Andrew Vaughn saw sinkers and slides during an at bat in the fifth inning with the bases loaded on September 18 in Detroit.
Vaughn had a 1-2 count when he hit Tigers reliever Jason Foley’s sixth delivery, a slider, over the wall at center left at Comerica Park for a grand slam. The first stroke of Vaughn’s career helped the Chicago White Sox to an 11-5 victory.
The Sox’s next win came after Thursday’s 4-3 win against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Vaughn had one RBI, taking Mark Payton home with a sacrifice fly, helping to lose an eight-game streak.
Vaughn and fellow outfielder/first baseman Gavin Sheets are approaching the last few games of their second season in the big league, as they have done all year.
“Stay driven,” Vaughn told the Tribune this week in Minneapolis. “You have to go out and it’s our job, we still have to win ball games and push forward.”
Vaughn went into Friday’s series opener against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park with a team-leading 17 home runs and tied with 75 RBI’s.
Sheets finished second on the team on Friday with 15 home runs, including back-to-back with Vaughn on September 15 against the Cleveland Guardians.
Both said many lessons had been learned from year 1 to 2.
“April and May were a big learning point,” Sheets told the Tribune in Minneapolis this week. “I had a really hard time and I’m really proud of the way I bounced back in the second half and just made the adjustments that were needed. I learned a lot. I’ve never struggled like this as a player, so that’s a lot to build on.
“First, I went through it. And not only that, I got out and got back on top. For me it is therefore a huge learning experience, especially at the beginning of my career. It’s good to get that out of the way and learn from it. Take the learning points from those months and take the learning points from the months when I really had some success. I’m going to build on that this offseason.”
Sheets had two hits and Vaughn had an RBI single on Friday in a 3-1 win against the Padres. Sox-starter Davis Martin gave up one run on six hits in 5⅔ innings. He hit a career-high eight.
Eloy Jiménez homered — his 16th — and Sheets scored the go-ahead run in the fourth on a single by Yoán Moncada. Vaughn made it 3-1 and drove into Moncada with the single in the sixth.
Sheets slashed .242/.296/.417 with 51 RBI’s in 119 games after hitting .250 with 11 homeruns and 34 RBI’s in 54 games last season.
He hit .213 in April and .208 in May. Sheets got an option for Triple-A Charlotte on June 10 and returned to the Sox on June 23. His peak month was August, when he cut .359/.377/.641 with four homeruns and 18 RBI’s in 23 games.
“You go through those (struggling) stages and you never know if you’ll get out because you’re in the present,” Sheets said. “I look back on that, look at what I was able to do in August and so far in September and July, it’s a lot to build on. Now get rid of what you did well and stay away from what got you into trouble.
Sox acting manager Miguel Cairo recalls the tests he went through from his first full season to the second.
“It’s about adjustments,” Cairo said earlier this week. “It’s about the pitchers, the teams, they will always adapt to you. And you have to adjust them. And those are the big leagues.
“And they’ve done pretty well this year. You could see the growth of Sheets and (Vaughn).”
Vaughn, who cut .276/.325/.439 after hitting .235 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs in 127 games last season, said he took “a lot of things” from his sophomore season.
“Your body, how to take care of yourself,” he said. “If you go into the league for another year, you’re going to have to deal with pitchers again. Learn what they have, but they also learn what you have, so you have to do your homework.
“See what he did to you before and go to your strengths and see what you can do to beat him.”
Vaughn’s 2022 included suffering a hip pointer (pelvis bruised on the right side) during spring practice, a brief IL stint in May due to a bruised right hand and being hit by a pitch in an August game against the Guardians that slipped off his left shoulder and slapped his face.
“It’s part of the game,” Vaughn said. “Things happen to you all year round. I’m glad nothing happened that was an injury to a muscle or anything like that. I got hit in the wrist, I didn’t dive very well and hurt my hip. I got a slap in the face. But I’m happy with how my body has been.”
Both natural first basemen, Vaughn and Sheets continue to adjust to the outfield. Vaughn played 45 games right and 43 left, Sheets played 80 right and three left.
Everywhere they want to get the most out of this last part of 2022.
“We’re now playing for each other (as a team),” Sheets said. “These numbers are still important. Everything still counts. It might not be an after-season race (but)… we’re still Major League Baseball players and we have to go out and do our job and do it the best we can.”