From start to finish, Yolmer Sanchez keeps it fun for White Sox

SHARE From start to finish, Yolmer Sanchez keeps it fun for White Sox
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Yolmer Sanchez, center, and Avisail Garcia, right, celebrate after Daniel Palka hit the game-winning two-run single, as Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Carlos Carrasco, left, heads to the dugout at the end of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, in Chicago. The White Sox won 5-4. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

White Sox catcher Omar Narvaez played on the same team with infielder Yolmer Sanchez in Venezuela when they were 7 years old.

What was Yolmer like then, Omar?

‘‘Same,’’ Narvaez said.

That’s all you need to know about Sanchez, whose boyish manner has been a welcome presence for a team approaching 100 losses. Somehow, someway, you have to keep the game fun.

Aside from being one of the Sox’ best overall players, that’s what Sanchez did best this season.

Whether it was playing stupid card tricks, playing an umpire during replay challenges, dousing teammates, coaches, himself and, after a 5-4 walk-off victory Tuesday against the Indians, TV reporter Chuck Garfien with the Gatorade bucket or just being the player who keeps things loose in the clubhouse, Sanchez was a good guy to have around.

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‘‘I’ve played [at] every level in this organization — Dominican, rookie ball, low A, high A, Double-A, Triple-A — and I see how many guys there are in the big leagues with me,’’ Sanchez said. ‘‘I’ve seen a lot of guys with talent who work hard and don’t make it. So I know how hard it is to get here, so I want to enjoy every day, every second here with my teammates.’’

Sanchez singled in a run against Carlos Carrasco in the ninth inning and scored the winning run on Daniel Palka’s two-run single to center after Leury Garcia had bunted Sanchez and Adam Engel to second and third, respectively.

‘‘I’m just going to enjoy it,’’ Sanchez said. ‘‘I love this game.’’

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Sanchez has been pretty good at it, too, with good defense at third base and backup work at the middle-infield spots. He is batting .246/.311/.375 with an American League-leading nine triples, eight home runs, 33 doubles, 53 RBI and 14 stolen bases in a career-high

150 games.

Sanchez’s 2.8 wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com, was tied for first on the team with right-hander Reynaldo Lopez and shortstop Tim Anderson.

‘‘He’s showing you that he’s a really good major-league baseball player,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘He has defended well and given us good at-bats at the plate. Gives you energy, hustle and has a good idea of what is going on around him.’’

To wit, Sanchez saw an opportunity and led off the first inning with a bunt single before advancing two bases on two throwing errors. He scored on Avisail Garcia’s homer that gave the Sox an early 2-0 lead.

‘‘He gives you everything he’s got, but he takes good care of himself,’’ Renteria said.

‘‘This is the first year I’ve played every day [he played in 141 games and started 124 last season], and I’ve proved that I can stay in the lineup,’’ Sanchez said. ‘‘My body feels really good. Hey, I still have a lot of energy. I’m going to finish strong.

‘‘We’ve had a lot of moments here that I will take with me forever. Sometimes it’s the little things. Being in a major-league uniform is special.’’

Right-hander James Shields, in what probably was his last moment with the Sox, surpassed 200 innings for the 10th time in his career, the second-most among active pitchers behind Justin Verlander (11). Shields allowed four runs in six innings but finished his outing by striking out Francisco Lindor to post a scoreless inning after the first two batters had reached.

‘‘After going on the DL last year, I really took pride in going over that 200-inning mark,’’ Shields said. ‘‘I’m really proud of that.

“We’ll see where life takes me when the season is over. I’ve loved my time here. The organization has been an amazing one to be a part of.’’

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