White Sox manager Tony La Russa originally had Andrew Vaughn penciled in at designated hitter Wednesday.
“But I felt like with what (Gavin Sheets) did yesterday,” La Russa said Wednesday, after a 6-1 victory against the Reds, “you've got to give him his at-bats today. So, he earned them.”
Sheets rewarded La Russa’s confidence in him by driving in three of the White Sox’ first four runs. In the process, the rookie continued to make his case for a spot on the White Sox’ playoff roster as decision time nears. La Russa said he is scheduled to talk with general manager Rick Hahn on Friday, and Game 1 of the American League Division series is about a week away.
“I’ve been around a lot of really good hitters here, been learning from them, and it’s all starting to click at the right time, in my opinion,” Sheets said. “Put together a good season so far, but I think the most important part is still to come.”
Sheets and Vaughn could give the White Sox a platoon at DH in the postseason, so long as right fielder Adam Engel stays healthy and the team doesn’t need to use Vaughn in the outfield.
Sheets, a left-handed hitter, has had far more success against right-handed pitching (.254 batting average) than lefties (.111), albeit in a small sample size. Vaughn’s splits lean the other way.
The Reds started right-handers in both games of a two-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field this week. Over the two contests, Sheets went 4-for-6 with five RBI and a pair of homers.
“DH-ing was new to me,” Sheets said, “but I think I got so caught up in looking over every at-bat between at-bats and just thinking about the swing. Now, it’s more just keeping it light. Not trying to think about each at-bat when I’m in there.”
And coffee. A lot of coffee.
On Wednesday, Sheets started the White Sox’ scoring with a two-run homer in the third inning. But La Russa said his favorite hit was Sheet’s second of the game, a line drive into left field for an RBI single.
Sheets agreed and widened the scope to the whole series. In both games, Sheets hit one home run and one two-strike RBI single the other way.
“Obviously, the home runs are awesome – I’ll take a home run every night obviously,” Sheets said. “But to come up big with runners in scoring position, especially last night after Leury (García) got the bunt down and showed confidence in me to get the job done, is more rewarding than anything.”
He and García have provided a one-two punch at the bottom of the order the past couple days, batting seventh and eight in the order and showcasing the lineup’s depth.
“The ability to score each inning, nowadays that's a requirement if you want to get to October,” La Russa said, “because you're going to face other teams like that. That is definitely something that we can feature as well."