Chicago White Sox clinch AL Central title, second straight playoff appearance

CLEVELAND — The Chicago White Sox have clinched the American League Central title by virtue of a 7-2 victory over the second-place Cleveland Indians on Thursday.

The White Sox (86-66) lead the Indians (74-77) by 11½ games ahead of Game 2 of their doubleheader Thursday night. It’s the sixth division championship for the White Sox and first since 2008. They are the first MLB team to clinch a division this season and are making their first back-to-back postseason appearances in franchise history.

The decisive win came on the strength of four home runs, including two by All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson in the first two innings of the game. Outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert had back-to-back home runs in the second inning.

“The way I look at it, it’s a special opportunity that this team has earned over six months,” manager Tony La Russa said before the game.

The White Sox are likely to face the Houston Astros in the ALDS next month. Despite the division title, the White Sox haven’t been as strong in the second half, compiling a 32-31 record through Game 1 of the doubleheader.

The theme of the White Sox’s season has been overcoming injuries. They lost Jimenez, Robert and second baseman Nick Madrigal for lengthy periods of time, while Anderson has been hampered by leg injuries throughout the second half.

Rookies and role players such as Andrew Vaughn, Gavin Sheets and Leury Garcia stepped in without missing a beat.

The White Sox propelled themselves into first place in May behind the strength of their starting staff. All-Stars Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon led a rotation that had the second-best ERA in the American League entering Thursday. Chicago augmented its bullpen at the trade deadline with the addition of All-Star reliever Craig Kimbrel, though he has struggled at times in a White Sox uniform.

Reigning AL MVP Jose Abreu once again has been a force at the plate, driving in 113 runs as he attempts to lead the league in RBIs for the third straight season. He trails the Kansas City Royals’ Salvador Perez by two in the category.

La Russa will be going to the postseason for the 15th time in a 35-year managerial career. He came out of retirement last winter, after a decade absence, to take over the team he first managed in 1979.

The White Sox won the AL West by 20 games under La Russa in 1983.

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