Adam Engel, Tim Anderson power White Sox to second straight win over Twins
Michael Kopech went five innings and the bullpen pitched four scoreless innings in the White Sox’ fourth straight victory.
MINNEAPOLIS — Two down. Maybe two more to go.
After taking the first two games of a make-or-break kind of series against the Twins by a total of 14 runs, the White Sox, finally at the .500 mark after a 6-2 victory against the American League Central leaders Friday night, can fancy the idea of finishing the first half with a really big four-game sweep.
It will take wins Saturday and Sunday with Lance Lynn and Dylan Cease pitching, but you know it’s what everyone is thinking, if not saying, after Adam Engel and Tim Anderson homered and four pitchers followed Michael Kopech with scoreless relief. The Sox (45-45) stretched their win streak to four games and reached .500 for the first time since June 21.
“The old Roland Hemond ‘enjoy the moment’ because that was a tough game,” manager Tony La Russa said. “But the commitment is to go to the end and play as hard as we can and take our best shot the next two days.”
The Sox have won six of eight and trail the Twins by three games. They suffered a big blow in losing Luis Robert in the second inning because of light-headedness after he drew a walk and scored in the first.
But Engel, Robert’s replacement in center, lined a three-run home run in the seventh against right-hander Griffin Jax to turn a one-run lead into four.
“Just the ultimate team guy to have that happen to,” La Russa said. “He didn’t start [in right field] and didn’t say a word. I’m sure he wanted to be in there.”
The Sox also got a tiebreaking homer from Anderson and a quick strike of two runs in the first inning.
They scored first again against left-hander Devin Smeltzer, who was pulled after three innings. Smeltzer allowed two runs, five hits and two walks — the Sox left three runners in scoring position against him — and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was probably noting the Sox’ .288/.345/.459 hitting line against lefties when he pulled him.
Anderson’s homer against Emilio Vargas broke a 2-2 tie in the fourth, and his sensational leaping catch of Max Kepler’s liner on the first-base side of second helped Kopech finish with a perfect fifth, his only 1-2-3 inning.
“I can’t wait to see the replays of it,” La Russa said. “He got up there and lingered, looked like Dr. J. Or Michael Jordan.”
The good news from Kopech was that his fastball velocity sat in the 94-96 mph range, up a couple of ticks from his recent starts. He entered with a worrisome 6.15 ERA over his previous five starts, and he labored through five innings with four walks and five hits allowed while striking out two and getting only three swings and misses on 90 pitches (54 for strikes). But Kopech, who has been pitching with some right knee soreness, will take four scoreless innings out of the five into a needed All-Star break.
He had trouble gripping the baseballs throughout.
“Just being able to do enough to compete and give us a chance,” Kopech said.
Andrew Vaughn, who homered Thursday, found a hole between shortstop and third base for a two-run single in the first. It was the kind of hit assistant hitting coach Howie Clark was talking about before the game.
“If you put too much into why this is happening or that is happening, sometimes you’re one ball going in the hole for a hit from something opening up,” Clark said.
“We’ve been talking for a while that we’ll turn a corner,” Kopech said. “Things are going to come our way, and we’re turning that corner. Now is a good time to turn that corner.’’