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Yoán Moncada has five hits in opener vs. A’s

OAKLAND — Thursday night marked the official start of football  season, as the Bills downed the defending-champion Rams, 31-10, to kick off NFL Week 1.

The White Sox played under a different set of Thursday-night lights, but in the spirit of the season, they put up a football tally in their 14-2 blowout win over the A’s. 

Chicago ace Dylan Cease shut out the A’s over six innings, scattering five baserunners and punching out nine to secure back-to-back 200-plus-strikeout seasons. He now has 206 strikeouts on the season, which ranks third in the Majors. 

The lineup supplied plenty of firepower in return, erupting for 21 hits in the lopsided victory.

“It’s huge,” Cease said. “We know that every game, every inning, every pitch matters right now. So to go out there and make a statement, both on the pitching and the offensive side, is important.”

But it was an extraordinary night from an underperforming bat that really put the Sox over the top.

Yoán Moncada had a huge night at the plate, going 5-for-6 with two home runs, a double and five RBIs. His five hits tied a career high, set on June 15 at Detroit.

“It feels good,” Moncada said via team interpreter Billy Russo. “It definitely reinforces your expectations and your confidence. … It has been a difficult season, but it’s good to be able to perform in this final stretch.”

Moncada’s breakout performance came amid a bleak second-half stretch in which he had slashed .177/.280/.274 with two home runs in 34 games since the All-Star break.

Even so, this season has not unfolded how Moncada and the White Sox envisioned it would. The 27-year-old has garnered a 65 OPS+ in 82 games this season — meaning he has performed 35 percent below league average. That stat is significantly down from his 116 OPS+ in 2021 and nearly 30 points below his lowest mark over a full season.

So for Moncada, it felt extra satisfying to log one of the most productive games of his career at the plate. He now has two multihit games since returning from the injured list on Sept. 5, and his bat heating up would be a welcome sign for the White Sox.

“He’s been aggressive. He’s swinging it,” acting manager Miguel Cairo said. “And I’m glad it’s happening right now, when it matters. He’s doing a really good job.”

Moncada’s five-hit outburst may have led the charge, but the White Sox offense put up one of their best performances of the 2022 campaign. Chicago’s 21 hits were one shy of the team’s high of 22 this season, but the team set a different pair of single-game batting highs for the 2022 campaign:

• Five home runs smashed the previous high of three (done nine times, last on Sept. 3 vs. the Twins)

• Ten extra-base hits (five doubles, five homers) surpassed the previous high of eight (done twice, last on June 28 vs. the Angels)

Every White Sox starter recorded at least one hit in the win, and six of them got multiple hits — including rookie second baseman Romy Gonzalez, who logged his first four-hit game in the Majors.

“It was nice to see those bats,” Cairo said. “Moncada, Gonzo — everyone got good at-bats. It was nice to put a crooked number in there today.”

Just nine days ago, the White Sox were on the tail end of a five-game losing streak and six games out of the division lead. They have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games to trim that deficit. By contrast, the Twins and the Guardians have respectively gone 4-6 and 3-7 in that time.

With that momentum has come a new energy in the White Sox clubhouse, and they’re hoping to ride it all the way to the postseason.

“It’s been good,” Moncada said. “Different, I think. With this final stretch coming in, everybody’s trying their best. Everybody’s having fun. Everybody’s relaxed. And when the results come into our favor, that helps too.”

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