Even before the Chicago White Sox teed off Sunday night at Wrigley Field, there was reason to believe that brighter days were ahead for the offense.
Maybe the bats were due. Maybe it had to do with the good news pregame.
Luis Robert is coming back, set to be in Tony La Russa's starting lineup Monday night in Minnesota, another key cog that's long been missing from these White Sox.
"He's one of the best players on the planet," fellow White Sox outfielder Adam Engel said Sunday.
Well, dropping one of those into the middle of the batting order is obviously a good thing.
"His pure ability is off the charts," Engel said. "He's one of the few people that plays close to his ceiling a lot.
"You get to watch him play, whether it's offensively or defensively, there's always a chance for him to do something you've never seen before on a baseball field.
"When you get to see him play and do things that nobody else can do, it's a lot of fun, especially when he's on your team. We get to watch it every single night."
Offensively, the White Sox sure looked like they needed a Robert-style jolt over the last few weeks, coming into this weekend's Crosstown series against the Chicago Cubs having scored three runs or fewer in 10 of 14 games. Nights of offensive quiet against teams like the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins had plenty wondering whether the same lineup could put up an October fight against some of the best teams in the game.
The Cubs were stripped and sold for parts at the trade deadline, so who knows what kind of gauge their pitching staff is, but the White Sox started swinging it with a little more thunder this weekend, hitting two homers apiece in wins Friday and Saturday before exploding for three first-inning homers Sunday night on national TV.
But whether the weekend's results were due to the level of competition or not, Robert's return and the return of Eloy Jiménez before him are no mirages. Two of the most impact bats in baseball are back in the White Sox lineup as they rev up their championship chase.
"It's a huge boost to have those guys back," Engel said. "Those guys are a couple of the best players in the world. ... And getting that boost, just offensively, is going to be great for the team.
"Obviously, we're a really good club when they're not necessarily in the lineup. But when you put those guys in the lineup, I think we have one of the best offenses in all of baseball.
"Eloy's back, and he's already shown some power in his short stint so far. So to get Luis back is going to be even more fun. I'm excited to get those guys, plug them in the lineup and watch this lineup take off."
It doesn't take a great leap in imagination to see that happening. The White Sox have been the beneficiaries of timely hits from role players all season long, the thing that along with arguably the best starting rotation in baseball has kept their World Series hopes afloat. But rarely, if ever, have the team's key contributors all been clicking at once in 2021, admittedly hard to accomplish when half the starting lineup is on the shelf.
Suddenly, though, the returns of Jiménez and Robert are lining up with a hot streak for José Abreu, the consistently solid approaches of Tim Anderson and Andrew Vaughn, the strong production of Engel and the recent infusion of César Hernández, all while the White Sox are still getting those same moments from role players, like the two game-winning homers Brian Goodwin hit in the last week.
Yasmani Grandal, also on the comeback trail, was the team's hottest hitter when he went down with a knee injury early last month. He's expected back before the end of the regular season, adding even more heft to the lineup as the postseason approaches.
In a year when the offense hasn't lived up to the preseason projections of potency, that kind of lineup can still emerge as the games get ever more important, allowing the White Sox to match up with any team they see in October.
"We're just taking it a day at a time and not trying to look too far ahead, but obviously you want your best players playing their best once the playoffs come around," Engel said. "So we've got a couple months.
"We've got to clinch (the division) first, that's the first business item on the list. We've got to keep pushing and playing good baseball. But we want our best players playing their best once the time's right.
"And getting these guys back with a couple months left is awesome, it's perfect."