Eloy Jiménez, you are ridiculous.
He’s been back just a couple weeks, folks, and only a bout of groin tightness could slow him down. Finally playing like Eloy, as he puts it, he’s showing what the Chicago White Sox were missing while he spent months in recovery mode: one of the best darn power hitters in the game.
Dropped into the middle of their lineup, he’s already delivered some signature moments, including a game-winning homer in his second game back and a two-homer, five-RBI barrage against his old organization.
Fewer people were probably glued to the White Sox battle with the last-place Minnesota Twins on Monday than were tuned into that nationally televised Crosstown game Sunday night. But Jiménez delivered the same goods, with two more homers and five more RBIs in an 11-1 drubbing of the division rivals from the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
He became the fastest player in franchise history to reach 50 career home runs.
Sunday night, White Sox manager Tony La Russa said he knew Jiménez was a monster.
There’s no better way to describe what Jiménez is doing right now than monstrous.
“It took Eloy a few minutes and that little groin thing, and now he’s doing what he does,” White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said after Monday’s game. “He’s one of the best hitters in the league, just going on a tear with the homers. The energy he brings to our team, it’s so great to have him back.
“I’d like to say I’m surprised by what he’s doing, but I’m not because he’s really good.”
Those who have watched this team all season know the White Sox got here thanks to the guys who filled in while Jiménez — not to mention Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and Yasmani Grandal — was knocked out by a significant injury. They delivered in the clutch moments, Brian Goodwin doing so even after Jiménez returned, with a couple recent game-winning homers in a week’s time.
But with Jiménez and Robert finally back — the center fielder’s much anticipated return Monday was overshadowed by Jiménez’s flaming hot streak — the lineup is instantly changed, looking like the kind of potent group that was projected during the preseason.
“We tried very hard for four months not to think of how we missed them,” La Russa said after Monday’s game, “but getting both those guys back has been some kind of reminder of what they can do to help us.”
Team the rejuvenated lineup with the sensational starting pitching that carried the White Sox to this point, and you’ve got more than the World Series contender the team showed it was during its big boppers’ absence. You’ve got a potential postseason favorite.
So here’s something to dream on: When the playoffs roll around, could Jiménez be the White Sox version of Mr. October?
La Russa invoked the name of the original after Monday’s game, asked if he’s ever seen anyone hit and hit with power to all fields like Jiménez has during his own personal home run derby.
“Early in my playing career, I watched Reggie Jackson. And he actually played for us (the Oakland Athletics) his last year, in ‘87,” La Russa said. “And he always talked about, ‘You’re not really a home-run hitter unless you can hit a home run anywhere. If you have to hook the ball pull side, you’re not really a home-run hitter.’
“Today in batting practice, Eloy hit some to right field that looked like big blasts from left-handed power hitters. He plays the whole field, left, center, right. And that gives us — the potential production is humongous.”
Not a bad guy to be mentioned alongside.
Indeed, Jiménez wants the opportunity to slug in the postseason, stating months ago how badly he wants a shot at playoff baseball after missing most of the White Sox brief trip there last fall with a different injury than the one that knocked him out this spring.
It seems he’ll get it as the White Sox continue to paste their American League Central opponents and own the biggest division lead in baseball.
Now that the reinforcements are here, now that Jiménez is here and slugging up a storm, the White Sox can start dreaming big about what’s possible.