Vaughn's groovy HR gives Sox twin-bill split

Kopech (5 K's) also provides 'lift' on mound after Abreu injury in Game 1 loss

May 15th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Remember earlier this week when White Sox left fielder Andrew Vaughn still hadn’t hit his first career home run? Just like the ball Vaughn hit in the second inning on Friday night, those days are long gone.

Vaughn launched a two-run home run off Royals starter Jakob Junis -- the second of his career and the second he’s hit in the last three days -- putting the White Sox ahead to stay in Game 2 as they split a doubleheader against Kansas City with a 3-1 win at Guaranteed Rate Field. Chicago dropped Game 1, 6-2.

“I could say it's a groove,” said Vaughn, who’s now sporting a season-high .420 slugging percentage. “I mean, it's getting in there every time, being ready every single pitch and just putting good swings on it, and they start to accumulate good at-bats. You're barreling the ball hard, and you just go up there and you challenge yourself every single time.”

Despite having been with the White Sox since Opening Day, Vaughn (the third overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft) is still considered the club’s top prospect and No. 12 overall in baseball, per MLB Pipeline. With Vaughn’s youth came some time to adjust to the big league game for the young slugger. Touted for his power at the plate, Vaughn only had three extra-base hits as late as April 29, and he didn’t hit his first home run until Wednesday’s win over the Twins.

Over the past week however, the script flipped. In the last seven games, Vaughn has nearly doubled his extra-base hit total with two doubles and two home runs, including the 421-foot shot that left his bat at 107.6 mph in Game 2 against the Royals.

Just don’t expect any Home Run Derby talk to come from Vaughn and the White Sox anytime soon.

“The worst thing we could say to him is 'Hey, you're gonna go on a home run tear,'” manager Tony La Russa said. “Just make hard contact and get a lot of base hits. He's got a chance to be a real good hitter.”

Vaughn even showed off his defensive chops in the frame before his home run, laying out and knocking down a grounder from Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson -- in his first Major League start at first base -- before tossing the ball to White Sox starter Michael Kopech for the out.

Vaughn’s play on both sides of the ball on Friday night helped take some of the sting out of Chicago’s biggest loss of the day, when first baseman and 2020 American League MVP José Abreu left Game 1 after a collision with Hunter Dozier on a second-inning pop fly. The White Sox didn’t seem to expect Abreu to miss much (if any) time -- La Russa even said Abreu wanted to be in the lineup for the nightcap -- but if he does, Vaughn would provide a nice insurance policy for the club.

“That's the position I played for at least the past four years,” Vaughn said. “I played through college and the first part of my professional career at first base, so I do feel comfortable there. Unfortunately, I had to play there tonight with [Abreu] out, which we never want to have happen, but I do feel comfortable there.”

Vaughn also helped back Kopech, who didn’t earn the win in Game 2 but pitched four innings of one-run ball while striking out five in just his third start of the season.

Kopech is still working back into starting pitcher form after missing 2019 following Tommy John surgery and opting out of last season. The White Sox know Kopech has the potential to be a key starter, though, and with the stuff he showed on the mound against Kansas City, his arrival into the rotation can’t come soon enough.

“[The] worst thing we could do is take him for granted,” La Russa said. “Appreciate every time he does it. A lot of good pitches, very economical, and he gave us a lift. With the collision it was very quiet in the clubhouse, and he gave us a lift.”