Anderson rocks slam: 'I know I'm the best'

May 2nd, 2021

CHICAGO -- Through three innings of a 7-3 White Sox victory over Cleveland Saturday at Guaranteed Rate Field, Tony La Russa’s crew featured an odd stat line with the bats.

They had struck out nine times in nine outs and had just one hit. But the White Sox still held a four-run advantage. Such is the benefit of a four-walk, five-run second inning allowed by Cleveland starter Triston McKenzie.

This early rally was punctuated by 's grand slam to right on a 1-2 four-seam fastball marking his second career slam. Anderson, who is one of the top leadoff hitters in the game, had a streak of 15 straight solo homers before the blast dating back to Sept. 6, 2019, against the Angels.

“I kind of wasn’t expecting for him to give me heaters after heaters,” said Anderson, who struck out against McKenzie in the first. “That next at-bat I was making sure I was on time for that heater. I didn’t miss, and that was a huge hit to kind of give us some room in the ballgame and to take a little air out of their chest as well. Momentum just carried over from there.”

“That guy's an outstanding hitter. He's tough to pitch to,” said Cleveland catcher Austin Hedges of Anderson. “Honestly, he doesn't have any holes. It was a tough position to be in because we were walking so many guys and we, obviously, don't want to walk another run in. So, we're trying to attack and, like I said, that guy's a really good hitter and he was just able to get a good swing on it."

Anderson’s 388-foot drive came after Leury García drew a walk to force in the first run. But it also reinforced the top-notch student of the game Anderson has become, as he explained through the fastball adjustment in just one inning. Anderson added three slick defensive plays at shortstop, helping out Lance Lynn, who earned the victory after being activated from the 10-day injured list prior to Saturday’s game, and Michael Kopech, who threw three scoreless innings in relief.

The celebratory bat flips highlighting Anderson’s commitment to make baseball fun at times overshadow his commitment to becoming one of the best players in the game. Anderson has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games, going 19-for-56 with two doubles, three home runs, eight RBIs and 12 runs scored as the White Sox driving force.

“I never lose. A guy might strike me out, but I got myself out,” Anderson said. “He didn’t get me out. Just always staying in the positive lane at all times and believing you are the best. When I step on that field, I know I’m the best. I believe I’m the best. It’s just a matter of continuing to work.”

“You're out here to do everything you can to help your team win and show what you're about and show what you're capable of and TA's doing that,” said Lynn, who improved to 2-1 overall. “And everyone else, especially the young kids are seeing, ‘Hey, you put in the work, you do what you're capable of and you make sure that you're here every day and doing the things that you need to do, you can enjoy this game too.’ That's what makes it fun."

La Russa thought 75 or 80 pitches was about the limit for Lynn, who had not pitched since losing to Cleveland at home on April 15 due to a strained right trapezius. Lynn allowed three runs on four hits over five and had a string of 66 batters faced without a walk snapped by a free pass issued to José Ramírez in the fourth.

Kopech, who started and struck out 10 Rangers over five innings last Sunday, struck out three and allowed one hit. Cleveland outhit the White Sox, 5-4, but the White Sox benefitted from eight walks, with six of them scoring.

Three of them scored behind Anderson’s blast, lifting the White Sox to a 6-2 record on this nine-game homestand and to 15-11 overall. It’s the sort of heroics to be expected from a player who La Russa compared postgame to Michael Jordan in terms of commitment to competition and excellence.

“He's the same every stinking, wonderful day,” La Russa said. “He brings effort, he brings a commitment to the practices, to the competition, and he does it because he enjoys competing.”