Guardians sweep White Sox

The White Sox desperately needed a sweep this week.

Instead, the Cleveland Guardians got one.

And just like that, with a 4-2 loss Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field, the Sox (76-74) fell seven games behind the American League Central leading Guardians (83-67), who lowered their magic number to clinch to five. The Sox have 12 games remaining in one of their most disappointing seasons in memory.

The Sox got an RBI single from Eloy Jimenez in the first and Gavin Sheets’ 14th homer in the eighth but six zeros in between against Shane Bieber (12-8, 2.81 ERA).

Sox right-hander Johnny Cueto, pitching for the first time in 11 days after missing a turn due to illness, allowed four runs over six innings. The Guardians, swift and aggressive, used two infield singles and one to the outfield to score a run in the first, and after the Sox tied it in the bottom of the inning against Shane Bieber on Jose Abreu’s double and Eloy Jimenez’ RBI single, the Guardians chipped away with a run in the third and two in the fifth.

Cueto (7-9, 3.15) allowed eight hits and a walk and struck out three. One of the runs was unearned because of Cueto’s errant pickoff throw with Amed Rosario on first base. Rosario raced to third and scored on the first of two sacrifice flies by Jose Ramirez. Steven Kwan had an RBI triple and scored on Ramirez’ second sac fly in the fifth.

The Guardians, who won for the 15th time in their 18 games, won the season series with the Sox 12-7, which gives them the tiebreaker in the unlikely event the two teams tie.

The Sox were 34-32 against the AL Central this season, including 16-14 at home. In 2020-21, they were 69-47.

Anderson “feeling fine”

The closer the White Sox get to official elimination from the postseason, the less likely Michael Kopech (shoulder) will return when he’s eligible to come off the IL. The chances of Kopech pitching again this season when he went on the IL Saturday were slim to begin with.

Cairo said he expects Tim Anderson (finger) to return, however. Anderson faced 10 pitches of live batting practice from Davis Martin Thursday.

Stay hot

José Abreu led the American League in hits (174) going into Thursday and was tied for the league lead in singles with 124.

*Eloy Jiménez was hitting .349/.418/.589 with 12 homers, 10 doubles and 37 RBI in 55 games since the All-Star break.

No Robert

Luis Robert missed his second straight start due to a sore left wrist that has hampered him since a head-first slide into second base on Aug. 12 against the Tigers.

“He’s still a little sore but he wants to play,” Cairo said. “I say, ‘Let’s see how it feels tomorrow and we will figure it out.’ ’’

Starters fine

Sox starters own a 2.65 ERA over the last 21 games and rank among American League leaders since Aug. 31 in ERA (first), opponents average (second), WHIP (third) and strikeouts (fourth).

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