White Sox wild walk-off win shows team's World Series character

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Wild Sox walk-off win shows team's World Series character originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Tony La Russa talks an awful lot about the guts, the character of this Chicago White Sox team.

He might have a new Exhibit A.

"We keep talking about the guts of this team and unless you give examples, it doesn't bring it to life," the South Side skipper said after Friday's game. "That's a good example.

"We're going to play nine, come hell or high water. We're going to play a hard nine. Good things happen when you do."

RELATED: What Lance Lynn has given the Sox that they lacked in 2020

The White Sox won a wild one Friday night, dominated through four innings, exploding for a five-run fifth, coughing up the lead in a six-run seventh for the visiting Detroit Tigers and scoring a walk-off winner on a Yermín Mercedes base knock in the bottom of the ninth.

It was a roller-coaster ride of epic proportions, the kind anyone watching a full season remembers for the entirety.

It was the kind of game that teams trying to win the World Series tend to win along the way.

"It shows our character," White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal said. "No matter whether we’re down by five or up by 10, we’ve got to play nine innings, and we’ve shown that we’re able to do that and we’re able to play hard.

"The best teams, in the past, they win those 1-0 games or games that are won by a run or games where you’re down by two or three in the seventh and end up coming out and winning it. That shows a lot. It teaches you a lot, too.

"Especially later in the year, getting to the playoffs, it teaches you that when you’re down you’re never out. That’s what you want to be. Obviously, losing the lead the way we lost the lead right there wasn’t pretty, but the fact we came out with a win was huge."

Dallas Keuchel gave the White Sox another dominant starting-pitching performance, holding the Tigers to two runs, just one of them earned, in his six innings of work.

But in a 9-8 final, the offense tends to come up with the biggest moments, and that's what Grandal did, with a pair of home runs as his hot streak continued. Despite batting well under .200 on the campaign, he's found his power stroke and is up to nine homers, just two off José Abreu's team-leading mark.

No hit was bigger, perhaps, than Grandal's second dinger, which knotted the score at 8 in the bottom of the seventh after Codi Heuer and Evan Marshall teamed to blow a five-run lead in the top of the inning. Grandal made a habit of clutch long balls last season, and he seems to be back at it, all while walking at a ridiculous clip and showing how much value he brings, even when he's not hitting singles and doubles like he has throughout his career.

Grandal's home-run binge is good news for a lineup still without the injured Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert. Adding another productive bat to an offense that's received contributions from all over the place will only help the White Sox stay on their championship chase.

While Mercedes' early season emergence was a godsend for the banged-up batting order, he's been ice cold of late, 0-for-his-last-25 prior to the walk-off single that won Friday night's game. Still, his coming through in the biggest moment, even while slumping hard, was yet another example of the White Sox getting a different hero each night.

"We do it all the time, working hard, fight. We fight all day, all game. That’s what we do," Mercedes said. "The game-winner today is because we’re working hard. We try to do the best, everybody together, do the best we can do on the field. The big thing is we fight all nine. We won the game."

The biggest contributions figure to come from those like Yoán Moncada and Abreu — who reached via a hit by a pitch and a single, respectively, ahead of Mercedes' game-winner — and Grandal and Keuchel, the big guys brought up and brought in to lead the quest for a trophy. But of course, an unexpected power swing from Nick Madrigal, who hit his second career homer Friday, was nice, too.

The White Sox have seen both production from the guys they're most relying on and contributions from unlikely sources.

Put it all together with the strong clubhouse culture that's perhaps the driving force behind this entire enterprise, and you've got a recipe for success that makes a deep October run look very possible.

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