Cueto sharp for 8 2/3 innings, White Sox blank Guardians 2-0

Aaron Josefczyk-USA TODAY Sports
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CLEVELAND — Johnny Cueto scattered five hits over 8 2/3 innings and Jose Abreu had an RBI double, sending the Chicago White Sox over the Cleveland Guardians 2-0 on Saturday night.

Cleveland leads the AL Central by one game over Minnesota, while the White Sox moved within 2 1/2 games of the Guardians. Chicago had lost three in a row.

“Every time I pitch now is kind of like a playoff game because we’re in the race,” Cueto said. “I know what I have and I like to compete.”

Cueto (6-5) posted his 10th consecutive quality start, the first double-digit string by the White Sox since Carlos Rodon in 2016. The right-hander struck out two and walked one in beating Cleveland for the fifth time in five career decisions.

Manager Tony La Russa pulled Cueto for Liam Hendriks with one on and two outs in the ninth after 113 pitches. Hendriks struck out rookie Oscar Gonzalez for his 28th save.

The 36-year-old Cueto nearly pitched his first shutout since 2016 with San Francisco.

“Cueto is an artist and he was clutch for us,” La Russa said. “He looked the same at the end as he did at the beginning, but the only guy he wasn’t going to face was Gonzalez. Liam is happy that we shared the wealth.”

Shane Bieber (8-7) had his four-start winning streak snapped, allowing two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings. The 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner struck out four in his first loss since July 24 at the White Sox.

Abreu opened the scoring in the sixth by doubling to straight-away center, driving in Luis Robert. Chicago only had one hit off Bieber entering the inning.

“Johnny has been a great arm for a long time,” Bieber said. “But obviously it sucks to come out on the other end of a game like this.”

Elvis Andrus extended the White Sox’s lead to 2-0 on an unusual play in the seventh, scampering home after Will Benson‘s throw from right field bounced and struck catcher Luke Maile on his mask.

Benson caught Josh Harrison‘s flyout, but was charged with an error when the ball dislodged Maile’s mask and bounced away from him. Reliever James Karinchak was unable to retrieve it before Andrus touched the plate.

“(Andrus) is a hell of a threat and he takes pride in his baserunning,” La Russa said. “He still has his legs.”

White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal injured his left knee while attempting to score from second base in the seventh. Grandal, who was thrown out by Myles Straw, was unable to put any weight on his leg as he was helped off the field.

Grandal was on crutches in the clubhouse and said he wouldn’t know the specifics of his injury until undergoing tests. La Russa said he will be placed on the injured list Sunday.

Andrus went 1 for 4 in his second game with the White Sox. The 33-year-old shortstop signed as a free agent after being released by Oakland.

Oscar Gonzalez had two of Cleveland’s hits, along with its lone walk, and rookie Steven Kwan, Josh Naylor and Maile each had one.

The Guardians have won 10 of their last 14 and are 23-14 since July 10.

The first pitch was delayed by 2 hours, 55 minutes due to rain and started at 9:05 p.m. Cleveland has played an MLB-high 10 doubleheaders and had 11 games postponed, including three against Chicago.

“A three-hour rain delay isn’t good to begin with, but I think it’s even harder on starting pitchers,” Bieber said. “That’s why Johnny and I gave each other a look when we finally got out there.”

Robert started for the first time in eight games after spraining his left wrist sliding into second base on Aug. 12.

Chicago’s Andrew Vaughn, who was struck on the face by a pitch from Trevor Stephan that first glanced off his shoulder Friday, was in uniform but did not play.

TRAINER’S ROOM

White Sox: OF Eloy Jimenez (right knee hyperextension) batted third and served as the designated hitter, one night after exiting in the middle of an at-bat in the eighth inning. Jimenez said he responded well to treatment after being injured on a hard swing.

Guardians: C Austin Hedges (right ankle sprain) was held out of the lineup by manager Terry Francona, but was available. Hedges slid feet-first down the steps of the dugout in the fifth inning Friday while pursuing a wild pitch, forcing him to leave the game.

UP NEXT

White Sox: RHP Dylan Cease (12-5, 2.09 ERA) starts the three-game series finale. Cease leads the majors with 11.99 strikeouts per nine innings, ranks third in ERA and is fourth with 178 strikeouts.

Guardians: RHP Aaron Civale (2-5, 5.63 ERA) is on a seven-start winless streak, losing twice with a 3.55 ERA over 33 innings since June 21. Civale also has taken four straight no-decisions since July 8.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

aaron judge
Cole Burston/Getty Images
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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.