MINNEAPOLIS — Luis Robert was out of the lineup, leaving after the first inning dizzy.
Adam Engel stepped in and stepped up, hitting a three-run homer in the seventh inning Friday to help the Chicago White Sox win 6-2 against the Minnesota Twins in front of 27,021 at Target Field.
“That’s why guys are in full uniforms in the dugout from the first inning,” Engel said. “As soon as someone goes down early like that, you obviously hope nothing serious happens to them. But then you have to go straight into game mode.
“You have to try to get going in a way that you can find a way to contribute and help the team win that night.”
Tim Anderson’s solo homer in the fourth gave the Sox the lead.
Engel’s three-run homer to left field gave the team breathing space as the Red Sox gained ground on the division-leading Twins, who trailed three games in the AL Central. The Sox remain a half-game behind the second-place Cleveland Guardians.
“The best guy on the team,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said of Engel. “What an at-bat clutch that was. … Great team win.”
This is an important four-game series for the Red Sox as they try to tighten up the AL Central race. So far, they have done it by winning the first two games. The Sox are .500 (45-45) for the first time since June 21 when they were 33-33.
“I’m not a big record watcher, the whole .500 thing, as much as I like to keep up with how many games we’re in,” Engel said. “At the end of the day, if we play really good baseball, which is what we’re capable of, what a team like this is capable of, then I feel like we have a chance to make a career out of what our goals are.
“You can get caught up in winning or losing every night. But at the end of the day, what we should really focus on is playing good baseball. If we can play good baseball, we have a very good chance of accomplishing what we set out to accomplish this spring.”
Robert led the way Thursday with three hits, including a grand slam, in a 12-2 win.
He was a factor again on Friday, walking and scoring on Andrew Vaugh’s two-run single in the first.
In the bottom of the first he touched the line of Carlos Correa in a jump, and the ball escaped him. Correa was credited with a single and advanced to second on an error by Robert. Correa then scored on a two-run double by Alex Kirilloff.
Robert caught a Jose Miranda fly ball to center to end the first. Engel replaced him in the second.
“He just said he was dizzy and we took him down right away,” La Russa said.
The Sox were without left fielder Eloy Jimenez, who is dealing with a strained right leg. And Robert’s absence took them away from two possible sources of energy.
Anderson answered the call, breaking a tie at 2 in the fourth with a home run off reliever Emilio Pagán. His sixth home run of the season was out of reach of center fielder Nick Gordon, who leaped into the wall in an attempt to catch the ball.
Anderson made an impressive jump catch in the fifth, stealing a hit from Max Kepler.
“In that situation, preventing that inning from developing was huge,” La Russa said. She “got up there and stayed. He looked like Dr. J or Michael (Jordan). They seem to be floating. He floated for a while and caught it.”
Added Red Sox starter Michael Kopech: “We know when he’s on the field he’s going to do something that 99% of guys can’t do, whether it’s at the plate or on defense. And we saw both (Friday). It was amazing. That’s why he’s an All-Star, right?
Anderson singled with one out in the seventh against reliever Griffin Jax. Yoán Moncada walked and Engel worked a full count before homering.
“It’s got some really cool stuff,” Engel said. “I was just trying to make sure I was swinging on strikes. He was trying to throw a pitch in the zone and swing it. I’m certainly not trying to hit a home run right there. (Jose Abreu) is behind me and he is one of the best RBI collectors in the game. In that situation, I’m just trying to get on base and let (Abreu) do his job. From time to time, the game rewards you for that.”
Kopech allowed two runs on five hits with two strikeouts and four walks in five innings. He said the baseballs were “slicker than probably anything I’ve thrown this year.”
“It was hard to control, but I made adjustments and got over it,” Kopech said. “At the end of the day, the task is the same, no matter who walks into the box. Focus on the target and throw a punch, and if you don’t, the next pitch concentrate on your target and throw a punch.
“Execute a throw. I didn’t do as much as I would have liked (on Friday), but I did a good enough job to compete.”
Joe Kelly struck out two in a perfect sixth and Reynaldo Lopez went one-two-three in the seventh. Kendall Graveman allowed two hits but induced Kirilloff to roll on an inning-ending double play in the eighth. Liam Hendriks struck out one as he retired the team in order in the ninth as the Sox won their fourth straight and sixth of eight.
“We’re playing better baseball,” Engel said. “The offense is playing as well as it has all year. … Our pitching is also doing a great job. And then we’re playing good defense. Unfortunately, we’ve made some mental mistakes, being one of those guys myself, throughout the season that have cost us more games than we’d like to lose.
“But I think we’re starting to play cleaner baseball and our offense is loosening up and getting into a groove. I am very excited. We’re having a lot of fun right now, and I think that’s part of it too. … I’m excited to see how this goes.”