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TA plays hero again in another big win, this time vs. Rays

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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Remember, as of a week ago, Tim Anderson still hadn't seen "Field of Dreams."

He argued in the moments after hitting an epic walk-off blast to best the New York Yankees on one of the game's grandest stages that he created his own memories in the Iowa corn.

So while the original Kevin Costner movie didn't spawn a sequel, all bets are off when it comes to the Anderson version, which is why we got to see Part 2 on Friday night in Florida.

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Now, a late-August tilt underneath Tropicana Field's catwalks won't match the mystique of last week's once-in-a-lifetime drama in Dyersville. But Anderson did the same thing he did that night, putting the Chicago White Sox on his back and carrying them to a big win over a fellow World Series contender.

Things felt pretty October-esque.

"The heart of the club is true championship quality," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said after the game. "And it starts with the shortstop.

"What he did tonight was all you need to know about the champion he is and should be at some point, hopefully soon."

With Anderson as a central player, the White Sox built a 4-2 lead through seven and a half innings, Lucas Giolito delivering a gem of a performance, something he's done multiple times against top competition since the All-Star break.

 

But just like it did in Iowa, the bullpen buckled, Craig Kimbrel and Aaron Bummer combining to cough up the lead in the bottom of the eighth, a 4-2 game transforming into a 5-4 lead for the Tampa Bay Rays, owners of the American League's best record.

That's when Anderson repeated his Iowa feat, smacking a home run in the top of the ninth to breathe life back into his team.

Two innings later, after Liam Hendriks' stellar performance to strand the free runner in the 10th, Anderson singled through the infield to plate the winning run. He scored on a José Abreu ground ball shortly thereafter for a spot of insurance. All told, he had three hits on the evening and was on base four times, scoring four runs in the White Sox' 7-5 victory.

"He's so clutch, the heart and soul of our team, as we've said so many times," Giolito said. "We can always count on him in any situation, and especially a situation like that, when momentum's starting to swing back toward the other team's side.

"Get Tim up there, and he's going to make something happen. That was just another example. ... That's the type of player he is. He lives for the spotlight, he lives for those big moments, and he delivers."

This tilt between the White Sox and Rays might not have captivated the nation as the Field of Dreams game did, even though it pitted division leaders against one another. But it's not at all difficult to see this matchup coming 'round again in October, when all eyes could be on a pennant-determining playoff series. Against a Rays club that always seems to have an answer for any situation, Anderson made sure it was the White Sox who had the final word Friday night.

It's easy to see him doing the same when everything's on the line, not only stepping up in the brightest of spotlights but putting the White Sox on his back and carrying them to the promised land.

"There's a lot of great shortstops," La Russa said. "There's nobody in the league who is better than he is, when you look at the whole game. When people say, 'What are you talking about?' show them this game today. Show them the game that he played, defensively offensively, clutch. Watch this game, and it's all you need to know about his greatness. There are a lot of guys on this club, the whole team, but he's one guy that's got that championship credential."

"In those moments, it's game on," Anderson said. "The moment is never too big."

Indeed, it seems that way, from the "it's over" hand gesture after walking off the Yankees to Friday night's double dose of late-inning heroics. In the eighth game in a stretch of 14 straight against some of the AL's finest, Anderson has been responsible for two of the White Sox' five wins to date.

 

The White Sox have a lot of reasons they're a World Series contender, and they'll need all of them to rise to the occasion to go from contender to champion. But one of the biggest is undoubtedly Anderson, who's embodied everything this team has been about since well before Day 1. There's a reason his words are the team's marketing slogan.

Anderson changed the game twice Friday night. And it doesn't seem he'll stop changing it any time soon.

"We have a chance to be dominant," Anderson said. "We've got a chance to do something real dope. It's just on us to keep playing hard and keep picking one another up and giving ourselves a shot every game.

"The biggest thing is staying focused and keep having fun, and I think we'll get to where we're trying to go, for sure."

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