ROBERT ALREADY THE REAL DEAL
ROOKIE OUTFIELDER making big impression at plate for sox, who beat royals without hitting hr to move BACK INTO first place
Even when it seems like it’s just not his night, Luis Robert can create a buzz with one swing of the bat. He’s that kind of player.
As the White Sox prepared to play the second game of their series against the Royals on Friday night — a 7-4 victory that moved them back into first place in the AL Central — Robert’s 485-foot blast still was reverberating. The excitement about the rookie outfielder’s big moments is palpable.
“I’d be lying if I said I was surprised,” said outfielder Adam Engel, whose agape, ‘Oh my god’ reaction was a perfect punctuation of the moment. “I just wanted to see where it was going to land. This is a really big park and he made it look small.”
Until the big home run, Robert was having a frustrating night. He had a walk, a fly out and a pop out in his first three at-bats and just missed making two outstanding plays in the outfield. He nearly made a leaping grab of a deep fly ball by Maikel Franco that was in his glove but popped out against the center field wall for a double. He also made a diving attempt at a liner by Alex Gordon that went for another double.
“He’s an impressive player and we get to see him do stuff . . . once a night and most guys do something that cool once in their career,” Engel said. “This kid’s doing it a lot and he’s still young and he’s still polishing his game and I can’t imagine how good he’s going to be.
“He’s got a little room for improvement and I don’t even know what that’s going to look like. Seeing him do stuff like last night — man, this guy is one of the best players in the game right now and he’s only going to get better. It’s fun to watch him play.”
The Sox (24-15), who lead the American League with 68 home runs, won Friday night without hitting a home run for only the fourth time this season.
They still had 14 hits, including 12 singles. The Sox, who are 4-5 when they don’t hit a homer and 20-10 when they do, have a halfgame lead over the Indians (23-15) and Twins (24-16).
The Sox chipped away with runs in the first (Edwin Encarnacion’s sacrifice fly), second (Nick Madrigal’s infield single), fourth (Tim Anderson’s sacrifice fly) and fifth (Encarnacion scoring on a wild pitch).
Jose Abreu continued his MVP run with a two-out, two-run double in the sixth inning to extend his hitting streak to 18 games and give him a league-leading 38 RBIs.
Starter Dane Dunning, who threw five shutout innings Sunday against the Royals, struggled with his command but kept the Sox in the game with a gutty effort. He allowed three runs, five hits and four walks in 4⅔ innings. Codi Heuer relieved Dunning with two out and two on in the fifth inning and induced Nicky Lopez to bounce out to Madrigal at second to protect a 4-3 lead.
With the Sox leading 7-3, the Royals rallied with two outs in the eighth against Matt Foster. Closer Alex Colome came in and allowed a walk to loaded the bases, but struck out Whit Merrifield to end the threat. Colome allowed a run in the ninth and faced the tying run with two outs, but retired Ryan McBroom on a ground out for his eighth save in nine opportunities this season. ✶
Nomar Mazara scores past Royals catcher Meibrys Viloria on Tim Anderson’s sacrifice fly in the fourth inning Friday.