The White Sox never run out of heroes.
Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson bolstered their credentials as MVP candidates — on the White Sox if not the American League — with clutch performances in a 5-3 victory over the Royals on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. And, not to be outdone, Luis Robert left a calling card — a reminder that when it comes to MVPs, he might get there before either of them.
Robert’s dazzling, diving catch of Maikel Franco’s deep fly in the right-center gap to start the ninth inning — fully laying out on the dead run to make the play — turned an 0-for-4 night into yet another celebration of Robert’s own value to a playoff-contending team and a glimpse of future greatness.
With the Sox protecting a 5-3 lead, Robert’s spectacular catch saved closer Alex Colome from immediate trouble and seemed to invigorate him. Colome, coming off a 40-pitch appearance Friday night, struck out Alex Gordon and retired Adalberto Mondesi on a ground out to Nick Madrigal at second for a 1-2-3 inning as the Sox (25-15) remained a half-game in front of the Twins (25-16) and Indians (24-15) in the AL Central with their third consecutive victory. The Sox have won 15 of their last 19 games.
“That was a tremendously timely catch,” manager Rick Renteria said. “One that certainly could have changed the game if it falls.”
“Just about every night he does something that makes jaws drop,” said starter Lucas Giolito (4-2), who allowed three runs and five hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in six-plus innings. “I can’t say enough good things about him. The stuff you guys don’t see — how much work he puts in; how much he wants to learn; how much he wants to get better. He’s an unbelievable player. He’s only going to get better. Very, very happy he’s on our team.”
While Robert applied the finishing touch, Abreu and Anderson put the Sox in position to win for the 16th time in 20 games. After Anderson led off the game with a first-pitch double off Royals left-hander Kris Bubic, Abreu hit a two-run homer to extend his hitting streak to 19 games and give the Sox a 2-0 lead.
Anderson added a two-out infield RBI single in the fifth inning that gave the Sox a 3-1 lead. With the inning extended, Yasmani Grandal hit a two-run home run deep into the left-field stands to give Giolito a commanding 5-1 lead.
Abreu is hitting .319 with 13 home runs and a league-leading 40 RBI in 40 games. He’s batting .397 with 10 home runs and 28 RBI in his 19-game hitting streak — the most RBI in a 19-game hitting streak in baseball since the Mets’ Mike Piazza had 32 in the first 19 games of his 21-game hitting streak in 2000.
“He’s our heart and soul,” Giolito said of Abreu. “It seems like he’s getting that clutch hit every single game. Runners in scoring position, two outs, when we need to get those runs across he gets the job done.”
Anderson went 2-for-3 with a walk to improve his league-leading batting average to .360.
“Just an outstanding job by those two guys,” Renteria said. “Timmy has made the biggest jump in the last four years. There were always certain questions that were asked continually and he’s kind of subtly, quietly — and not-so-quietly — put himself out there on the board and showed everybody what he’s capable of doing and I’m very happy for him. I’m happy for us, because he’s ours — and [Abreu], as well.”