Engel excelling in platoon role
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.”
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.
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. ✶
Tim Anderson, hitting a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning Friday against the Royals, is among the top hitters in baseball.