En­gel excelling in pla­toon role

Chicago Sun-Times - - SOX BEAT - Mark Potash

Af­ter get­ting two more hits Thurs­day night, out­fielder Adam En­gel was back on the bench in fa­vor of left-hand­ed­hit­ting No­mar Mazara against Roy­als right-han­der Brady Singer on Fri­day night at Kauff­man Sta­dium.

That’s hardly a sur­pris­ing pla­toon, but En­gel’s im­prove­ment can’t be ig­nored. A ca­reer .215 hit­ter en­ter­ing the sea­son, En­gel is now hit­ting .290 in 24 games (18-for-62). And while he has ex­celled against left-handed pitch­ing, hit­ting .364 (8-for-22), En­gel also has im­proved against right-han­ders. He’s hit­ting .250 (10-for-40) af­ter hit­ting .201 against right­ies last sea­son.

But in a bal­anced White Sox lineup with plenty of power, he’s be­come a role player.

“As a player on this team, you’ve got to be ready for any­thing — lefty, righty, it doesn’t mat­ter to me,” En­gel, 25, said. “I’m just go­ing up there try­ing to have qual­ity at-bats. I get most of my time play­ing against left­ies, so I’m try­ing to make sure I’m locked in on those days. If I hap­pen to face right­ies, I have an ap­proach for right­ies as well.

“Just go­ing up there try­ing to help the team win any way I can. As long as we’re win­ning games, I’ll face who­ever it is. It doesn’t mat­ter to me.”

Crush­ing left­ies

With En­gel con­tribut­ing, the Sox are hav­ing a his­toric sea­son against left-handed pitch­ing. Af­ter scor­ing six runs on seven hits against one-time neme­sis Danny Duffy on Thurs­day night, the Sox are hit­ting .303 against left-han­ders, which ranks sec­ond in base­ball. But their .954 OPS against left­ies is off the charts — not only well ahead of the sec­ond-place Na­tion­als (.892), but on pace for the best OPS vs. left-han­ders in modern base­ball his­tory.

The best recorded OPS against left-handed pitch­ers is .916, by the 1922 Tigers, ac­cord­ing to re­search via base­ball-ref­er­ence.com. And that Tigers team only had 301 plate ap­pear­ances against left­ies. Through just 38 games, the Sox al­ready have 382 plate ap­pear­ances vs. left-han­ders.

An­der­son on a tear

Short­stop Tim An­der­son went 2-for-3 with a home run and a walk against Duffy and is hit­ting .486 (18-for-37) with six home runs and a 1.659 OPS against left-handed pitch­ing this sea­son. Last year, An­der­son hit .326 against left­handers, but with fewer homers (five) in 144 at-bats than he al­ready has hit this sea­son in 37.

His ex­pla­na­tion for that suc­cess is pretty sim­ple.

“That slider’s com­ing to me in­stead of go­ing away from me. So I’m able to lock in,” An­der­son said. “Ob­vi­ously the ball’s com­ing from the left hand. It’s not eas­ier, but you can see it a lot bet­ter.

Road war­riors

The Sox strug­gled no mat­ter where they played in man­ager Rick Ren­te­ria’s first three sea­sons, but they were espe­cially bad on the road — 93-150 (.383). This year, they en­tered Fri­day’s game 12-6 — al­beit with­out fans in the stands — third best in the AL. ✶

GETTY IM­AGES

Tim An­der­son, hit­ting a sac­ri­fice fly in the fourth in­ning Fri­day against the Roy­als, is among the top hit­ters in base­ball.

Adam En­gel

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