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Grandal, aka 'Walk God,' hits Sox to best record in baseball

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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The Chicago White Sox, after winning a series against the Tampa Bay Rays, a fellow first-place team and fellow World Series contender, are the best team in baseball.

Just don't try to convince them that's a big deal in mid June.

"It doesn't say anything," White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal said after Wednesday's win. "The best team in baseball is the one that stands alone at the end of the season. And it's still a long season. We've just got to keep on playing."

Well, if they keep playing like this, they're likely to be involved in a series that has a little more meaning.

Indeed, the way they grabbed two wins against the Rays -- who entered this set as the club with the game's best record -- was impressive and did seem to show that they're a team that can achieve their ultimate goals.

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Wednesday, it was Grandal playing hero, delivering a walk-off smash hit off the right-field wall to score the winning run in extra innings.

But the White Sox have been so good for the last two and a half months that the most surprising part wasn't that they managed to come away with a win even after their bullpen coughed up a four-run lead. It was that Grandal's offensive contribution was something besides a walk or a home run.

"I call him the 'Walk God,'" Dallas Keuchel said earlier this week.

"One of the best guys at getting on base," Lucas Giolito said Wednesday. "I call it the force field he has sometimes around the strike zone."

Grandal has drawn a bunch of national attention for the weird and wild season he's putting together at the dish. Even after Wednesday's game-winning knock, he's batting just .152. But thanks to a jaw-dropping 53 walks, he's got a .771 OPS.

Bizarre as it might be, it's a sign of what the White Sox have long known about Grandal, that he's capable of contributing in a variety of ways. As displeased as he might have been with his first season on the South Side in 2020, he showed that value as an on-base guy, finished the season as a Gold Glove finalist and came through with some clutch home runs.

He's kept it up in 2021, even as a springtime knee injury has slowed everything he's typically expecting to do.

"(Grandal's teammates) also know what he does every day to get into the lineup and stay in the lineup," manager Tony La Russa said. "I mean, he puts hours into his pregame and postgame working with our training staff. So a guy is making that many sacrifices, you get a lot of respect and trust. ... He's a very good catcher, he's proven to be an RBI guy, so there's a lot of the chemistry that he represents."

"I'm going to continue to do whatever it is that I need to do," Grandal said. "If that's walking and getting on base, then I'm going to continue walking and getting on base until I get my pitch to hit."

 

Grandal's among the White Sox group of leaders, and his comments on this week's seemingly big series against the Rays were reminiscent of those from the others. Lance Lynn got it started Monday night by reminding that this series is taking place in June and that "no one gives a s---." Giolito, who threw six strong innings against the Rays on Wednesday, was on the same page, refusing to say that this felt like a playoff series.

Indeed, the White Sox won't truly have the chance to cash in on their clearly stated objectives until October. Until then, whether it's the first-place Rays, the first-place Houston Astros -- coming up this weekend -- or in-division cellar-dwellers, it's all the same for these White Sox, whose eyes remain fixated on the kind of accomplishment you get a trophy for.

The top of the standings? Nah. The top of the mountain.

"We treat each and every team the same. We're going to give them everything we've got," Grandal said. "We're not taking anybody lightly. Just like everybody else who's coming to face us are trying to beat us, trying to get a 'W,' we're doing the same thing. It doesn't matter who it is, we're attacking them just the same way we're going to attack everybody."

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