TA rocks season debut as Sox thump Tigers
DETROIT – Tim Anderson was having some fun talking about watching the first two games of the 2022 season from his hotel room while serving a suspension prior to the White Sox 10-1 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park on Sunday, when suddenly, his demeanor changed.
That switchover came when Chicago's shortstop was asked if he was ready to start the current campaign.
“Yeah, I’m ready,” said Anderson, in quiet tones, with a steely focus. “I’ve been ready.”
Anderson clearly doesn’t just talk a good game. He doubled on the first pitch he saw from Detroit’s Tarik Skubal en route to three hits and two runs scored in Sunday's finale. The White Sox are a darn good team without Anderson, but they ascend to an even higher level with their shortstop back at the top of the lineup.
"He is the most lit-up, energized player I’ve ever watched,” Chicago manager Tony La Russa said. “Every day, from the minute he walks into that locker room, he’s got life and commitment and, ‘Let’s go, let’s go.’ Every practice and every game
“You see his antics, his energy level, and it’s infectious. He’s the best. And it’s all real. He’s not putting on a show, and then he disappears. He wants it. He wants to win.”
The White Sox had a chance to sweep this three-game, season-opening series in Detroit even with Anderson absent. His three-game suspension for bumping an umpire was handed down in the final week of last season, then reduced to two games and a $10,000 fine. Chicago lost that opportunity by giving away a lead on Opening Day on Friday, but on Sunday, even in Game 3 of 162, the South Siders left little doubt who the clear-cut favorite is in the American League Central.
Michael Kopech, who struggled in his final Cactus League start on Tuesday against the Padres, allowed one run over four innings and 69 pitches. The right-hander pitched 40 of his 44 games in relief last season, but the starting rotation is where he wants to be.
So, Sunday’s effort, following a strong side session leading into the start, was an important step.
“Today was important to me,” said Kopech, who struck out three and walked two. “I may have put a little bit extra pressure on myself because it was important to me. But there’s a lot of people that I had in mind today.
“I had about a two-hour conversation with my dad yesterday. He helped me get in the right mindset. I’m always thinking about my son, and I put myself in a position where I can do more to support his life. Today was a big day for me.”
It was also a big day for Andrew Vaughn, who homered among his two hits and drove in four. Add reliever Tanner Banks to that list, as the 30-year-old rookie struck out the side in his Major League debut and fanned four in two innings.
But let’s cut back to Anderson, a man who clearly enjoys every moment in uniform. He’s also a unique talent whose impact is witnessed by those with him and against him.
“Getting their sparkplug back, it changes their lineup,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “It’s something about him against the whole league. It’s not just us. He’s an All-Star caliber player against everybody in the league.”
“He took two days off and came back like he hadn’t missed a beat,” Kopech said. “For him, that’s normal, right? But for most people, it’s not. Obviously just not only what his bat brings but what his attitude brings to the team is huge. We played well yesterday, but it’s a different atmosphere with Tim in the lineup.”
La Russa went as far as to say there’s nobody better playing shortstop than Anderson. That’s a lofty compliment from a true baseball man, but Anderson was more focused on doing what he needed to help the White Sox win this series after a tough start.
“Once everything is clicking, we can score some runs,” said Anderson, whose team scored 20 this weekend and scored in the first inning of all three. “We’re missing guys that are important to the team and that have big bats, as well. So it was exciting today to get the win, and more exciting that those guys are on the way back, for sure.”