Luis Robert was out of the lineup, exiting after the first /inning with lightheadedness.
Adam Engel stepped in and stepped up, hitting a three-run homer in the seventh inning Friday to help the Chicago White Sox to a 6-2 win against the Minnesota Twins in front of 27,021 at Target Field.
“That’s why guys wear full uniforms to the dugout from the first inning,” Engel said. “As soon as somebody goes down early like that, obviously you hope that there’s nothing seriously wrong with him. But then you’ve got to get right into game mode.
“You’ve got to try to get going in a way that you can find a way to contribute and help the team win that night.”
Tim Anderson’s solo home run in the fourth gave the Sox the lead.
Engel’s three-run homer to left gave the team some breathing room as the Sox gained ground on the division-leading Twins, whom they trail by three games in the American League Central. The Sox remain a half-game behind the second-place Cleveland Guardians.
“Ultimate team man,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said of Engel. “What a clutch at-bat that was. … Great team win.”
This is an important four-game series for the Sox as they attempt to tighten the AL Central race. So far, they’ve done just that by winning the first two games. The Sox are at .500 (45-45) for the first time since June 21 when they were 33-33.
“I’m not a huge watcher of the record, the whole .500 thing, as much as I like to keep pace with how many games back we are,” Engel said. “At the end of the day if we play really good baseball — which is what we’re capable of, what a team like this is capable of doing — then I feel like we’ve got a chance to make a run at what our goals are.
“You can get caught up in winning or losing each night. But at the end of the day, what we really should be focused on is playing good baseball. If we can play good baseball, we’ve got a really good shot at accomplishing what we set out to accomplish this spring.”
Robert led the way Thursday with three hits, including a grand slam, in a 12-2 victory.
He was a factor again Friday, walking and scoring on Andrew Vaugh’s two-run single in the first.
In the bottom of the first he played Carlos Correa’s liner on a hop, and the ball got by him. Correa was credited with a single and an advancement to second on Robert’s error. Correa later scored on a two-run double by Alex Kirilloff.
Robert caught Jose Miranda’s flyball to center to end the first. Engel replaced him in the second.
“He just said he was lightheaded, and we took him out right away,” La Russa said.
The Sox already were without left fielder Eloy Jiménez, who is dealing with tightness in his right leg. And Robert’s absence put them down two potential power sources.
Anderson answered the call, breaking the 2-all tie in the fourth with a home run against reliever Emilio Pagán. His sixth homer of the season was just out of the reach of center fielder Nick Gordon, who leaped at the wall in an attempt to make the catch.
Anderson made an impressive jumping catch in the fifth, robbing Max Kepler of a hit.
“In that situation to keep that inning from developing was huge,” La Russa said. “He got up there and he lingered. He looked like Dr. J or Michael (Jordan). They look like they’re floating. He floated for a while and caught it.”
Added Sox starter Michael Kopech: “We know when he’s on the field he’s going to do something that 99% of guys can’t do, whether that be at the plate or on defense. And we saw both (Friday). It was awesome. That’s why he’s an All-Star, right?”
Anderson singled with one out in the seventh against reliever Griffin Jax. Yoán Moncada walked and Engel worked a full count before launching the home run.
“He’s got really good stuff,” Engel said. “I was just trying to make sure I swung at strikes. I was trying to get a pitch in the zone and put a swing on it. Certainly not trying to hit a home run right there. (José Abreu) is behind me and is one of the best RBI collectors in the game. In that situation I’m just trying to get on base and let (Abreu) do his job. Every now and then the game rewards you for that.”
Kopech allowed two runs on five hits with two strikeouts and four walks in five innings. He said the baseballs were “slicker than probably any I’ve thrown this year.”
“It was tough to get a grip but made adjustments and got through it,” Kopech said. “At the end of the day the task is the same, no matter who steps in the box. Focus on the target and throw a strike and if you don’t do it, the next pitch focus on your target and throw a strike.
“Execute a pitch. I didn’t do it as much as I would have liked (Friday), but I did a good enough job to compete.”
Joe Kelly struck out two in a perfect sixth and Reynaldo López had a one-two-three seventh. Kendall Graveman allowed two hits but induced Kirilloff to ground into an inning-ending double play in the eighth. Liam Hendriks struck out one while retiring the side in order in the ninth as the Sox won their fourth straight and sixth of eight.
“We’re playing better baseball,” Engel said. “The offense is playing as good as it has played all year. … Our pitching is doing a great job as well. And then we’re playing good defense. Unfortunately we’ve made some mental mistakes, myself being one of those guys, throughout the season that’s cost us more games than we’d like to give up.
“But I think we’re starting to play cleaner baseball and our offense is relaxing and getting into a groove. I’m really excited. We’re having a lot of fun right now, and I think that’s part of it as well. … I’m excited to see how this goes.”