When rookie sensation Luis Robert was entertaining the baseball world with a .357/.455/.536 hitting line and six runs scored in seven games from the leadoff spot, manager Rick Renteria’s disclosure that Tim Anderson would take back the top spot in the lineup when he returned from the injured list was met with a fair amount of blowback.
Anderson heard it. And when he led off the White Sox’ 7-5 victory against the Tigers on Wednesday afternoon with a homer against left-hander Matthew Boyd — on Boyd’s 10th pitch — Anderson held his forefinger to his lips as he circled the bases.
“Let ’em sleep, baby. Let ’em sleep,” Anderson explained. “A lot of doubters out there. It motivated me, like ‘Who’s going to be the leadoff guy?’ Nothing against Luis Robert, but c’mon, man. C’mon!”
Anderson isn’t upset about it. He laughed as he said it, clearly in a good mood to be playing again and helping the Sox win with a four-hit day. He wants to provide the energy.
“The Energizer Bunny, baby,” said Anderson, who fouled off six consecutive pitches before his homer. “Just my presence, being in that lineup definitely made the guys go. Make the other team scared.”
Some of Renteria’s reasoning for Anderson over Robert had to do with Robert’s learning curve as pitchers increasingly attack his swing-and-miss tendencies with more breaking pitches.
A lot of it was knowing he had a batting champion in Anderson. Having him back “is huge,” Renteria said.
“We’ll have a great problem to deal with in terms of setting up lineups,” Renteria said. “It’s a talented group but again, it does require performance, it does require execution and hopefully we’re building toward that.”
Anderson singled and walked against the Tigers in his first game back from a groin strain Tuesday night as the Sox snapped a three-game losing streak, but he was just getting going. On Wednesday, he tripled into the left-field corner his second time up and singled in his next two at-bats, scoring three runs to go with an RBI.
“Definitely wanted to start the party,” Anderson said. “Just staying locked in and wasn’t giving in. He was defeated, so he had no choice but to come in there and I didn’t miss it. And I let him know, too.”
It was Anderson’s eighth career four-hit game, raising his average to .385. He struck out with two outs and nobody on in the eighth, falling short in his bid to become the seventh Sox player to hit for the cycle.
Robert, batting sixth, cleared the bases with a three-run double in the fifth that almost left Comerica Park. Robert, who was 3-for-24 in his last seven games, had no problem moving down in the order, especially with Anderson back.
“I’ve said this before, he’s our leadoff [man],” Robert said through translator Billy Russo. “He’s done a terrific job in that spot.
“It is really important for us to have T.A. back with us in the lineup. He’s an excellent leadoff [man], just the energy that he provides in the dugout, on the field, it’s important.”
Eloy Jimenez followed Anderson’s homer with his team-leading fifth of the season. Jose Abreu and Nomar Mazara also drove in runs.
Right-hander Dylan Cease allowed five runs — only one earned because of James McCann’s passed ball when he was crossed up expecting a breaking pitch in the Tigers’ four-run fourth — and seven hits, including two homers in six innings.
Jimmy Cordero, Evan Marshall and Alex Colome, who pitched a perfect ninth with one strikeout, combined to pitch three scoreless innings of relief as the Sox improved to 10-9. The Tigers dropped to 9-7.
“It’s huge to be able to save bullpen arms, for one, and for me personally to get that deep, it means a lot to me,” Cease said. “More importantly, we won. The offense picked us up today and it was a good win.”