White Sox

David Robertson blows Twins away for first White Sox save

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David Robertson blows Twins away for first White Sox save

While some of the new White Sox have gotten off to rocky starts as the team’s stumbled a bit out of the gate, one new addition had a situational debut that was about as impressive as it gets.

New White Sox closer David Robertson was handed a one-run lead in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game against the Twins, his first save situation as a member of the team. He faced three batters and struck them all out, securing a 5-4 win for the White Sox, their first victory of the season.

“I’m here to protect the lead and finish off ballgames,” Robertson said after the game. “It’s the first time we’ve had a lead in the ninth, and I definitely had some adrenaline going. We want to give the fans reason to come out here and watch us so I wanted to help us get the win.”

Pretty straight-forward stuff from Robertson, who was brought over this offseason after a 39-save season with the Yankees.

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But trying to hit him was anything but straight forward for unfortunate Twins batters Chris Herrmann, Shane Robinson and Jordan Schafer, the bottom of the order for Minnesota. They struck out three times on a combined 15 pitches in the top of the ninth.

It was a dominant performance from a closer who was acquired to be just that: dominant.

“Unbelievable,” Jeff Samardzija said. “He’s sharp. I chalk it up as how flexible he is. He gets down that mound. His stuff’s so late. His cutter moves late, his curveball moves late and as a starter I cant think of a better thing to have than a shutdown closer.”

Robin Ventura used the word “devastating.”

“I think there is some adrenaline with coming in the ninth inning,” Ventura said. “That’s the best inning he’s had even in spring training of just stuff and curve ball. He hadn’t really worked on his curve ball as much or showed it off as much in the spring. It’s a devastating pitch. It’s good to see.”

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The White Sox were certainly in need of a strong ninth-inning option, too, after the struggles of last year. South Side pitchers had an ugly 4.48 ERA in save situations last season. So far in 2015, that number is 0.00.

You can chalk it up to adrenaline or the bottom of the Twins order. Robertson even mentioned the benefit of the shadows at that time of day at U.S. Cellular Field. But like the rest of the White Sox on Saturday, it seemed as if Robertson was just going to do everything he could to make sure the team’s season-opening losing streak stopped at four.

He turned in an eye-popping effort to make sure that the White Sox got their first win of the year.

“I was feeling really good,” he said. “We finally had a lead and a chance to get in the win column, and I wasn’t going to let it slip away.”

For on-the-rise White Sox, learning to win also means learning to lose

For on-the-rise White Sox, learning to win also means learning to lose

The White Sox lost Saturday night.

That’s baseball, of course, they’re not all going to be winners. And this rebuilding franchise has seen plenty of losses. But the feelings have been so good of late — whether because of Eloy Jimenez’s 400-foot homers or Lucas Giolito’s Cy Young caliber season to this point or a variety of other positive signs that make the White Sox future so bright — that losing Saturday to the first-place New York Yankees seemed rather sour.

Obviously there will be plenty more losses for this White Sox team before the book closes on the 2019 campaign. Back under .500, these South Siders aren’t expected to reach elite status before all the pieces arrive, and it would be no shock if they’re removed from the playoff race in the American League by the time crunch time rolls around in September.

But don’t tell these White Sox that an 8-4 defeat is a return to reality or a reminder that this team is still a work in progress. Even if, for a lot of players, development is still occurring at the major league level, the “learning experiences” that have been such a large part of the conversation surrounding this team in recent seasons and their daily goal of winning baseball games aren’t mutually exclusive.

“The Yankees are sitting in first place and they lost two games in a row,” catcher James McCann said Saturday night, providing a reminder of how the first two games of this weekend series went. “Just because you're expected to win and expected to be World Series contenders doesn't mean you're not going to lose ballgames. It's how you bounce back.

