Luis Robert Jr.’s 9th-inning catch — ‘one of the best I’ve ever seen’ — preserves the Chicago White Sox’s 4-game split in Houston
Kyle Tucker appeared to have an extra-base hit.
Luis Robert Jr. had other ideas.
The Chicago White Sox center fielder was shaded toward right-center. He raced to left-center and made a miraculous sliding catch to rob Tucker in the ninth inning Sunday in front of 42,835 at Minute Maid Park.
The grab helped preserve a 6-3 victory for the Sox, who earned an impressive split of the four-game series against the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros.
“I knew that it was a hard-hit ball and it was far,” Robert said through an interpreter. “I saw when the ball was in the air and I just put my head down and ran as fast as I could. When I put my head up again, I saw the ball and was there.”
The catch was the second out of the inning. Two runners were on base and the Sox had a five-run lead. The Astros got back-to-back RBI singles after the play to bring the tying run to the plate before Chas McCormick popped out to first baseman Andrew Vaughn to end the game.
Sox manager Pedro Grifol called Robert’s catch a game-saver, along with one in the fifth by right fielder Oscar Colás on David Hensley’s sinking liner.
“They just told me he ran (113) feet for that ball,” Grifol said of Robert’s play. “To be honest, that ball was hit and I thought (left fielder Andrew Benintendi) was the only one that had a chance for the ball. I looked at Luis and he wasn’t close. I looked and thought (Benintendi) maybe had a chance, and all of a sudden I see (Robert) flying to make that catch.
“Probably one of the best catches I’ve seen just because of the amount of territory he covered. He closed in on that ball really quick. That’s one of the best catches I’ve ever seen.”
It was the second straight day Robert robbed Tucker. He went to the wall and made a leaping catch in the third inning of Saturday’s 6-4 loss.
Robert said Saturday’s catch was more difficult.
“It was against the wall, and then I had to have the perfect timing to jump and catch the ball,” he said. “(Sunday’s) was just I was running behind the ball and I was able to grab it.”
Teammates were in awe of what they saw.
“When he made that catch, I just froze,” Colás said through an interpreter. “I couldn’t believe it. That was a very well-hit ball and it was far from where he actually was. When I saw him doing that, I just couldn’t believe it.”
Starting pitcher Mike Clevinger brought up an NFL Hall of Famer when Robert’s name was mentioned.
“Megatron? Calvin Johnson in center field?” Clevinger said. “Good grief, yeah. It’s very comforting to know you have (Robert and Colás) behind you.”
Robert also had a productive day at the plate, going 2-for-5 with a double and a solo home run.
“I just kept working, kept trying to make adjustments,” Robert said. “What happened yesterday doesn’t matter today. You just need to keep working and trying to improve and get better every day. That’s the key, just keep working.”
Robert’s homer in the fifth was the game’s first run.
“He can beat you so many different ways and today showed it,” Grifol said.
Clevinger earned the win in his Sox debut, allowing three hits in five scoreless innings.
“He made the pitch every time he had to make one,” Grifol said.
Clevinger struck out eight and walked three in the 98-pitch outing.
“It’s a playoff atmosphere almost every game in Houston,” Clevinger said.
Yoán Moncada continued his strong start with two doubles and a two-run homer. He’s 8-for-18 (.444) with two homers and four RBIs. Yasmani Grandal, who is 5-for-12 (.417), had three hits, while Colás and Vaughn both had two.
Colás, Vaughn and Tim Anderson each had one RBI as the Sox head home on a high note after measuring themselves against the 2022 champions.
“This is a good start for us,” Robert said. “Leaving here with a 2-2 record is good. It was a very good series.”
Time change for home opener
The Sox moved up Monday’s home opener against the San Francisco Giants by one hour to 2:10 p.m. because of inclement weather forecast in the late afternoon and evening.
Parking lots will open three hours before first pitch and gates will open at 12:30 p.m. Pregame festivities and introductions will begin at 1:30.
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