OAKLAND, Calif. — It’s hard to measure just how much Elvis Andrus has meant to the White Sox since he joined them on Aug. 19.
The 34-year-old veteran has stabilized the shortstop position with All-Star Tim Anderson on the injured list. Going into Friday night’s 3-0 loss against the Athletics, his former team, Andrus was batting .291/.325/.494 with an .819 OPS and four home runs while starting all 19 games at shortstop since he arrived.
And he’s added another layer of leadership to a roster filled with veterans. And on Friday night, he doubled in the go-ahead runs in an explosive five-run ninth inning that vaulted the Sox (71-68) past the A’s for a 5-3 victory. Liam Hendriks pitched the ninth for his 31st save, ending it on a double play started by Andrus.
The Sox have won eight of 10 and are 8-3 under acting manager Miguel Cairo.
“A true shortstop playing shortstop, and with the experience he has,” Cairo said of the two-time All-Star Andrus. “He’s a very smart player.”
After getting blanked for eight innings the night after a 14-run, 21 assault on A’s pitching the Sox did not score until the ninth against A’s lefty reliever A.J. Puk.
Eloy Jimenez homered for the third time in three nights to start it. Andrew Vaughn singled home pinch runner Leury Garcia for the second run, Romy Gonzalez singled home pinch runner Adam Engel with the tying run and Andrus delivered the tiebreaking shot, a liner into the left field corner scoring a pair.
Andrus is filling Anderson’s customary spot leading off as well, a move Cairo made eight games ago. In his previous 11 games, Andrus batted .360 with four homers, four doubles, seven multihit games and 10 RBI.
“Plays really good defense and he’s been getting really good clutch hits,” Cairo said. “He’s been a very important piece. I’m glad that we signed him.”
Looking to win for the eighth time in their last nine games and needing a win to stay close to the AL Central leading Guardians, and one night after amassing 21 hits in a 14-2 series-opening romp against the worst team in the American League, the Sox were held hitless through six innings.
Adding more freaky Friday flavor to the Sox’ futility was seeing right-hander Austin Pruitt, a last-minute replacement for scheduled starter James Kaprielian — scratched because of a cut on his right middle finger — having his way with the Sox.
Lucas Giolito allowed three runs in six innings, including two in the fifth on Tony Kemp’s bloop single with two outs and two strikes and Sean Murphy’s liner to the left-center field gap scoring Kemp from first to make it 3-0.
Giolito (5.18 ERA) struck out six, walked two and gave up five hits.
Andrus, who singled and reached base twice Friday, was thrilled to join the contending Sox after Oakland, which entered Thursday with a 50-88 record, released him in the final year of his eight-year, $120 million contract. The A’s made room for 23-year-old shortstop Nick Allen, and the Sox got a bargain for a pro-rated portion of the major league minimum for Andrus’ services. Allen threw out Andrus from the left-field grass in the sixth.
The Sox finally got a hit with one out in the seventh when Jimenez singled against Joel Payamps.
The Sox (71-68) stayed 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Guardians the American League Central lead. Anderson, their two-time All-Star and former batting champion out since Aug. 6 with a surgically repaired sagittal band tear on the middle finger of his left hand, could be ready in approximately two weeks.
Anderson is getting daily treatment and running and throwing but can’t catch yet and hasn’t swung a bat yet. Anderson hasn’t talked to media and in the clubhouse, his customary vocal manner has changed to quiet. So it sometimes goes when players wait through dreary IL time, unable to contribute.
Andrus, meanwhile, made himself at home in the clubhouse and his voice was easily heard the day he joined the team in Cleveland. He said he is open to playing second base if Anderson returns. He sees what he is bringing to the Sox.
“Yeah, for sure,” Andrus said. “I just have to keep playing hard, keep staying positive. I think this team needed it, and it feels like the right timing for me.”