White Sox 4, Rockies 2: Homers bookend strong night for bullpen

Eloy Jiménez hit a three-run homer early, and José Abreu ended his career-long home run drought late.

In between, Michael Kopech did just enough for his first win since late July, and the bullpen posted zeroes in the final four innings to maintain his status as the pitcher of record.

As wins go, it wasn’t particularly authoritative , but it’s one of the templates the White Sox had in mind entering the season. More crucially, the Guardians and Twins both won tonight, so the White Sox had to hold serve by any means necessary.

These means were pretty straightforward, even if the Rockies spent most of the night one swing away from turning the tables. Kopech invited contact with a fastball-heavy approach, and while his fastball lacked its best velocity, it had enough life to miss barrels when needed. Two of the three hits he gave up were on weak sliders, they were consecutive, and the second one was an Alan Trejo homer that narrowed the Sox’s lead to 3-2 in the third inning, but Kopech learned his lesson.

From that point on, he was mostly fastball, and he threw just as many curves as sliders over the last two innings when he felt a need to show hitters something else. He survived an array of medium-deep flyouts and the occasional at-ém ball to an infielder, and Miguel Cairo turned it over to the bullpen after five innings and 80 pitches.

Jimmy Lambert, Reynaldo López, Kendall Graveman and Liam Hendriks each responded with a scoreless frame, and with increasing ease. Lambert alternated outs and singles, but in the correct order. López gave up a couple of 300-plus-foot flyouts to right around a strikeout, Kendall Graveman recovered from a one-out walk with a pair of strikeouts, and Liam Hendriks never brought the tying run to the plate over the course of his nine pitches.

José Abreu made life easier at the end, swinging with intent on a 2-2 slider from Justin Lawrence and sending it a few rows deep behind the left-center wall. Abreu hadn’t homered since Aug. 3, or 37 games ago, and it was particularly welcome given that the Sox hadn’t scored since the first.

Abreu’s homer made Chad Kuhl’s decision to pitch around Abreu look wiser in hindsight. In real time, it put runners on the corners with one out for Eloy Jiménez. Kuhl fell behind 1-0, then threw a get-me-over slider that sailed 428 feet into the bleachers left of center for a quick 3-0 lead.

Kuhl quieted the Sox’s bats after that. Not only did he pitch beyond the fifth inning for the first time since Memorial Day, but he worked one out into the seventh. The Sox have the tendency to look overmatched by the combination of sinkers running in and breaking balls away, and this night was no different, except for the power that had been lacking for so much of the summer.

Bullet points:

*The defensive positioning was a triumph for the Sox tonight. The infielders were in the right spots, and Gavin Sheets recorded six putouts in right without needing max effort.

*The Graveman walk was the only free base allowed by the White Sox all night.

*Luis Robert started for the first time in a week with diminishing returns. He went 0-for-4 with strong contact his first two times up, and strikeouts the last two. He didn’t let go of the bat with the wrong hand at any point, but he still looked short of comfortable at the end.

Record: 73-69 | Box score | Statcast

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Dennis

What an amazing hitter Eloy can be when he has his timing. He’s a much-needed force in the middle of this line-up.

But his lack of defense and inability to stay healthy work against him – two things that have personified the Sox’ woes this year. I wouldn’t be against exploring what kind of return he’d bring on the trade market this off-season. Just sayin’ …

As Cirensica

But his lack of defense and inability to stay healthy work against him – two things that have personified the Sox’ woes this year. I wouldn’t be against exploring what kind of return he’d bring on the trade market this off-season. Just sayin’ …

I have been on this train of thought. I think the White Sox can afford to keep Eloy only if they plan to have him as a permanent DH. To do so, they should move Vaughn to 1B and let Abreu go, and I have a feeling they won’t let Abreu walk away.

