Engel, Anderson power White Sox to second straight win over Twins

MINNEAPOLIS — Two down. Maybe two more to go.

After taking the first two games of a make-or-break kind of series against the Twins by a total of 14 runs, the White Sox, finally at the .500 mark after a 6-2 victory against the AL Central Division leaders Friday night, can fancy the idea of finishing off the first half with a really big sweep.

It will take wins Saturday and Sunday with Lance Lynn and Dylan Cease pitching, but you know it’s what everyone is thinking after Adam Engel and Tim Anderson homered and four relievers followed Michael Kopech with scoreless relief Friday as the Sox stretched their winning streak to four and reached .500 for the first time since May 29.

The Sox have won six of eight and trail the Twins by three games. They suffered a big blow losing Luis Robert in the second inning because of of lightheadedness after Robert drew a walk and scored in a two-run first.

But Engel, Robert’s replacement in center, lined a three-run homer in the seventh against right-hander Griffin Jax to turn a one-run lead into four. The Sox also got a tiebreaking homer from Anderson and a quick strike of two runs in the first.

This time they scored again first against left-hander Devin Smeltzer, who was pulled after three innings. Smeltzer gave up two runs on five hits and two walks — the Sox left three runners in scoring position against him — and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was probably noting the Sox’ .288/.345/.459 hitting line against lefties when he pulled him.

Anderson’s homer against righty Emilio Vargas broke a 2-all tie in the fourth, and Anderson’s leaping catch on the first base side of second helped Kopech finish with a perfect fifth, his only 1-2-3 inning.

The good news from Kopech was that his fastball velocity sat in the 94-96 mph range, up a couple of ticks from his recent starts. He entered with a worrisome 6.15 ERA over his previous five starts, and he labored through five innings with four walks and five hits allowed while striking out two and getting just three swings and misses on 90 pitches (54 for strikes). But Kopech, who has been pitching with some right knee soreness, will take four scoreless innings into a needed All-Star break.

“He’s probably being careful about planting and pushing off,” La Russa said. “And that’s something to pay attention to because if that alters your delivery that’s where you could have [issues. The pitching coaches] had some real good sessions with him. I think we’re on top of it. But you can pitch with that if you can move the ball around and command it.”

Andrew Vaughn, who homered Thursday night, moved the ball around and found a hole between shortstop and third base for a two-run single in the first. It was just the kind of needed hit assistant hitting coach Howie Clark was talking about before the game. The Sox have searched for consistent run production all season.

“If you put too much into why this is happening or that is happening, sometimes you’re one ball going in the hole for a hit from something opening up,” Clark said.

“When guys think they’re going bad they’re never that far away. And when they’re going good they’re not that far from going the other direction, too. When the guys are swinging, it’s contagious. We’ve seen it go the other direction.”

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