The Chicago White Sox earned a crucial win in a makeup game against the Cleveland Guardians on Thursday. They’ll look to continue their push for another American League Central title when they visit the last-place Detroit Tigers for a weekend series that begins on Friday.

The White Sox blasted five home runs in an 8-2 victory over the Guardians. That pulled Chicago (74-70) within three games of first-place Cleveland (76-66).

“I think it was a must-win,” said Gavin Sheets, who hit one of the White Sox’s long balls. “Every game is a must-win, but obviously against them even better. We wanted to come out and swing the bats early and give Lance (Lynn) the lead, and Lance threw the ball extremely well.”

Chicago will play Cleveland three more times next week but first has a golden opportunity to pull closer against an inferior opponent. The White Sox lead the season series against the Tigers 10-3.

“We have to keep focused and keep the momentum going,” said Chicago’s Yoan Moncada, who had four hits on Thursday. “That’s going to be important.”

Chicago has won six of its past eight. The makeup game against Cleveland began a stretch of 13 games against AL Central opponents.

“It was a big one,” acting White Sox manager Miguel Cairo said. “You see this is who we are. We got good at-bats, we were aggressive and we hit a couple of homers.”

Lucas Giolito (10-9, 5.18 ERA) will start the series opener for Chicago. The hight-hander got a no-decision in his last outing on Sept. 2 while giving up three runs and five hits in six innings at Oakland.

Giolito has faced the Tigers 17 times in his career, going 6-6 with a 4.58 ERA, including a 1-1 mark and a 4.58 ERA in three starts this year.

Right-hander Matt Manning (2-2, 3.73 ERA) will oppose Giolito. Manning recorded his second victory of the season in his latest start, allowing three runs (two earned) and three hits in 6 1/3 innings at Kansas City on Saturday.

Manning dealt with raindrops most of the way and walked just one batter while striking out four.

“It was pouring pretty much from the second inning on, but I battled through,” he said. “I’m pretty happy with the way mentally I was able to get through those weather conditions.”

Manning tried to block out the rain and focus his energy on the hitter.

“I was just trying to pound the zone and not overthrow,” Manning said. “It was also wet for them. … I thought if I could throw strikes and make them swing the bat, good things would probably happen.”

Manning is 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in five career starts against the White Sox. He has faced them once this year, when he allowed four runs on 10 hits in five innings during a no-decision on Aug. 13.

Runs have been hard to come by for the Tigers (54-89) all season, and that’s been the case during their current four-game slide. They have scored just four runs during that span and were shut out twice.

Leadoff hitter Riley Greene carries a 20-game on-base streak into the series. He nearly hit a two-run homer in the Tigers’ 2-1 loss to the visiting Houston Astros on Wednesday, but his 424-foot blast went to the deepest part of the park and was caught at the wall.

“I hit it good,” he said. “We go someplace else and maybe it’s a homer. But this is our park — sometimes it goes and sometimes it doesn’t.”

–Field Level Media