Maybe the future hasn't quite yet arrived at a South Side stadium near you. But it’s getting some heavy play in the coming attractions.
The first two games of this four-game weekend series against the New York Yankees have provided the clearest glimpse yet of the White Sox incredibly bright future. After Tim Anderson blasted a three-run homer in a comeback win Thursday night, Eloy Jimenez led the charge with two three-run homers in a 10-2 blowout Friday night. Lucas Giolito starred again with six innings of one-run ball to become the first pitcher in the majors to reach 10 wins. The guy who was, statistically, the worst pitcher in baseball last season has a 0.94 ERA over his last nine starts, with just six runs allowed in his last eight.
With their second win over the first-place Yankees in as many nights, the White Sox got back to .500, the first time they’ve been there this late in the season since the start of Rick Hahn’s rebuilding project.
“We've been climbing. We've been playing better baseball, more consistent baseball. We're playing really well at home, which is huge,” Giolito said. “I'm happy. I'm happy we're at .500. It's kind of like a turning point and we just keep going from there.”
The turning point would figure to be more gradual, not a handbrake-puller following that beatdown these White Sox received in Minnesota over Memorial Day Weekend. But there’s no doubt that the future gets brighter almost every day. Certainly with every Giolito start and every Jimenez home run, things look better and better for 2020, when the franchise’s contention window could start to open.
Guaranteed Rate Field was rocking Friday night — literally, with Rock N Roll Night in full swing — with 31,000-plus in the stands and more fans expected over the series’ final two days. Then comes next week’s two-game trip north on Lake Shore Drive for the first half of this year’s Crosstown series.
Giolito dealing, Jimenez launching homers, electric atmospheres and a White Sox team on a hot streak: Are we sure we didn’t all tumble backward into a time machine a la Philip J. Fry?
No, it’s still 2019. And though Jimenez spoke Friday about these White Sox chasing a playoff spot in a top-heavy American League, it might take Dylan Cease and Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal arriving before talk of the postseason really gets serious. That shouldn’t prevent the excitement over what White Sox fans are seeing on the field right now, however.
Any winning stretch would be welcome after the White Sox lost a combined 195 games in 2017 and 2018. But this one feels special because of who’s powering it: young players who are part of this team’s core, players who will be fueling the planned championship contenders in years to come.
“I think we can be one of the best teams in the league,” Giolito said. “We 100 percent have the talent. We have more talent on the way developing in the minor leagues. The sky’s the limit for us.
“If we continue to play the way we’re playing — starting pitching getting more consistent, that’s a big thing that I’ve been saying is a huge part of our success — then we can continue to win games and put ourselves in a good spot at the end of the year.”
Jimenez and Giolito taking star turns could provide more than just two pieces of a core. As their stars continue to rise, maybe we’re looking at faces of the franchise in the making.
Certainly Giolito has captured national attention and single-handedly shone a spotlight on the South Side with his continued success. He was voted the AL Pitcher of the Month in May and has been even better in June, with a 0.43 ERA and 26 strikeouts in his three starts this month.
After owning the highest ERA and WHIP among the sport’s qualified starting pitchers last season, Giolito is in the running to start the All-Star Game for the American League. There’s a lot of season left, but as of right now, he’s as good a candidate for the Cy Young Award as you’ll find.
It’s been a remarkable transformation from a guy many fans jettisoned from their future rotation projections after last season to a guy who fans might have at the top of those projections.
“In terms of performances, they speak for themselves,” manager Rick Renteria said. “You've got to give that kid a ton of credit for everything he's done to make adjustments to put him in the position he's in at this particular moment and they way he's performing.
“We're all amazed. I think everybody in baseball should be amazed at what this young man is doing and everybody should be extremely proud of him.”
And then there’s the slugger.
For the bulk of the season to this point, Jimenez looked like a 22-year-old rookie getting his first taste of the big leagues. And a campaign full of growing pains would have been perfectly understandable. But lately we’ve seen why this kid was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball, why he’s been receiving so much hype since the day the White Sox acquired him two summers ago.
In his last 13 games, Jimenez is slashing .348/.412/.761 with five homers and 14 RBIs. That’s the type of middle-of-the-order superstar folks dreamed about when they talked about Jimenez prior to his major league debut. Jimenez’s mere presence was the main positive. Now, he’s starting to show what kind of impact bat he can swing at the major league level. And that cranks the brightness to 11 for 2020 and beyond.
“Yes, of course,” Jimenez said after Friday’s game, almost incredulous that he was asked if he’s been feeling better at the plate lately. “I feel more patient at the plate. I’m seeing the ball better because I don’t rush anything. I just go into the game and if it happens, it happens.”
“Man, he's a beast,” Giolito said of his left fielder. “He's coming into his own a little bit. They've been pitching him like a 10-year vet ever since he got into the league but I think he's starting to dial in on his approach and he's showing the power a little bit.”
It’s all part of what’s going extremely right for the White Sox right now, positive signs coming from the right players that bode so well for the future.
There’s still a way to go until that future arrives. But don’t be surprised if you start seeing a lot more No. 27 and No. 74 jerseys and shirseys on the South Side as the summer moves along. These might be faces of the franchise in the making.