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Resilient Sox follow Madrigal injury with 'important' win

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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José Abreu carried Eloy Jiménez's jersey out during pregame introductions on Opening Night, a signal that the Chicago White Sox were going to try to win some games for their injured teammate.

Well, they've won a lot of games since.

But many games and many injuries later, they're in the same place: trying to figure out how they'll make up for the absence of a key cog.

RELATED: Where Sox go to fill Nick Madrigal's spot at second base

This time around, it's Nick Madrigal, who joined Jiménez and Luis Robert as White Sox players on the shelf with significant injuries that will take months to recover from.

But just as they've done without Jiménez and Robert, the first game of the post-Madrigal injury era was another White Sox winner, a 5-2 takedown of the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night.

"Nick was in the clubhouse, everybody is looking at him, missing him and thinking of him, for him," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said, "and we go out against a really good Blue Jays team and get a very tough win.

"It was a really important win for our team based on what happened yesterday, that was a tough day."

The White Sox are now without a third of their projected starting lineup, yet they manage to keep showing why they're a first-place team and why they stand among the game's true contenders.

 

They've ridden their starting rotation this far and show no signs of stopping. Dallas Keuchel turned in perhaps his finest effort of the season Thursday, throwing six innings and allowing just a couple runs, one of them scoring mostly due to a mental miscue by Yoán Moncada. He struck out eight guys, an atypically high number for the veteran ground-ball machine.

"Dallas Keuchel, just artistic, what he did," La Russa said. "That is a really good lineup and he made some hellacious pitches to keep them off the board and shut them down. It was artistic as far as I’m concerned, he was painting the thing."

The starting staff keeps passing the baton to one another, Keuchel and Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodón and Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease taking turns shutting down opposing lineups and giving their team a chance to win.

And the bullpen, the subject of so much early season consternation, is showing it's getting back on track. The trio of Evan Marshall, Codi Heuer and Liam Hendriks was nearly untouchable Thursday night — and even more energetic.

The big boppers, who figured to shoulder the biggest load with the two middle-of-the-order hitters out, continued to do their thing. José Abreu drove in a pair of runs, Yasmani Grandal belted his fourth homer in June, and Tim Anderson put on a show by racing home from first to score in the eighth inning.

But the White Sox couldn't have gotten to this point, couldn't have navigated through the Jiménez and Robert injuries, without the guys who stepped in to replace them.

Andrew Vaughn has become an everyday fixture in left field, which has somehow flown under the radar despite the fact that he never played the position before Jiménez went down.

Yermín Mercedes' emergence solidified the DH position once Vaughn left it behind to help out in the outfield. Mercedes might have busted his recent slump with a two-hit night Thursday, hitting in the No. 2 spot recently occupied by Madrigal.

And Adam Engel has arrived from his own lengthy injury recovery. He'll likely be the team's everyday center fielder until Robert returns, and the drop off is not a big one defensively, even with Robert a reigning Gold Glove winner. Engel can also swing it, and he showed it with a big insurance-providing homer in Thursday's win.

"It takes 40 guys to do what we want to do," Engel said. "We’ve got some really good players who obviously are hurt. Guys like myself, and some of the other guys who have had an opportunity to play a little bit more, our job is to get this team into, keep this team in a place to accomplish the goals we want to accomplish.

"It takes 40 guys to win a World Series. That’s what this team wants to do. We take that very serious."

 

The White Sox lost that Opening Night game in Anaheim, when Abreu presented Jiménez's jersey and launched a thousand memes.

But in the game after Robert went down, the White Sox obliterated the Cincinnati Reds. And now in the game after Madrigal went down, they bested the Blue Jays.

These White Sox have been nothing if not resilient, and though it wouldn't be shocking for the sum total of these significant injuries to key players to have a detrimental effect on their championship chase one of these days, they keep showing exactly how they can keep winning without them.

So while there might be a little rain falling on the parade right now, don't think for a second that it automatically means there will be no parade at the end of the year.

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