Center fielder Luis Robert saved a run with a leaping catch and crash at the wall. He used his brute strength to give the White Sox the lead with a home run. And he laid off a full count for a walk and used his speed to provide an insurance run.
Every bit of it was needed in a 3-2 victory Tuesday against the Mariners. Every bit of it was appreciated by a sellout crowd at Guaranteed Rate Field in the home opener.
“What a talent,” manager Tony La Russa said.
“He showed a lot of why he’s so special,” shortstop Tim Anderson said.
“The craziest part was the home run wasn’t even hit as hard as the line drive to the shortstop [111.7 mph in the third inning],” closer Liam Hendriks said. “And that’s ridiculous. He’s got that much talent; it’s a joke.”
Robert homered to right-center field against challenging rookie right-hander Matt Brash, a 110.4 mph rocket that gave the Sox a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning. Leading off the eighth, he laid off a low slider on a 3-2 pitch from Diego Sanchez, then stole second and third before scoring when Eloy Jimenez beat out a double play.
“It feels good,” Robert said. “It’s just proof that I’m feeling very good physically. Doing that in the home opener is special, too. Hopefully, that’s something I can carry through the whole season.”
There were “MVP” chants from the crowd for Robert after the homer, and lots of cheering for a collection of six Sox pitchers who held the Mariners to two runs and seven hits. Vince Velasquez allowed Eugenio Suarez’s homer in four innings, and Bennett Sousa, Reynaldo Lopez, Aaron Bummer, Kendall Graveman and Hendriks followed with five strong innings.
“A good all-around team victory,” Velasquez said.
It was the Sox’ third in a row after a rough opener in Detroit in which Hendriks blew a save. Hendriks allowed a run and three hits against the Mariners but finished them off by striking out cleanup man Mitch Haniger.
“Every time they put it in play, it ended up being a hit,” said Hendriks, who struck out three.
Josh Harrison walked in the second, went to third on catcher Reese McGuire’s single and scored on Anderson’s fielder’s choice. Anderson and Jimenez were a combined 0-for-8, but Anderson made two nice plays in the field, and Jimenez made a leaping catch near the wall. Each got an RBI by putting balls in play.
The Sox’ 3-1 start comes with injuries to Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn at the top of their rotation, Garrett Crochet and Ryan Burr in the bullpen and Yoan Moncada and AJ Pollock in the lineup. Giolito appears to be progressing, and Lynn, a week removed from knee surgery, took part in pregame ceremonies and moved around without a limp.
Before the game, general manager Rick Hahn shot down a report that Athletics right-hander Frankie Montas was coming to the Sox in a trade. Hahn is not trading Andrew Vaughn, a player he believes fits the long-term goal of sustained success whom the A’s have asked for, in a swap for Montas — who finished sixth in Cy Young voting last season and has two years of contract control remaining.
He might be more likely to see if the Sox can weather this injury storm, hold their own in the standings and assess what their needs are closer to the trade deadline at midseason.
“Part of the reason I joke about the rumors from last night — we are not looking to rob Peter to pay Paul to make this team better,” Hahn said.
“Guys we view as important in helping this team win [such as Vaughn] wouldn’t be the first ones out the door as we try to make this team better.”