Korey Lee broke out of a slide in a memorable way.
The Chicago White Sox catcher was hitless in his last 23 at-bats when he stepped to the plate in the second inning against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium.
Facing Brady Singer, Lee launched a 1-1 slider to left field that cleared the wall for a three-run home run. It was the first homer of Lee’s big-league career.
“It’s a great feeling,” Lee told the Tribune before Wednesday’s series finale against the Royals. “It’s something that as a kid you see it on TV and you dream about it. I got to enjoy it.
“It was good to have all the teammates in the dugout excited with me and excited for the moment. I’m happy to get it out of the way.”
As a bonus, his college teammate Andrew Vaughn homered in the next inning.
“Brought back memories,” Lee said. “I got a lot of texts from old Cal guys, and I’m sure he did too. It’s a good feeling to bring that back, and hopefully we can get more of those.”
The Sox lost 7-6, a game that ended on a balk with the bases loaded in the ninth. But Lee had two hits, the homer in the second and a single in the fourth. He was out at second trying to stretch it into a double.
Vaughn homered again Wednesday, this time a two-run blast, in a 6-4 victory in front of 11,046. Yoán Moncada also homered for the second straight day. Oscar Colás hit the team’s third home run of the night while starter Touki Toussaint allowed two runs on two hits with six strikeouts and three walks in six innings to help the Sox snap a five-game losing streak.
Lee went 1-for-3 with a walk. He singled to right and later scored in the ninth.
Lee said Tuesday’s home run came from sticking to his plan.
“Sticking to the execution, what the coaches and I talked about,” Lee said. “We talked about it last night, and when you trust your plan, good things happen, especially in this sport. You’ve got to be prepared for every situation and just keep on trusting my plan.
“Being on time for the fastball sets you up for a lot of success. Especially in this league, they know what you hit well, they know what you don’t hit well and are going to keep on attacking that. It’s knowing what you can get better at and continue to hammer that out and good things happen when you practice hard.”
Lee has received a bulk of the playing time at catcher since being called up Aug. 24, appearing in 11 of the team’s last 13 games.
Manager Pedro Grifol noted Tuesday’s defensive effort.
“He blocked the ball well, he controls our running game,” Grifol said. “We didn’t have much action in that department (Tuesday), part of it is because of him. He can really throw. And he did a good job calling the game. A few mistakes here and there, but we talked about it and he’s a quick learner.”
Acquired in a July 28 trade from the Houston Astros in exchange for reliever Kendall Graveman, Lee has dived right in working with the staff.
“It’s a lot of communication in the locker room, outside the locker room,” Lee said. “Knowing how they communicate well and talking about a plan and what they’re working on.
“There’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes and in meetings and practice and bullpens and early work. Just continuing the process of learning.”
Lee also has held himself accountable, speaking up after being pulled from Saturday’s game against the Detroit Tigers when he remained in the box on a popup to first. He told reporters afterward: “I’m a die-hard baseball guy. This is what I love to do. You’ll never see that again.”
Lee entered Wednesday 3-for-29 (.103) with the home run and three RBIs. Grifol is concentrating more on what happens behind the plate.
“On the offensive side, you want him to continue to improve and have success, but my focus with him is defense and controlling the pitching staff,” Grifol said.
Lee has been vocal in meetings with the staff, something Grifol liked to see from the 25-year-old.
“I want to grow the relationships with everyone,” Lee said. “That’s something I value as a person, treating others exactly how I want to be treated.”
Shortstop Tim Anderson was scratched from Wednesday’s lineup with neck stiffness. But center fielder Luis Robert Jr. returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Friday after being sidelined with right quad tightness. Robert pinch hit in the seventh inning Tuesday and remained in the game.
The Sox sent reliever Garrett Crochet to Double-A Birmingham on a rehab assignment. He has been on the injured list since June 17 with left shoulder inflammation.