Adam Eaton hoped he’d get the chance to rock Thursday afternoon’s hero Carlos Sanchez like a baby just like Sanchez has done so many times before.
But within seconds of his game-winning single falling in, Sanchez, who lifted the White Sox to a 2-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians in front of 14,190 at U.S. Cellular, was mobbed by his teammates on the infield dirt. Sanchez’s blooper to right center easily scored pinch runner Leury Garcia and helped the White Sox secure a series victory over the Indians. Jose Abreu homered and James Shields and four relievers combined on a four-hitter as the White Sox beat the Indians for the third time in four tries.
“I didn’t have a chance to do it,” Eaton said. “I was going to try to do it, but everyone was riding him like a pony because he always wants to pick everybody up.”
Omar Narvaez helped to set up what is the highlight of a nice month for Sanchez when the catcher started the bottom of the ninth inning with a single to center off Bryan Shaw. Garcia ran for Narvaez and stole second base to reach scoring position. Shaw struck out Avisail Garcia and got ahead of Sanchez 1-2 in the count. But Sanchez, who went 2-for-4, fought off the afternoon shadows and got enough of a cut-fastball to dump it into right for the winning hit.
“(It’s) really fun when you help your team win games,” Sanchez said. “I enjoyed that moment a lot.
“I was looking for a fastball away, but it was really hard to see.”
The starting second baseman for much of last season, Sanchez has struggled in a part-time role in his four stints with the White Sox in 2016. Even with an average over .300 in September, Sanchez carried a .173 average and nine RBIs for the season into Thursday’s game.
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
With Brett Lawrie starting all season and Tyler Saladino having emerged as a viable utility man, playing time has been limited for Sanchez, who is wildly popular with teammates for a quirky sense of humor that results in moments like rocking Eaton in the dugout like a baby. But with Abreu still a little sore after Monday’s game, Sanchez took advantage of his third consecutive start at third base. He also singled in the seventh inning and is 9-for-26 with six RBIs this month in seven games.
“For him to sit around as much as he has and then be able to come in, he's had a couple days here where he's played,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “So I think the timing of it, getting back to where you're seeing the ball well enough, he just finds a way to do it. He continues to work every day. You try to do as much as you can to get the speed of the game down, but it's not an easy thing to do.”
Neither is tracking down a player mobbed by his teammates, as Eaton can attest. Sanchez said afterward he didn’t expect Eaton to rock him because that’s only an acceptable celebration for home runs. But Eaton wanted to anyway — his teammates’ celebration just happened to prevent it.
“They returned the favor so I didn’t get a chance,” Eaton said. “He does a lot more for us than just being a player. You can tell by the team’s reaction how much we love him.”