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With game-winning homer, Eloy shows he's officially back

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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Eloy Jiménez

How badly did the Chicago White Sox miss Eloy Jiménez?

They won their fair share of games without him, sure, and he returned from a four-month absence to a first-place team and a World Series contender.

But they wouldn't have won Tuesday night's bout with the Kansas City Royals if it weren't for their power-hitting left fielder. And it's safe to say he'll play a role in delivering plenty more wins for these White Sox before their season is over.

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Jiménez really did it all Tuesday. A night after being, as he put it, "a little too excited" in his first game back, going 0-for-4, he played good defense in left field, he threw a runner out at home, he blooped a base hit. And, oh yeah, he smashed a 459-foot home run in the eighth inning to flip a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead, which stood as the final.

Without a doubt, Eloy is back.

"I was waiting for this moment for almost four months. And it's good. It's really good," Jiménez said. "This moment is really good, especially after all that happened in spring training. Now I'm finally back."

During a week where trade rumors are flying ahead of Friday's deadline, the White Sox made the best possible midsummer addition by getting Jiménez, a Silver Slugger last season, back healthy and dropping him into the middle of their lineup.

 

Any deadline haul the White Sox make — and Rick Hahn has vowed an aggressive approach — will have a tough time stacking up to the returns of Jiménez and Luis Robert, who himself made news Tuesday when his rehab assignment was transferred to Triple-A Charlotte, signaling La Pantera is not far behind The Big Baby. Catcher Yasmani Grandal can be included in that group, too, a trio that will make the White Sox better than any crop of moves could make them or any other team at the close of July.

And Tuesday was the proof, Jiménez awakening what's been a sleepy White Sox offense with his clutch blast.

"I think we tried not to think about it too much when he was gone," White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease said. "But that right there is why you miss that guy. He's a home-run threat at any point. He can put three runs, four runs on the board at any point. So it's nice to have him back.

"The personality's great, but I'll take three-run home runs over personality, to be honest."

It's been a wonder, and a reasonable one, how long it would take for Jiménez to get back to his usual self after missing so much time. That had to be what Royals manager Mike Matheny was banking on when he intentionally walked José Abreu — the reigning MVP and someone Jiménez described as an RBI machine postgame — ahead of Jiménez with two outs in the eighth and the tying run 90 feet away.

Jiménez responded with the game-winner.

"If I'm Mike I've got to make the same move," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "Here you have an RBI guy with almost 80. And (Jiménez) hadn't taken serious at-bats in four or five months. But that's a legitimate home run. What a bomb.

"You get an extra edge when you see the big fella get his first taste of heroics."

It was the second time on the evening a Royals coaching decision allowed Jiménez to play hero. It was a questionable send by the third-base coach that set up Jiménez's run-saving outfield assist.

Regardless of the role the Royals played, though, the White Sox got a definitive display in how much they'll benefit from Jiménez being back. It's not that they didn't already know, of course, and certainly the rest of the American League didn't need to see Tuesday's highlights to know what was coming its way, either.

But there's no better way to stamp that message home than with a game-winning homer, the kind of moment Jiménez was talking about when he said he wanted to help the White Sox chase their October dreams.

"I'm going to keep playing hard, I'm going to bring energy to the team," he said. "They have so much energy, but I bring more.

"What can I say? We have a really good team, and tonight we showed how we can come back. And that's really good."

 

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