CHICAGO (AP) — Joe Maddon’s first game back in Chicago was similar to his final game with the Cubs: a loss.
Rookie Gavin Sheets hit a long three-run homer and had four RBIs in his first three-hit game, and the White Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-3 on Tuesday night.
Maddon managed the Cubs for five years, leading them to the playoffs four times and a World Series title in 2016 that ended the team’s 108-year championship drought.
“I thought it would always have been interesting to be able to hang together for a couple more. I can’t deny that,” Maddon said before the game. “That group right there was not only very talented, they’re very charismatic, too. I like the people in that room. The way they dealt with pressure or expecations was outstanding.”
Maddon’s contract was not renewed by the Cubs at the end of the 2019 season. He was hired to manage the Angels, a team he coached before he spent 2006-14 as Tampa Bay’s manager.
“Of course, you would think retrospectively you’d like to have a couple more years to get one more shot at the gold ring. It didn’t happen,” Maddon said of his time in Chicago. “And with that, I’ve had this wonderful opportunity to come back to California, be with the Angels again.
“So that’s that side. The flip side is it’s actually turned out pretty well for me and my family. I don’t mean to sound selfish, but where I’m at right now with the group I’m with is pretty special. I’m looking forward to our next trup to the World Series here, too, now.”
Sheets hit a go-ahead single in the second inning off Packy Naughton (0-2) and made it 6-1 with a three-run homer in the third. He narrowly missed a second home run when he doubled to the right-field wall in the fifth.
“He made a statement,” manager Tony La Russa said of the 6-foot-5 outfielder. “He got a pitch to hit, and he hit it a long way. Then he got another one. “There’s an old saying, when you’re a hungry hitter you have a chance to be a productive hitter — and he’s a hungry hitter.”
Sheets, a left-handed hitting 25-year-old, said he got a confidence boost when La Russa placed him in the lineup as designated hitter against Naughton, a lefty.
“It was huge,” Sheets said. “For him to put me in there in a big game when we’re still still fighting for home-field advantage was big for me. Being in the big leagues is a dream come true. To be here and contribute, you can’t ask for more than that in a rookie year.”
Luis Robert had a solo homer and a double as the AL Central-leading White Sox expanded their margin over second-place Cleveland to 12 1/2 games.
Leury García and César Hernandez each had two hits and an RBI for the White Sox (83-61), who reduced their magic number for clinching the division to seven.
Chicago starter Lucas Giolito lasted four innings in his return from a strained left hamstring. He allowed three runs, on homers by Phil Gosselin in the first and Jared Walsh, in the fourth, Giolito walked two and struck out eight, including five in a row swinging.
Gioloto said his hamstring felt fine and that he was on an 80-pitch limit in this one. He tossed 87.
“In my mind, I want work at least five innings with 80 pitches,” Giolilto said. “I wasn’t efficient enough..
Aaron Bummer (3-5) pitched a scoreless seventh.
All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson went 1 for 5 in his return from a strained left hamstring after missing 12 games.
Naughton (0-2) gave up four runs and six hits in 2 2/3 innings.
“In the second and into the third they were just getting on everything,” Maddon said. “We put more confidence in their tank with the home run by Sheets. And that mentally did some thing for them and against us.”
Robert was clipped in the helmet by a pitch from Oliver Ortega in the fifth, but got up and remained in the game.