to compete.
“We have to forget where we are right now. We just have to keep playing hard and trying to win every game. We don’t need to look at the leaderboard right now. We have to play hard and see what happens in the end.
Cueto put the Sox in position with another stellar outing.
“You can’t faze him,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “He is very special. It’s fun to watch it. I’m happy, especially that our young guys are watching it. They teach a lot about what you need to do as a starting pitcher to keep you in the game.”
After his last start Wednesday at Kansas City, Cueto said the team needs to “show the fire we have – if we have it.” He saw it on Monday.
“That’s what we have to do every game, try to compete and have the same level of energy and excitement that we had (Monday),” he said.
The Astros scored twice in the first. Dubón scored a single and advanced to third base when second baseman Josh Harrison was unable to field Yuli Gurriel’s grounder.
Dubón scored on Yordan Alvarez’s sacrifice ball in the middle. Gurriel scored first on Alex Bregman’s brace.
“I just kept my focus,” Cueto said. “It wasn’t a good start for us, but it wasn’t (Harrison’s) fault either. After that mistake, I said ‘(Beep), let’s keep racing’ and I managed to come out of that round with two runs.”
He worked on a few jams, including the sixth when the Astros had runners at first and second with one out. Cueto allowed Jake Meyers to hit a helicopter in the third row. Moncada stepped on the sack and threw to first for an end-inning double play.
Cueto pumped his fist after hitting Kyle Tucker to wrap up his outing with a 1-2-3 eighth.
The Sox stayed at two due to good pitching from Astros starter José Urquidy. He came out after AJ Pollock reached a hit with two out in the eighth. All six hits allowed by Urquidy were singles.
Pollock’s hit got the ball rolling for the Sox. Andrew Vaughn doubled against reliever Rafael Montero, and Jiménez followed with his double equalizer at 0-2.
“I was trying to look for a good shot to hit,” Jiménez said. “It wasn’t a good pitch to hit, but I thank God I still have the ability to keep that ball fair.”
José Abreu took two balls before being intentionally stepped on, and Yasmani Grandal worked the full count before drawing a walk to load the bases for Moncada.
“I went out there just looking for fastballs,” Moncada said. “I wasn’t looking for anything else. Just fastballs. He threw a fastball at me and I was able to put the barrel on the ball.
The understudy fell past Meyers in center field and two runs scored, putting the Sox in position to win the thriller.
“We were able to stay focused throughout,” Moncada said. “This eighth round was a big round for us.
“As everyone has said, the game doesn’t end until the end. We kept fighting and we kept nibbling and grinding.