MINNEAPOLIS — Adam Engel wasn’t in the White Sox starting lineup on Friday night, despite the Twins sending left-handed starter Devin Smeltzer to the mound.
Engel stayed prepared and came through with the biggest at-bat of the game after he replaced Luis Robert in center field, as his three-run homer in the seventh helped Chicago win its fourth straight game with a 6-2 victory at Target Field.
Engel entered in the bottom of the second inning after Robert was taken out with lightheadedness.
“As soon as somebody goes down early like that, obviously you hope that there’s nothing seriously wrong with him,” Engel said. “You got to get right into game mode. You got to try and get going in a way that you can find a way to contribute and help the team win.”
Robert walked in his at-bat in the first inning and came around to score on Andrew Vaughn’s two-run single, sliding around Twins catcher Gary Sánchez to swipe his hand across the plate. Robert misplayed a liner from Carlos Correa in center field in the first, leading to an error.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa didn’t have an update on Robert after the game.
“Just took him out because he was a little lightheaded, and they’re going to check and see what it is,” La Russa said. “He’s in there now, but we’ll see. … He just said he was lightheaded, and I just took him out right away.”
Engel has made just two starts since coming off the injured list on July 3 after recovering from a strained hamstring. But the White Sox and La Russa appreciate the way Engel has handled himself in the reserve role.
Robert would have been in prime position in the seventh. Tim Anderson singled and Yoán Moncada walked with one out against Minnesota reliever Griffin Jax. Instead it was Engel, who sent Jax’s pitch just over the wall in left field for his first home run since May 15.
“What a clutch at-bat that was,” La Russa said.
Engel wanted to be patient and was comforted knowing José Abreu was hitting behind him. So, Engel just wanted to keep the line moving.
“Certainly not trying to hit a home run right there,” Engel said. “José is behind me, one of the best RBI collectors in the game. So, in that situation, I’m just trying to get on base and let [José] do his job. And every now and again, the game rewards you for that.”
It was the first three-run homer for Engel since July 11, 2021, at Baltimore and it helped Chicago (45-45) get to .500 and climb within three games of the first-place Twins (49-43) in the American League Central race. The White Sox have taken the first two games of an important division showdown heading into next week’s All-Star break.
“Unfortunately, we’ve made some mental mistakes, myself being one of those guys. And throughout the season that’s cost us more games than we’d like to give up,” Engel said. “But I think we’re starting to play cleaner baseball. Our offense is kind of relaxing and getting into a groove.
“I’m really excited. We’re having a lot of fun right now. That’s part of it, as well. I think as we get going here, just keep playing good baseball, keep having fun, and I’m excited to see where this goes.”
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