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If the White Sox wanted to prove that major trade deadline acquisitions weren’t necessary to become a threat over the final two months of the season, tonight was a fine start toward that end.
The White Sox frustrated Brad Keller early and pounded him late, with their four most important hitters leading the charge. Eloy Jiménez had three hits and four RBIs in his promotion to the No. 3 spot, while Tim Anderson, Andrew Vaughn and José Abreu contributed eight hits around him.
Lucas Giolito was merely OK, but thanks to the three crooked numbers, that’s all that was needed from him.
If you’re looking for reasons to resist extrapolating this performance over the coming weeks, this is a Kansas City team that entered the evening 21 games under .500 and often looked the part. MJ Melendez played a single into Vaughn’s first professional triple to start a three-run first inning, Bobby Witt Jr. had an ugly game at shortstop, and Mike Matheny left Keller long enough to allow 13 hits over 5⅔ innings. The Sox relied a lot on seeing-eye singles early before finally elevating the ball for a couple homers that pushed the game out of reach. Tim Anderson matched Witt with a sloppy game at short, and also ran into an out at third on a Jiménez sac fly. Giolito walked three batters in a third inning that almost spiraled out of control.
But if you’re content to enjoy an evening of baseball while reserving judgment for whole series and weeks, then tonight was just a whole lot of fun.
It started early, when Vaughn raced to third base on a fly ball that was well out of range of Melendez’s dive with one out in the first inning. He scored on Jiménez’s slashed single through a curiously drawn-in infield, and then Jiménez put himself in scoring position with a good break on a pitch in the first. Abreu stayed down on a 2-2 slider and poked it through the middle to score Jiménez, and after Yoán Moncada walked, AJ Pollock emulated Abreu with his own five-hopper past shortstop for a 3-0 lead.
Giolito never trailed, although he came close in the third. He opened the inning with a pair of walks, then alternated outs with run-scoring hits — an RBI single by Sal Perez, and an RBI double by Hunter Dozier that put runners on second and third. Giolito then filled the bases with his third walk of the inning, but rebounded to strike out Michael A. Taylor to end the threat.
Giolito and the White Sox bullpen weren’t threatened again, and the offense eventually provided insurance. In the fourth inning, they strung together four consecutive one-out hits, with Jiménez providing the key blow with a bases-loaded double inside third base, which made it a 5-2 game.
Two innings later, the Sox linked five successful plate appearances to take advantage of Matheny’s slow hook. After three singles loaded the bases, Jiménez almost unloaded them with a fly to left that took Kyle Isbel to the warning track. He had to settle for a sac fly, and a sac fly double play when Anderson was cut down at second, but José Abreu eliminated the aftertaste with a first-pitch no-doubt blast off the left-field foul pole, which is what we’ve come to expect from him this month.
Gavin Sheets added a solo shot off Josh Staumont for the game’s final run.
Beyond the offense outbursts, the game’s most satisfying element was the White Sox debut of Jake Diekman. He took over for Giolito in the sixth inning and pitched an easy 1-2-3 inning on 12 pitches, including two strikeouts. He threw plenty of strikes with both his 96 mph fastball and tight slider, so hopefully he has more where that came from.
Joe Kelly pitched the seventh inning, which seemed unnecessary, but Matt Foster and Tanner Banks were used in more appropriate leverage to close out the game.
*Minnesota and Cleveland both lost, so the White Sox are two games out of first, and one game out of second.
*Anderson wasn’t charged with an error, but he had three plays to his left that he couldn’t field cleanly, including two that were within his range.
*Yasmani Grandal was the only White Sox player to not reach base.
*The White Sox were 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position.