August 13, 2022

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Sheets in the win: White Sox RF has clutch night

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CHICAGO — Gavin Sheets couldn’t help but be honest even after his significant contributions to the 3-2 White Sox victory over Oakland Saturday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, moving Chicago back to .500 at 50-50.

Yes, Sheets homered to tie the game in the seventh and then opened the ninth with a double to left, as pinch-runner Adam Engel scored the walk-off run on a Zach Jackson wild pitch two hitters later. But when asked to assess his 2022 season individually, Sheets chuckled for a moment and then put forth direct candor.

“Below average. But we still got a lot of games left and that’s the fun part of the season,” Sheets said. “Got a taste of postseason last year and want to get back. Below average right now. I’ll tell you that, anybody will tell you that.

“This is the fun part. This is the time to make some moves and that’s a huge game tonight to get a big win. I know my role here and going to do what I can to help that goal come true.”

Sheets’ role puts him in right field, at designated hitter and, occasionally, at first base against right-handed pitchers. The 26-year-old had somewhat of a breakout campaign in ‘21 with 11 home runs, eight doubles and 34 RBIs in 179 plate appearances, not to mention four hits and a home run in the ALDS loss to Houston.

The White Sox have a strong group of right-handed hitters across their lineup, with switch-hitters Yasmani Grandal and Yoán Moncada the only elite left-handed offense in their everyday attack. Sheets’ presence is a valuable one, but he is slashing .230/.293/.385 with eight home runs, 11 doubles and 24 RBIs, leaving the White Sox potentially looking for another left-handed bat before the Trade Deadline on Tuesday at 5 p.m. CT.

A possibility exists where Sheets could be part of a trade package. That situation, though, certainly doesn’t dominate his thought process.

“I know it’s around. Whether my name is out there, getting shopped around, I don’t know,” Sheets said. “But I’m going to control what I can control.

“Right now I’m a White Sox and going to help this team the best I can. Whatever happens after Tuesday happens. But right now I’m going to do the best I can to get in the postseason.”

Johnny Cueto yielded home runs to Sean Murphy and Seth Brown over seven innings, but allowed the White Sox offense a chance to fight back and win against the Oakland bullpen. He is 4-1 with a 2.41 ERA over his last eight starts, has gone at least six innings in six straight starts and 12 overall this season.

When Sheets made contact against Austin Pruitt in the seventh, sending the baseball a Statcast-projected 400 feet to right-center, Cueto was as happy as anyone in the dugout.

“I was talking with [Leury] García in that precise moment and I was telling him a homer here could be good for us,” Cueto said through interpreter Billy Russo. “And then he hit a homer and it was good. For us, it’s more important just to get the win and we did it.”

“As I told him, he didn’t deserve to get a loss tonight,” Sheets said. “He threw the ball extremely well. We did our part in terms of staying in the game and when we got our shot, we took it. Our pitchers and bullpen did a great job.”

In the fifth inning, with runners on second and third and nobody out, Sheets popped up against Oakland starter Paul Blackburn and failed to get home a run. Josh Harrison and Tim Anderson struck out to end that threat.

But when given a second and third chance, Sheets didn’t miss.

“Yeah, I was pumped. I stayed in it mentally,” Sheets said. “I was super frustrated with that. I’ve got to get the job done in that situation. Excited that I got two more chances and mentally stay in it and get ready for two big ones.”

“That shows you his potential as a hitter when you can take a ball in and hit it 500 feet and stay a breaking pitch away and hit it to the opposite field,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “He’s got a chance to be a high average hitter with good production.”

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