It wouldn’t be a 2021 South Side storyline without a little bit of drama.
The White Sox swept the Orioles on Sunday by a final score of 7-5 in what was the first time in franchise history the White Sox swept an entire season series of more than three games against an AL opponent. It’s the last we’ll see of the White Sox before the All-Star break, and they went out with a bang. Three, to be exact.
Dylan Cease (7-4) took the mound and gave up a single and a two-run blast on his first two pitches. After the first inning, though, he pitched four hitless frames to keep his team in the game – something he’s managed to do in mostly every start this season.
Andrew Vaughn cut the deficit in half with a solo shot to left field in the fourth. Two innings later, he smashed another four-seam fastball over the opposite-field wall to put the White Sox up 4-2.
Michael Kopech took over in the sixth and whiffed three straight batters, just like he did in his previous appearance. Kopech has allowed one hit and zero runs in the four appearances he’s made since returning from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for the month of June.
Codi Heuer and Garrett Crochet set the stage in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, for All-Star closer Liam Hendriks to earn his 24th save of season. Instead, he gave up a two-out, two-run homer that sent the game to extras.
Enter Adam Engel.
The center fielder, who missed the first two months of the season and a few weeks in June and July with a nagging hamstring injury, was batting .241 with 4 RBI through just 10 games. But in the three he’s played since the second IL stint, he’s batting .385 with 7 RBI – three of which broke the 10th-inning tie in the series finale at Camden yards.
With Tim Anderson and Yoán Moncada on base, Engel took a 3-1 fastball that hung on the outside corner deep to left-center.
The Orioles would score once more in the bottom-half of the 10th, but Engel’s three-run blast effectively sealed the sweep.
“I was just looking for a fastball over the plate there,” Engel said after the game. “… You could tell that he was really battling there towards the end to make his pitches, so I wanted to make sure that he came to me there and threw something that I could handle because he has some really good stuff. With guys like that, you got to kind of shrink your zone and make sure they throw it over the plate so you give it your best shot, and he put a pitch over the plate, and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
While Engel’s role has been minimal so far this season, he’ll be an important part of the second-half roster while the White Sox wait for the Luis Robert’s triumphant return to center field. And with Eloy Jiménez as a likely DH, Engel could potentially spend a lot of time in right field down the stretch.
In the mishegoss that’s been the White Sox outfield this season, everyone who’s been called upon has embraced the opportunity. According to Engel, it’s been a vital part of the team’s first-half success. "It's just kind of the attitude that this team has," Engel said. "You come into our clubhouse and there's a lot of emphasis on winning, and it's just kind of doing the small things and staying ready and making sure you're ready to do your job, whatever that is for the night.
“Guys are just figuring out, ‘Hey, when my number's called, this is what I gotta do to contribute, and let's all contribute for 27 outs and just see where we stand.’”
As of right now, the White Sox stand in first place in the American League Central by eight games. And It’s guys like Engel who carried them there.