Technically, Eloy Jiménez returned Monday.
But really, Eloy Jiménez returned tonight.
Mike Matheny banked on seeing the former when he intentionally walked José Abreu with two outs in the eighth, putting runners on the corners for Jiménez in a 3-2 game. Kyle Zimmer came right at him with a fastball, which Jiménez fouled back.
Zimmer then tried a slider, and that’s when everybody wearing a Royals uniform realized mistakes were made.
A 3-2 deficit turned into a 5-3 White Sox lead, Tony La Russa turned to Michael Kopech and Liam Hendriks for an inning apiece, and the White Sox resumed their winning ways at Kauffman Stadium with a come-from-behind victory that restored their AL Central lead to 9½ games.
Jiménez had shown he was back in other ways before the homer. He made two ranging catches — one to the line, and one to the gap. He also gunned down Michael A. Taylor at the plate by 15 feet in what was the spiritual baserunning equivalent of Zimmer’s hanger.
But Jiménez needed the eighth inning to find him in order to supply the finishing move, and the rest of the lineup got it to him. Matheny lifted Brad Keller after seven strong innings for lefty Jake Brentz, who immediately allowed a double to Leury García, then plunked Adam Engel (pinch-hitting for Zack Collins) on a 1-2 pitch. A changeup in the dirt moved both runners into scoring position, and while Tim Anderson’s hot shot found Hunter Dozier at third, Yoán Moncada’s grounder to second base allowed one run to score for a 3-2 game.
Zimmer came in to face José Abreu, only to intentionally walk him instead, and that’s when Jiménez took over.
Prior to the seventh, this had all the makings of another quiet White Sox loss of recent vintage. The White Sox offense could only muster a Gavin Sheets solo shot against Keller over seven innings. Sheets’ homer was preceded by Jiménez grounding into a double play, which was more characteristic of the affairs.
In the second inning, the Sox had runners on the corners with one out after Jiménez advanced on Andrew Vaughn’s foul pop-out, but Brian Goodwin and García both struck out. Yoán Moncada grounded into an inning-ending double play in the third inning. Sheets homered in the fourth, but Keller recovered to retire 10 of the last 11 he faced.
Fortunately, Dylan Cease pitched decently for the Sox, aided by a few questionable decisions from KC. There was the idea to send Taylor in the second, ending an inning that could’ve spiraled out of control, as Vaughn dropped a fly in right field with two outs to lead to the second Royal run of the frame.
The Royals answered Sheets’ homer with a Ryan O’Hearn single in the bottom of the fourth, but an attempt to start a rally in the fifth started with a Whit Merrifield single, and ended with Merrifield getting cut down at second by Goodwin. The replay seemed to show that Merrifield’s hand reached the bag before García’s tag reached his chest, but Matheny didn’t challenge.
Likewise, when Reynaldo López opened the seventh with a leadoff walk to Hunter Dozier, Matheny started Dozier on a 1-2 count to Taylor. López recorded the strikeout with a perfect up-and-in fastball, and Zack Collins made a perfect throw for the third Kansas City baserunning out. López made it the rest of the way without incident and picked up the victory for his troubles.
*Cease threw a quality start despite early wobbles: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. He recorded 14 whiffs on 89 pitches.
*Jiménez was replaced defensively after his homer, with Engel taking over in center, Goodwin moving to right, and Vaughn moving to left.
*Kopech struck out the side on 14 pitches in the eighth.
Record: 60-41 | Box score | Statcast
What are you doing Mike Matheny?!
Brian Goodwin could soon be part of the heap of players to provide a few weeks of good production. Sheets’ power against righties is real, and even though he is awful in the outfield he might be more valuable than middling Goodwin hitting and slightly above middling Goodwin defense. Lamb can stay down in the minors for as long as possible. They’ll probably option Sheets down when Lamb comes back and not loose Goodwin then bring Sheets and Burger back up for September if they aren’t traded. I like Sheets a lot, and he could be a real solution in rightfield if he keeps mashing. The Sox need to give up some low minors young prospect capital to get Escobar and some bullpen help, but I hope they keep Burger and Sheets as contributors to this core group of players.
At this point, I’m okay with letting Goodwin go if someone wants to claim him off waivers. He’s a left handed bat in the outfield which is useful but he should never ever play in center field when we have Engel and Hamilton still on the roster and his bat isn’t good enough that it should be forcing the issue. If no one claims him, back to AAA until someone else gets hurt (knock on wood they don’t).
