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Sox boosted by beating Brewers, with Eloy's return on deck

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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MILWAUKEE — The day started with the news that Eloy Jiménez was coming back.

It ended with Liam Hendriks fist-pumping all over the Milwaukee Brewers.

So an all-around good day for the South Side.

RELATED: Eloy's return 'invaluable' to Sox, says Lucas Giolito

The Chicago White Sox will get an undoubted boost, a gargantuan one, with the return of Jiménez, the slugger expected to be back in the lineup Monday for the start of a series against the Kansas City Royals.

Without Jiménez and several other important pieces, the White Sox have established themselves as contenders. His return — as well as those of Luis Robert and Yasmani Grandal, expected to follow before the end of the regular season — could shift the team into another gear.

"The team made a commitment that we were going to be in contention when he got back," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said, "and they've honored it."

Whether riding high from the news of the incoming reinforcement or simply doing what they've done all year and refocusing after two frustrating days in Wisconsin, the White Sox showed what they've done to keep the World Series dreams afloat while Jiménez has been in recovery mode since rupturing his pectoral tendon at the end of spring training.

Sunday night's 3-1 win had many of the ingredients that have made the season's first four months such a success.

 

The White Sox got dominant pitching performances from two of their three All-Star arms, Lance Lynn allowing just one run in his six innings of work and Liam Hendriks converting his second six-out save try of the month, blowing away the Brewers in the eighth and ninth to make everyone forget about the unusual sight of Michael Kopech hitting for himself after a somewhat laborious bottom of the seventh.

The White Sox stand far ahead of the rest of the American League Central and among baseball's championship contenders thanks to what's been arguably the best starting staff in baseball. And Lynn, perhaps the best among the group so far, turned in another stellar effort.

But the White Sox success can also be defined by the knack they've had of getting offensive contributions from a different source practically every night. Sunday, it was Lynn, of all people, who delivered the biggest hit of the game, knocking in a pair to cap a two-out rally in the second inning and close the White Sox scoring for the evening.

"He had a great comment I had never heard before," La Russa said of Lynn. "He said, 'It's got to be a good day when you drive in more than you give up.' And that's what he did, he drove in two and gave up one. I didn't know he was that smart. I know he's smart, I didn't know he was that witty."

The unlikelihood of Lynn contributing with the bat can't be overstated, especially against another All-Star pitcher in the Brewers' Brandon Woodruff. Lynn hadn't had a hit since 2017, hadn't driven in a run since 2015.

"I didn’t think it was going to land when I first hit it," he said. "Whenever you can drive in runs to help, especially when you haven’t seen or had a live at-bat in three or four years.

"Blind squirrel, something like that. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked."

But the rally that unfolded told a story that's played out over and over again, with unexpected contributors coming through in the big moments. The three base runners to reach ahead of Lynn and all score in the inning: Brian Goodwin, Leury García and Seby Zavala.

One win won't erase the previous two defeats, of course, and those quiet offensive nights peppered with outbursts of frustration directed at umpires will linger as the White Sox continue to reckon with their record against winning clubs (21-28) and their record on the road (24-23).

The team might not care about those marks as they look to get hot at the right time, when the regular season turns into the postseason over the next couple months. Those attempting to project how the White Sox might fare in October, however, might take them into consideration.

But the White Sox expect to be a different-looking bunch by then, a process that starts in earnest in the coming days, first with Jiménez coming back to great fanfare and then with Rick Hahn going to work ahead of Friday's trade deadline. It could all add up to see the White Sox well stocked with reinforcements.

 

So consider Sunday a boost of a day for the South Siders.

Monday should be pretty good, too.

"About three or four minutes after (the game), you walk in the clubhouse and different guys are saying different things. Eloy's name was mentioned," La Russa said. "So we're trying to think, is there something appropriate — I'm not going to say decorate the clubhouse — just to commemorate his return? But we're looking forward to it."

"Slowly getting healthy, getting our guys back," Lynn said, "and tomorrow is the first step of that."

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