Tim Anderson touched the plate after hitting his first homer of the season and returned to a less than filled Chicago White Sox dugout.
After a moment, teammates spilled back in and greeted the shortstop with high-fives and hugs.
“I was wondering where everybody went,” Anderson said. “But it was a cool moment. I was happy to finally get it out of the way.”
Anderson’s blast leading off the bottom of the first, his first of three hits, served as a jump-start for the Sox in a 7-2 victory against the Cleveland Guardians in front of 26,299 on Saturday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“I was more so worried about getting my swing back, not really worried about homers,” Anderson said. “I knew if I could try to find my swing then everything else would come back. Just been working on trying to find my swing and it showed tonight.”
It was his first home run since July 15 of last season in Minneapolis, a span of 97 games. He missed most of the last two months of 2022 after undergoing surgery on his left hand in early August.
He was on the injured list from April 11 to May 2 this season with a sprained left knee.
“He’s battled some injuries that I truly believe have hampered him not only this year but last year as well,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “He was feeling pretty good and then he had that injury in Minnesota (in April). That affected his stride.
“He’ll sit here and probably tell you there’s no excuses, but I can talk for him. Sometimes it just throws your balance off, your mechanics off and you just don’t feel it. But huge credit to his work ethic.”
Anderson’s homer wasn’t the only “first since” Saturday.
Sox pitcher Mike Clevinger made his first start since June 14 at the Los Angeles Dodgers. He went on the IL a day later with right biceps inflammation.
“I knew it wasn’t anything too serious because it was biceps,” Clevinger said. “Anything biceps related isn’t something that’s detrimental long term on the IL. The first couple of days of throwing, I had some doubts. I had some real doubts.
“Credit to the training staff for keeping my head on straight. I was in a little bit of a dark place when I was first trying to throw. They helped me. ‘Hey, look this is normal. This is supposed to feel this way.’
“Then things started clicking and started seeing light at the end of the tunnel last couple of weeks.”
Clevinger allowed two hits and struck out three in five scoreless innings. Grifol indicated before the game that Clevinger would be limited to around 80 pitches. He threw 72.
“It was a lot of fun,” Clevinger said. “There were a lot of pitches thrown without having that environment. But it was fun to get back out there with the boys.”
Clevinger received strong defensive support. Left fielder Zach Remillard made a diving catch to rob José Ramírez in the first. Umpires ruled that the relay throw to first was in time to nab Steven Kwan. The Guardians were not allowed to challenge any portion of the play, with umpires indicating time had run out to request a review. Manager Terry Francona argued and was ejected.
Second baseman Jake Burger and third baseman Yoán Moncada made nice fielding plays for outs on back-to-back grounders by Josh Bell and Will Brennan in the fifth.
“That’s who I nominated for player of the game when we came in the clubhouse, the defense,” Clevinger said. “Without them that’s a totally different outlook.”
Moncada appeared to show no side effects from an awkward landing at the plate while trying to score from first base in the fourth. In addition to the defensive play in the top of the fifth, he knocked in two with a single in the bottom of the inning.
Andrew Vaughn hit a two-run homer in the sixth, and the Sox added two runs in the seventh on RBI singles from Luis Robert Jr. and Eloy Jiménez.
The Sox had 12 hits, with Anderson leading the way. He’s 20-for-57 (.351) with two doubles, one home run, six RBIs and eight runs in 14 games since the All-Star break.
He has appreciated the support from his teammates.
“They’ve been there every step of the way,” Anderson said. “They’ve seen the work, the front office has seen the work, everybody knows what I’m capable of and how I’m able to work and continue to try to get better.
“But everybody has been rooting me on from Day 1. I just continue to keep pushing.”