The Chicago White Sox clinched the American League Central title for the first time since 2008 with a 7-2 win over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday in Game 1 of a road doubleheader.
Star shortstop Tim Anderson got things going with a leadoff home run, and the White Sox never looked back.
Chicago (86-66) exploded for six runs in the second inning. Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez hit back-to-back solo home runs. Anderson followed up with his second homer of the day, a three-run blast. Robert then added an RBI single.
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The White Sox also celebrated a milestone Thursday as Cesar Hernandez notched his 1,000th career hit.
Austin Hedges and Bobby Bradley each hit solo home runs for Cleveland. The second-place Indians fell to 74-77 on the season.
White Sox SS Tim Anderson: 3-for-4, 2 HRs, 4 RBI, 2 R
White Sox CF Luis Robert: 2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI, R
White Sox 2B Cesar Hernandez: 3-for-3, R
Looking Ahead to the Playoffs
Chicago's latest victory was a promising sign for a team that is preparing for October baseball.
Entering Thursday, the White Sox had been held to three runs or fewer in five of their past seven contests, a stretch that saw the team go 2-5. The team was powered by the long ball in Game 1, with Anderson, Robert and Jimenez all going yard.
Though Cleveland will not be a playoff team, the offense's performance against a formidable arm in Civale should have fans excited.
The White Sox make their return to the postseason, marking the first time in franchise history that the team has made the playoffs in consecutive campaigns. Chicago was eliminated by the Oakland A's in the AL Wild Card Series last year, losing 2-1.
If the season ended today, the White Sox would face the AL West-leading Houston Astros. Chicago is 2-5 against Houston in the regular season, having lost all four road games.
In their most recent meeting in mid-July, the White Sox won two out of three at home.
Civale's Inconsistencies Continue
Cleveland starter Aaron Civale failed to make it out of the second inning, surrendering a season-high seven runs.
After giving up back-to-back home runs to Robert and Jimenez in the second frame, Civale allowed two more baserunners before Anderson launched his second homer of the day. Civale was pulled after Robert's RBI single and replaced by J.C. Mejia.
Civale took his third loss in his last four starts. It's the second time in his last three appearances that he gave up more than five runs, and he has now given up at least four runs in five of his past nine starts. This comes after he had started the season by winning seven of his first eight decisions.
Although Civale's recent struggles are not the reason Cleveland missed the postseason, they certainly are something the team has to hope will not carry over into next season, when the franchise will be looking to return to the playoffs in its first season as the Guardians.
There will be little time for a celebration as the White Sox will have a quick turnaround for Game 2 of Thursday's doubleheader. Chicago will start Michael Kopech, while Cleveland will counter with Zach Plesac.