TA scripts Dream ending with walk-off HR

August 13th, 2021

DYERSVILLE, Iowa -- Is this heaven?

Some White Sox fans might have felt that sort of ultimate euphoria following a thrilling 9-8 victory over the Yankees on Thursday night during the inaugural Field of Dreams Game.

But in reality, it wasn’t heaven. It was just stepping into the limelight where he loves to live and excel.

After the Yankees (63-52) scored four runs in the top of the ninth to claim an 8-7 advantage, the shortstop launched a walk-off two-run homer into the corn in right field against Yanks lefty Zack Britton to improve the White Sox (68-48) division lead to a robust 11 1/2 games over Cleveland and Detroit.

Those American League Central standings really didn’t matter in this moment. It was more about a highly anticipated special contest living up to its advanced billing and punctuated by Anderson’s heroics.

Anderson knew the ball was gone as soon as he made contact, which makes the explanation for what he was thinking at the moment of contact completely understandable.

“It’s over. 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.”

“Unfortunately, he’s a really good player,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone with a bit of an exasperated smile when asked about Anderson. “He certainly likes playing in this kind of environment and has established himself as an All-Star-caliber shortstop in this league, and obviously hurt us tonight.”

Each side homered four times, with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton launching two-out, two-run shots off closer Liam Hendriks to push aside the White Sox home runs hit earlier by José Abreu, Eloy Jiménez and Seby Zavala. Abreu’s first-inning homer marked the first AL/NL homer ever hit in Iowa, and it also tied him with Hall of Famer Harold Baines for third place on the franchise’s all-time list.

The White Sox were down, but they weren't totally out. While Anderson deservedly gets the credit for the game-winner, it was Zavala who worked an 0-2 count into a one-out walk to set the stage for his teammate.

"I still can't believe it,” Jiménez said. “That was amazing. We never give up, and you see the result [at the end of] the game. That was a message for everybody."

“He's the man of our team. What a leader. He came through today. He carried us,” said White Sox bench coach Miguel Cairo, who served as acting manager Thursday while Tony La Russa was attending the funeral of his brother-in-law in Florida. “That was awesome. That was a really good game, an exciting game. It was really special.”

Lance Lynn finished with a no-decision after allowing four runs over five-plus innings while striking out seven. Michael Kopech protected a 7-4 lead in the sixth by stranding runners on second and third by striking out Luke Voit and Rougned Odor. Aaron Bummer and Craig Kimbrel also delivered scoreless outings, and Hendriks eventually struck out three in the ninth to give him 82 strikeouts over 49 2/3 innings.

It was the ninth and 10th homers he’s allowed in 2021 doing the most damage.

“Everything was going the way it was supposed to go, but that happens,” Cairo said. “We can help each other. Today our offense did their part, and it was kind of cool that TA hit that homer to win the game.”

“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.”

Thursday’s contest began with both teams walking to the field together, coming out through the corn, as Kevin Costner, the star of the “Field of Dreams” movie, stood on the field after the opening introduction. Anderson has never seen “Field of Dreams” and remained non-committal with a smile when asked if he would view it anytime soon.

On this evening, though, Anderson wrote his own movie-script ending with a frenzied team celebration as the backdrop.

“Fans came to see a show, and we gave them a show. Being able to walk it off is definitely one of my best moments of my career for sure,” Anderson said. “I gave everybody a memory tonight. Just come here and leave a mark, it’s definitely a great accomplishment for me. I’m thankful for that moment for sure.”

“It was a dream come true,” Cairo said. “It was Field of Dreams, and today that dream came true. It was an awesome day. Now I can tell you, it was a really good day.”