“And it doesn't mean you're going to win tomorrow, either. It's just, how do you handle a defeat? How do you handle a bad at-bat? How do you handle a bad outing, whatever it may be? But it doesn't mean that we step back and say, ‘Oh, we're back under .500, we're supposed to lose.’

“We expect to win when we show up to the ballpark. You can take learning experiences whether you win or lose. Do I think a game like tonight reminds us we're supposed to be in a rebuilding mode? No. We still expect to win, and we're going to show up tomorrow with that mentality.”

Maybe that’s a description of the much-discussed “learning to win” young teams supposedly need to do on the road to contender status. Maybe that can’t happen until a team figures out how to bounce back from a defeat — until it learns how to lose and how to act in the wake of a loss.

For all McCann’s certainty about the team’s expectations on a daily basis, his explanation was peppered with questions. He said he’s seen the answer to “how do you bounce back?” from this club, and his three-run homer in the eighth inning Saturday night was fairly convincing evidence that the White Sox didn’t use up all their fight just getting back to .500.

So while the White Sox know they won’t win every game — that no team will — they need to know how they handle defeat. Losing, it turns out, might end up being more instructive about when this team is ready to win.

“I think we've done a pretty good job (bouncing back),” McCann said. “You look at the road trip in Houston and Minnesota where we took two out of four from a good Houston team and then played really not very good baseball for three days in Minnesota only to come home and have an extremely good homestand.

“It's the big picture. It's not the very next day. It's not, ‘We've got to bounce back and win.’ It's not a must-win situation in the middle of June. But it's how do you handle yourself? How does a game like tonight, do you show up flat tomorrow and let it snowball into a three-, four-game spiral? Or do you fight?

“And that's what this team's been really good at doing is fighting and not giving in.”

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Eloy Jimenez gets rave review from Yankees All Star: 'He can be a star for all of MLB'

Eloy Jimenez gets rave review from Yankees All Star: 'He can be a star for all of MLB'

The temperature is rising on the South Side, and if you look outside, you know it has nothing to do with Mother Nature.

Instead, it’s a heat wave coming from a fresh-faced 22-year-old slugger who’s crushing baseballs, igniting a fan base and screaming “Hi Mom!” to his actual mother whenever he spots a TV camera with its red light on.

Eloy Jimenez has arrived with the White Sox, and according to a New York Yankees All Star who has known him for years, the best is yet to come.

“Not this year, but next year, he’s going to be even better,” infielder Gleyber Torres said about Jimenez.

The two of them were signed by that team across town in 2013 when they were both 16 years old. They were practically inseparable back then, and they remain tight to this day.

“I talk with Gleyber pretty much every single day now. He’s kind of like my brother,” Jimenez said. “We haven’t lost that communication, and I think that’s good for us.”

Torres echoed similar thoughts about Jimenez.

“In my first couple years with the Cubs, he was my roommate every day. We’ve got a really good relationship. We’re like brothers. We are really good friends,” Torres said. “I’m just happy to see what he’s doing right now.”

Which, lately, has been just about everything.

There was that majestic home run Jimenez belted on Wednesday against the Washington Nationals that landed on the center field concourse at Guaranteed Rate Field, the two walks the next day when the Yankees decided to pitch around Jimenez as if he was a perennial All Star, and then the two-homer game on Friday: The first one gave the White Sox the lead, the second stuck a dagger into the Yankees, as well as the heart of his longtime friend.

“For sure, I didn’t like it,” Torres said with a smile about Jimenez’s two-homer, six-RBI game. “I’m not surprised. I knew Eloy before he signed with the Cubs out of the Dominican. He’s a big dude. The power is coming every day.”

How good can Jimenez be? Torres, who plays on a star-studded team with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius, sees Jimenez reaching the same stratosphere.

“He can be a star for all of MLB. He’s just a young guy right now, but when he matures a little more, he can do everything.”

Jimenez is turning up the heat in Chicago, and it’s not even summer yet.

The South Side can’t wait for the sizzle to come.

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