Hahn needs to be creative next year with managing the 1B/DH types he has at his disposals. Those thinking that Eloy can be an outfielder are fooling themselves. For 3 years in a row, Eloy has played in the outfield and ends up hurt for extended period of times. He has regained his hitting value and health while being a DH where he should stay.

lifelongjd

At a high level I agree with letting Abreu move on but it’s scary to think where (and what) this team would be without him.

roke1960

I really think they need to let Abreu walk. He has become a very good singles hitter who has been awful in the clutch in the second half. And with all the Cuban players that are well established parts of the team now, I think his impact at this point is a little overstated. I really like Jose and all that he has been for the Sox for the last 9 years, but Vaughn needs to be a 1st base only guy and Eloy needs to be the full time DH. If Vaughn doesn’t have to play the outfield next year, his numbers should really improve. And at 36 years old next year, it’s pretty safe to say Jose’s best days are behind him. With all the wasted money next year going to Grandal, Kelly and Diekman, and to some extent Pollock (though I think Pollock could be a very solid 4th outfielder), they need to cut some money somewhere to be able to add a few pieces. Letting Jose walk and trading Giolito are the two moves that would save some pretty big $$$.

gibby32

I feel as if most White Sox fans are overrating Vaughn. If other teams are also, he should be the one on the market.

roke1960

I don’t understand how fans are overrating Vaughn. What hasn’t he done to overrate him? He was rushed to the majors with no real minor league experience. He has been forced to play badly out of position for two years, likely causing an unnecessary toll on his body. And yet he is OPSing .800 and leads the team in homers and RBIs. He will be a solid middle of the order bat long after Jose is retired. Robert, Eloy and Vaughn will be a very solid 3-4-5 if they are not forced to play out of position (Eloy should DH and Vaughn should play 1st).

Last edited 14 days ago by roke1960
gibby32

Look, I like him fine. Buy he is a young guy who is slow and limited defensively, When he gets on base late in a game, he is replaced by a 30 year old pinch-runner. He leads the team in homers and rbi, but with pretty pedestrian numbers. There is no reason to believe that he is more than adequate defensively even at first base. If he is rated highly by other teams, he perhaps could get the team a starting pitcher. Also, I believe it is a mistake to under-value Abreu. He is important to the team, both for performance and as a role-model to young players, and historically he has wanted to be here and the fans love him. If he decides to retire, I change my mind. But that’s where I am right now.

HallofFrank

Yes. I like Vaughn. But he’s the obvious trade candidate, to me, and I’ll absolutely be moving him in my OPP. His 124 wRC+ and .787 OPS are quite average among 1B—they’d rank 13th and 15th among MLB 1B. Maybe we could expect a modest boost from him playing 1B only and an extra year of experience. But I’m expecting a bit of a pay dip from Abreu and I’ll stick with him.

roke1960

And I like Abreu. He has been the best player for the Sox for the last 9 years. It will be tough to see him go. But what kind of contract do you give him? One year, 2 years? Then what. Tell Vaughn over the winter that he is the first baseman moving forward and that he will be in the middle of the order. I would expect elite production (.280-.300 avg, 25-30 homers, 100+ RBI), Just the kind of elite production we’ve gotten from Abreu, and a lot from Konerko, and from Big Frank. Vaughn will continue the string of high quality 1st baseman well past Jose’s time. I’m afraid Jose’s big lack of power this second half is a sign of things to come.

Dennis

I think Vaughn was drafted #1 to be the first baseman and middle-of-the-order run producer a la Konerko. Vaughn gets 100-120 games at first with player-coach Abreu getting the rest. If Eloy gets moved, whoever isn’t on the field at 1B is the DH. An Eloy trade may bring Sox help in any of these areas: catcher, 2B, a two-way outfielder, or a starting pitcher. If Eloy stays, he’s principally the DH and when he gets hurt – and he will get hurt – Vaughn can DH or may have to have some time in left, making Abreu/Sheets the 1B platoon and Colas in RF

hitlesswonder

It absolutely might make sense to let Abreu walk, but I think it’s shortsighted to minimize how good he has been this year. He’s a 4 WAR player and that’s almost 2 WAR more than the next closest position player. That production has to be replaced somehow and just hoping Eloy is healthy and Vaughn progresses doesn’t seem like enough to me.