I think sending Sheets down for Lamb would be a big mistake. They both serve almost the same purpose, and Sheets just seems to be a better hitter than Lamb against righties. He has more homers and twice as many rbi’s, and a much higher OPS (over 1) in less at bats. His success probably not sustainable to that level, but Lamb has not posted a season OPS over .700 since 2017. He’s not good really, and was only an improvement in comparison to Eaton or Vaughn when Vaughn could not hit righties at all. I don’t see any logic in sending a much better hitter vs RHP’s (which has been a primary weakness of this team for over a year) to the minors for a guy with an OPS .250 lower vs RHP and that was probably overachieving himself. If Lamb needs to be cut in order for Sheets to stay as a valuable sub or pinch hitter vs RHP, then they should cut him.
Lamb is a lot more versatile than Sheets though. Neither one should be playing RF but Lamb has looked a lot more comfortable than Sheets out there. Lamb can also credibly play 3B which we only have Mendick available at the moment.
Leury plays a good third base, not so good second base. I think you meant to say 2B.
No, I meant 3B. Until something new happens, Leury is our starting 2B so having him backup anywhere isn’t a possibility. Mendick can theoretically back up 3B but he’s our primary backup for Tim and Leury so having a left handed bat that can cover all 4 corners is more important than someone who can really only cover 1B/DH.
If for some reason Moncada can’t play tonight, Leury would play third with Mendick at second – that’s the most likely possibility.
I gotta believe they trade for a second baseman in the next few days, though.
I don’t understand your point. Lamb isn’t through with his rehab assignment. In a world where Lamb is 100% and Moncada needs a day, Lamb at 3B is a better option than either Leury or Mendick. He is also a better defender in RF than Sheets. I very much enjoy Sheets and want him around for awhile but he doesn’t have a path to ABs and he has minor league options available.
The point is that today Leury is the third base backup for Moncada. It’s pretty obvious, despite your assertion that it’s an impossibility. And I don’t agree that Lamb plays a better third right now than Leury – don’t confuse his foibles at second with his glove work on the left side of the diamond.
And when, most likely, the Sox get another second baseman, Lamb is not getting the nod over Leury on the roster. Lamb will be fighting for that last roster spot with Sheets
Jesus Christ. That’s the entire damn point. If the choice is Lamb or Sheets, you take Lamb 100% of the time. In a world where we get another 2B, Leury takes Mendick’s spot as backing up Tim/2B. Lamb offers the versatility of backing up 4 spots in the field. Sheets gets you maybe 3 but I’m not confident in his OF defense at all. So he is a glorified backup to Abreu. Guess what? We have 3 other guys on the roster who can play 1B if Abreu gets hurt/needs a day, and that’s not counting Lamb since he’s not even on the roster yet. I don’t understand how you are failing to grasp the concept.
Lamb was a waiver pickup whose OPS in 2018, 2019, and 2020 was actually lower than Leury Garcia. He is hitting .167 with a .620 OPS at AAA. For what talk there is about Sheets being likely to regress, Lamb was likely to as well. I don’t believe Lamb’s versatility makes up for the difference in hitting compared to Sheets, on a team that has struggled vs RHP’s like they have.
Playing time will be scarce for either. When Robert gets back, they should not need Lamb or Sheets in the outfield much, if at all. Eloy, Robert, Goodwin, Engel, Vaughn is 5 players for 3 outfield spots and DH. Lamb or Sheets likely to be used mostly for spot starts at DH vs RHPs or as a pinch hitter. He only played 3 games at 3b, so I don’t see his versatility making a good argument to justify replacing a hitter that has been as clearly better against righties. I doubt TLR/Hahn will either, but some seem to agree with you… we’ll see. Sheets might not even be with the Sox in a few days, quite possible also. They need to get some bullpen help almost no matter what the price is, basically.
Sheets would only be going down for a month anyway because the rosters expand so why potentially throw away Lamb now as injury insurance over Sheets playing a couple of times a week for 30 days? It’s not like playing every day and continuing to work on his outfield defense wouldn’t be a benefit to Sheets.
Its a good thing we don’t really care about minor league stats for guys on rehab assignments, otherwise Eloy would still be in AAA.
Anyone ignoring the difference between Lamb and Sheets as hitters doesn’t really care about major league stats either, apparently.
There is a difference between Eloy and a guy whose OPS was lower than Garcia’s the past 3 years, no offense.
Why is Leury playing RF tonight when “having him backup anywhere isn’t a possibility”? Can you grasp that concept? Do you know, despite some shortcomings, he’s the most versatile player on the Sox?
Whatever you’re smoking, I want some.
I really like watching Sheets and would be sad to see him go, but keeping Lamb around has its merits. Lamb has a 113 wRC+ this season, plays a bit better RF (I think?), and can play 3B. If you drop Lamb, that’s it—it’s Sheets or bust for that LH bat that can “play” RF. If more exposure allows pitchers to figure Sheets out, that’s now a hole that needs patching (bench LH power) with no good way to patch it. And there are reasons to expect some regression (Sheets’ 136 wRC+ is his highest at any professional level by a fair margin).
