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TA walks it off as Sox break out on Field of Dreams stage

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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DYERSVILLE, Iowa — Heaven? Not quite. Iowa? Most definitely.

A national breakout for the Chicago White Sox? You betcha.

"It was a dream come true," White Sox bench coach Miguel Cairo said after the game. "It was Field of Dreams, and today that dream came true."

RELATED: Hendriks eats up Field of Dreams as Sox take national stage

Tim Anderson's walk-off blast into the corn brought an end to the inaugural Field of Dreams game.

It kickstarted the White Sox' presence on the national stage.

Anderson, the face of the franchise and the team's most marketable player, drilled a Zack Britton pitch for a two-run homer, delivering a 9-8 win and forcing the White Sox into the consciousness of baseball fans around the country — and around the world — as they set their sights on a deep October run.

"Once I made contact, I knew it was over. I knew it was out," Anderson said. "These are the moments you want to be in. These big games like this, this is the time to show up."

No one can doubt the White Sox are a first-place club, owners of the biggest division lead in baseball from their perch atop the American League Central, where the competition has put up little resistance to the South Siders' ascent. But a losing record against winning teams after years of rebuilding hasn't exactly pumped them up as a league-wide powerhouse.

 

That's OK, according to All-Star closer Liam Hendriks, who before the game said the White Sox enjoy playing the underdog role, even enjoy playing "little brother" to the Chicago Cubs, the team they crushed last weekend to officially grab the title of the city's baseball kings.

But for anyone not yet paying attention to the White Sox before they emerged from the corn in Iowa and shook hands with Kevin Costner — the actor riled up the South Side fans in attendance by announcing them as "the first-place White Sox" — Anderson loudly and forcefully grabbed the spotlight.

"It shows that we can be dangerous all the way through," Anderson said. "You have to go through that lineup four or five times, and that's tough to do. If we keep fighting and keep pushing and keep being good teammates, we have a chance to do something real special."

"We never give up, and you see the result (at the end of) the game," White Sox left fielder Eloy Jiménez said. "That was a message for everybody."

Make no mistake, anyone who has been paying attention didn't need to hear that message. They already knew the White Sox were true World Series contenders.

Though Lance Lynn gave up four runs in five innings Thursday, he's still in the thick of the Cy Young race and is one of a cadre of dominant arms in what might be baseball's finest rotation. Anderson and reigning MVP José Abreu, who homered in the first inning, are household names. And now that once-injured stars like Jiménez, who homered in the third inning, and Luis Robert are back, the lineup has a chance to reach the potency that was projected in the preseason.

But the intangibles that could fuel a run deep into the postseason are not as easy to look up on Baseball Reference. And that's what's been on display in the White Sox increasingly frequent forays into national television. They beat the Milwaukee Brewers on "Sunday Night Baseball." They throttled the Cubs in the same weekly showcase. And they didn't let a blown lead by Hendriks in the top of the ninth Thursday — he gave up two two-out homers to sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton — spoil their coming-out party.

"There's no quit," Lynn said. "You look at what happened at the end there, we could have ducked our heads and just went off. But Tim was able to put a good swing on it for the win. We're not going to quit until it's over. That's who we are, and that's what we're about."

"The energy the whole year has been unbelievable," Cairo said. "We take it one day at a time, and those guys, they know what they want to do and where they want to go. It's kind of cool to be part of that. It feels so good to go to the clubhouse and the stadium knowing that every day we have a chance to win."

 

The White Sox have two more games with the Yankees this weekend on the South Side to avenge the sweep that manager Tony La Russa has previously called one of the few clunker series for his team this season. It's the start of a stretch against top-tier AL competition, with series against the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays to follow.

Thursday was about as good a way to start it as you could've drawn up.

And with Anderson providing the heroics, it was about as good a night in Iowa as baseball could've drawn up.

But even with Costner in the house and the movie site visible throughout a wildly entertaining ballgame, Anderson still hasn't seen "Field of Dreams."

"I might see it. I don't know," he said. "But I gave everybody a memory tonight."

A memory, undoubtedly. A thrilling way to wrap a remarkable day in the corn.

And a reason for everyone to remember the South Siders as the sport enters its championship stretch.

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