I’d also probably be against trading Giolito – given his season that would just be a salary dump…they aren’t getting anything back for him. and it’s not like the saved money would be used.

If you want to acquire a legit 2-way RF or decent starter I think you need to trade Vaughn or Eloy…probably Vaughn. To be clear, I think Vaughn could easily be a multi-year all-star player. He’s really done well (consider that Torkelson is a higher rated player and look at his performance so far).

Shaking up the roster in a meaningful way requires trading someone with real value.

roke1960

I think Giolito could get at least one pretty good major-league ready prospect in return. I’ll bet the Dodgers would be all over him if the Sox made him available. And even a 5-15 prospect in the Dodgers system is pretty darn good. Giolito is walking after next year. Get something for him now.

roke1960

Vaughn has a 2.1 offensive WAR and a -2.4 defensive WAR in 117 games. It’s just hard to say how badly Vaughn has suffered because he has had to play the outfield most of the year. He has 27 2B, 15 HR and 68 RBI. In 140 games, Jose has 33 2B, 15 HR and 67 RBI. To say that Jose has had a much better offensive year without including the fact that Vaughn has had to endure playing woefully out of position all year is not really looking at the big picture. If Vaughn only had to play 1st and DH this year, he’d likely have 20+ homers and 80+ RBI. And he’s 12 years younger and making a fraction of what Jose is making. To me it’s a no-brainer to put Vaughn at 1st and let Jose walk.

As Cirensica

This makes 100% sense. We should keep Vaughn. He is a good hitter, and he is just getting started. Skipping minor leagues, and in his season year he is comparable offensively speaking to Jose Abreu. No brainer. He should be part of the next core.

a-t

I think it makes the most sense to keep all of Eloy, Vaughn, and Abreu— for something of a pay cut, say 2/$25M— and trade Sheets. If those three collectively cover all of 1B/DH and 50% of LF PAs, they’d end up with 550-600 PAs on the year assuming mostly good health. Vaughn and Eloy are obviously less than ideal in LF, but I think limited action there is an acceptable price to pay to get them all that many plate appearances. Vaughn has adjusted decently, but what he needs to do now is work on driving the ball in the air— he has excellent contact and exit velo data, it’s just too low-lying.

HallofFrank

I wouldn’t mind this. But I still suspect they could solve major problems elsewhere with Eloy or Vaughn, and I’d like to see an athletic, defensive-oriented OF for once.

I was on the Phillies-esque get big bats and who cares about OF defense train—until the Orioles series early in the year. Their OF defense was incredible and changed the whole series. I’d like some of that in Chicago, please.

Foulkelore

For those debating trading Eloy vs. Vaughn, a reminder: Eloy has hit RHP better than LHP so far in his career (132 wRC+ vs. RHP vs. 108 wRC+ vs. LHP). He’s actually been quite good against RHP. Vaughn is better this year, but obviously worse against RHP. Trading Eloy will make the Sox offense even worse against RHPs.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

Something I did not expect, and would be a total kick in the beans, is the Sox playing 0.700 baseball down the stretch but still losing the division because Cleveland played 0.600 baseball.

roke1960

But, of course, the Sox have no one to blame but themselves. At the beginning of the year, if you would have been told that the Guardians were the next best team in the division and only 10 over, then you would have thought that the Sox would be at least 5 games ahead. Being 4 over at this point is inexcusable.

Last edited 14 days ago by roke1960
mrridgman

I agree Roke; but that unfortunately is history. What do Sox need to do differently remainder of this year, and more importantly, next year. This year already covered, no TLR (do not under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES let him return – Kenny and Hahn, If JR tries to force him back in, it’s past time to resign), stable lineup under new management.

Next year, time to plan, but they need to clear out the DH room – hard choices.

roke1960

You’re absolutely right about all those points. The unfortunate part of it is that Hahn will most likely still be making those hard choices. And I have no confidence in him that he will make good choices.