Andrew Vaughn’s grand slam is 1 of 3 Chicago White Sox homers as they gain ground in the AL Central with an 11-5 win

·4 min read

Chicago White Sox pitcher Vince Velasquez received advance notice Saturday that he would be an option to start Sunday’s series finale against the Detroit Tigers if Johnny Cueto wasn’t well.

“That’s the transparency, communication you want from your manager, giving you a heads up on how to prepare for the next day,” Velasquez said. “In this game anything can really happen.”

Cueto remained under the weather Sunday. And Velasquez — with relievers José Ruiz, Jimmy Lambert and Tanner Banks — filled in during an 11-5 victory in front of 14,435 at Comerica Park.

Velasquez allowed two runs on three hits with four strikeouts and two walks in four innings. Banks, recalled from Triple-A Charlotte before the game when Joe Kelly went on the family medical leave list, allowed one run on one hit while striking out five in the final three innings and was credited with the win.

It was a total team effort for the Sox, who got homers from AJ Pollock, Andrew Vaughn and Eloy Jiménez.

Gavin Sheets walked with the bases loaded to break a 2-2 tie in the fifth. Vaughn followed with a grand slam against reliever Jason Foley.

Jiménez hit a 450-foot, two-run homer in the seventh, helping the Sox take two of three in the series.

“It’s been so awesome to see our bullpen, everyone is contributing,” Sox acting manager Miguel Cairo said. “Our starting pitchers have been pitching really good. Everyone in the lineup, they do the little things to win ballgames. Defense has been really good too.

“We are playing baseball the way you are supposed to play it.”

The Sox gained ground in the American League Central, now trailing by 3½ games, after the Cleveland Guardians lost to the Minnesota Twins 3-0. The Sox are off Monday while the Guardians and Twins complete a five-game series at Progressive Field.

The Sox and Guardians begin a three-game series Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Cueto’s status for that series is to be determined. The right-hander originally was slated to start Saturday against the Tigers, but Cairo announced before the game that Cueto was sick and that Davis Martin — called up earlier that day when the team placed Michael Kopech on the 15-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation — would start.

Before Sunday’s game, Cairo described Cueto’s condition as “something like flu/sinus.”

“His body aches,” Cairo said. “Hopefully it’s quick and we have him for (his) next start.”

Velasquez has been used largely out of the bullpen, with his perfect eighth inning Sept. 7 in a 9-6 win in Seattle among the standout outings. Sunday was the ninth start of the season and 23rd appearance for Velasquez, who signed with the Sox in March.

“That’s the communication I want, knowing I have some feedback, knowing I need to get ready for something,” Velasquez said. “And it’s just a matter of being a student of the game. Once one guy goes in the game, you know anything can happen. It’s being a student and realizing you can be in any position and it’s a matter of bearing down and trying to perfect what you’re trying to work on and execute.

“Once I settled down and kind of figured it out (Sunday), it was a good, easy, smooth ride.”

The score was tied at 2 when Velasquez finished the fourth. Elvis Andrus and Yoán Moncada had back-to-back one-out singles in the fifth against Tigers starter Drew Hutchison.

Jiménez walked with two outs, loading the bases for Sheets. Hutchison walked him on four pitches and the Sox went ahead 3-2.

After a pitching change, Vaughn followed with the first grand slam of his career.

“It was a big at-bat,” Vaughn said. “Sheets, huge bases-loaded walk before that. I got a pitch to hit and gave us some insurance there.

“I was just trying to get the job done, plain and simple. He was throwing some tough pitches and left one out over the middle and (I) put a good swing on it.”

The Tigers scored twice in the sixth, but the Sox responded with Jiménez’s tape-measure homer during a three-run seventh.

“That was a long one,” Cairo said of the blast to center. “He can hit the ball far away.”

Jiménez, who went 3-for-4, added an RBI double in the eighth.

The Sox have won eight of 11, including three of the four games during a trip that started with an 8-2 victory in a makeup game in Cleveland.

The series that starts Tuesday comprises the final three regular-season meetings between the Sox and Guardians.

“One game at a time,” Cairo said. “Day off (Monday), reset, rest and go one game at a time at home against Cleveland.”