Sending Sheets down gives Lamb one more opportunity to prove he can stick and allows Sheets more time in RF. If Lamb sputters, you can always go back to Sheets—and Sheets will get more time in September to prove his worth to a playoff roster.
Unless Sheets goes on a yerminating tear before Lamb has to be activated, this is what I think the Sox will do. Sending Sheets down retains all options for the team. Trying to send Lamb down risks losing him and eliminating one option.
I haven’t watched the games in which Lopey has pitched in. Has he been doing well or is it just small sample size luck?
Last night was the first game I’ve seen him pitch this year. He looked like same old Lopez for the most part. He got squeezed a little bit on the walk and only 4 of his 10 pitches were actually in the strike zone. But to his credit, he got 2 swinging strikes on well placed sliders just off the plate to Taylor.
You never know, some kind of shift in confidence might change how he pitches as the body and mind are not separate. But his numbers at AAA were so awful it’s just hard to believe he could have success with the Sox without at least some ability to pitch decent at Charlotte.
I’m not saying he can’t or won’t be a useful bullpen piece. What am I saying is I’ll be sorely disappointed if Hahn says we didn’t make any trades because of Lopez pitching a few okay innings.
Amen to that. He is the last guy they should count on for sure. If they don’t upgrade the bullpen this team is winning nothing in October, that’s almost certain I think. Unless all the starters go 9 innings like the 2005 ALCS. Kopech and Liam can’t go every day.
Two of his last three outings in Charlotte were strong.
His fastball command looks improved versus my recollection of his fastball command. His velocity is up from last year by a tick or two, and he is getting good movement on his 4 seam fastball.
Otherwise he’s still a guy who could benefit a lot from improving his curve. But in a limited sample, including last night versus the bottom of the order of a bad team, he has looked fine.
He managed to hit 97 last night once. In the absence of some better/more reliable breaking pitches he’ll need to be able to get to that velocity more often.
Checking baseball Savant, his fastball spin is up a bit: Taking him from bottom half of the league to merely okay. Combine that with increased velo and he could be decent out of the pen.
The Sox have a comfortable enough lead to flesh out if Lopez can be a positive contributor this year. He has a major league arm with a lot of experience. If he (or Katz) can channel that, it would be a huge plus going into the playoffs.
As I’ve been saying for months, they need to get Eloy back out there in left for his defense! Wow, almost hilarious that he was having such a good defensive game even before his homer. I’m fine with him in left if he does not hurt himself or the centerfielder. I just fear for his life when he is out there!
I agree Eloy was great last night. Almost as if he were fighting for his job in left field.
Vaughn has played better than average replacement in a position where he had no experience and I suspect he would have caught and thrown similarly last night. He struggled last night in right but again, he is being asked to play a position in MLB that he has never played before. I don’t think one night defines either player.
If Vaughn can adapt to right, that is a potent outfield and would fill a desperate need in right, and free up the DH/1st base a bit. If that keeps Sheets in uniform, I am all for giving Vaughn a lot more time to adapt.
I wonder if this is a by-product of squeezing Vaughn out of DH/1st base thinking that Grandal will occupy that space for a while.
Yeah I had been hoping Vaughn could get some time in RF during some of the blowouts. I know they wanted to get him acclimated out there in LF, but if their goal is to get all of their best bats in the lineup every night, there was a point where Vaughn was likely going to have to become a RF this season. But if he picks it up as quickly as he did LF, one or two mistakes early on will be quickly forgotten by the time the playoffs get here.
Boy I don’t relish the thought of Vaughn being their RF, but IF he could adapt to it and be even slightly below average out there, it would give them a lot of options. I just see Eloy getting hurt again over a longer timeframe if he plays left, much as one would hope that never happens. And the prospect of Vaughn in right and Eloy in left just seems like it would be a very weak defensive outfield to me over the long haul. But stranger things have worked out.
It surprised me, but it has now made some sense to me why Eloy was playing left in the minors. Looking ahead to keep Grandal in the lineup coming off the knee injury they need the DH available. And seeing how they handled Engel’s return from leg injury not playing consecutive days in the field they might need the DH available to let Robert hit every day as well at least the first few weeks. But if they’re going to do that then Goodwin shouldn’t be in center.
What next for Vaughn — CF? Catcher?
Magic number is 56. Just taught my daughter what that means.
Ha, that brings me back to when my Dad taught me what a magic number is. I think it was the 93 season.
It took me a while to figure out what it was when I first started following baseball lol.
That had to feel fantastic. Hope the rest of your day is as good.