White Sox
AP

Risky steal attempt another sign Tim Anderson's got his swag back

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tim Anderson’s confidence increasingly continues to return.

The White Sox shortstop chose the right moment to take a big risk when he stole third base in the ninth inning on Wednesday afternoon.

It’s the kind of call that either earns a player kudos if it works or an earful from the manager if it fails. Turns out Anderson’s risky decision to steal third base with All-Star catcher Salvador Perez behind the plate helped the White Sox win their first road series since June. 

Only minutes after a similar play backfired for the Kansas City Royals, Anderson’s steal allowed him to easily score on a go-ahead sacrifice fly by Jose Abreu. The White Sox tacked on another run to topple the Kansas City Royals 5-3 at Kauffman Stadium. 

“He wanted to get there for (Abreu),” manager Rick Renteria said. “A steal of third has to be 100 percent or otherwise it’s fruitless. He had a good feel for it. He wanted to get over there and he did.”

Anderson’s 11th steal in 12 tries was the latest big moment in a resurgent second half. The second-year player slumped through July as he struggled to cope with the May death of close friend Branden Moss. Moss was shot and killed attempting to aide an assault victim outside of a bar near the University of Alabama campus on May 7.

But Anderson has looked much more like himself since he began to see a counselor in late July. Once again, the 2013 first-round draft pick is playing free of restriction and with the kind of confidence he displayed often throughout a rookie campaign in which he produced 2.5 f-Wins Above Replacement.

How else to explain running on Perez — who has thrown out 159 of 470 runners in his career (33.8 percent) — with one of the hottest hitters in baseball on deck? 

If Anderson is thrown out, questions about his thought process with Abreu coming to bat with a man in scoring position are asked. It’s the same type of questions asked on sports talk radio about Kansas City's Alcides Escobar after he made the final out of the eighth inning with the score tied.

But Anderson trusted the instincts that made him a top-50 prospect before the 2016 season and his read of pitcher Scott Alexander’s move. With Yoan Moncada at bat and a 3-2 count, Anderson, who went 2-for-5, his seventh multi-hit game in the last 10, took off running and beat Perez’s throw.

“Really just going off the pitcher,” Anderson said. “He was giving me slow deliveries and I feel like with my speed I was able to get there.”

“I wanted to take it in such a key moment.”

Three pitches later, Abreu drove a fly ball to deep center to bring in Anderson and give the White Sox a 4-3 lead. 

Anderson hasn’t attempted to steal bases at similar rate to what he did in the minors when he was 100 of 128, including in Arizona Fall League play. But he’s been more effective in the majors, swiping 21 of 24 tries (87.5 percent). And the confident Anderson promises this only the beginning as he gets more comfortable with pitchers around the league and their moves.

“It’s just a matter of time before the stolen bases keep coming,” Anderson said. “I was able to get a pretty good jump on it. 

“It’s definitely the more attempts I can get and more comfortable I can get that I feel like I can run more.”