CHICAGO – Adam Engel picked up his first hit of the 2021 season, which was also his first home run of the 2021 season, during a 5-2 win for the White Sox over the Blue Jays on Thursday night at the Guaranteed Rate Field.
The center-back may also have come up with a mantra to lead his American League Central team leader for the rest of what is shaping up to be a very special campaign.
“It takes 40 guys to win a World Series, and that’s what this team wants to do,” Engel said during his post-match Zoom. “We take it very seriously, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do since Spring Training.”
In the early stages of Spring Training, the White Sox (38-24) probably never imagined this 40-guy theory to be such a necessity. But while there is no “me” in the team, the South Siders have found too often that there is an “me” in injury.
First, left fielder and Silver Slugger winner Eloy Jiménez was lost ahead of the season due to a ruptured left pectoral tendon. Gold Glove-winning center fielder Luis Robert was knocked out by a right hip flexor injury during a game against Cleveland on May 2, and second baseman Nick Madrigal became the latest unfortunate setback when was placed on the 60-day injury list Thursday with a right hamstring tear sustained Wednesday night.
Engel also made a good end to Spring Training interrupted by a strain in his right hamstring, which kept him out of the game until June 6. But this team knows he’s good – really good at that – so they might be down, but they never seem up.
They have great pitches across the board with Dallas Keuchel (5-1) doing the honors on Thursday before giving way to Evan Marshall, Codi Heuer and Liam Hendriks (16th save). Keuchel recorded the best eight strikeouts of the season across six innings, while he recorded 21 swings and misses, according to Statcast, 10 on his cutter and nine on his changeup.
He conceded two points, including one in the sixth when Lourdes Gurriel Jr. spotted Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with two outs at home. That inning could have been more than a hitter earlier when Randal Grichuk hit a grounder against third baseman Yoán Moncada with Guerrero Jr. on first and one out, but Moncada lost count of outs and pitched on first instead of go for the double game.
A mistake, of course. But he didn’t stand in the way of the White Sox.
“This is really good training as well [Keuchel] made some hellish proposals to keep them off the board and turn them off, “White Sox manager Tony La Russa said.” He was artistic, as far as I’m concerned: he was painting the thing. And then the infield hits early, a point, and Moncada’s mistake cost him throws. But luckily it didn’t cost him and us the game. “
“Yes, that’s what the great teams do, that’s what the winning teams do,” said Engel of playing on the mental error. “Everyone on this team is doing their best at all times. If not, maybe you say something. We are all fighting and trying to win here. “
Toronto star Hyun Jin Ryu (5-4) was virtually the victim of two pitches in the first inning. Yermín Mercedes, who moved up to second place in the squad at least against lefties after Madrigal’s injury, doubled with a knockout; one later, José Abreu doubled it at home. Yasmani Grandal threw the next pitch over the right field fence to a 3-0 lead, producing her second home run this season from the right side.
Engel’s blast in the seventh and Abreu’s brace in the eighth, tying him to the AL advantage with 48 RBI, gave Hendriks room to work in his 12th consecutive save. The White Sox have improved to top 4.5 games of the season ahead of Cleveland’s second-place finish in AL Central, and have yet to lose consecutive games this season at home, where they have a 25-11 log.
All positive signs of this group that is moving forward together. One for all, even if some protagonists are not there.
“Winning is fun and we’re winning a lot,” said Engel. “When we do, we are thrilled. I think everyone gets a little taste of that energy and everyone wants to contribute. It’s a big reason we’re doing what we’re doing with the injuries we’ve had. “
“It’s more fun than anything,” Keuchel said. “Especially when you’re good, you know you can win, night after night.”