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Sox sweep Cubs, take over as Chicago's baseball kings

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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It didn't take a three-game sweep this weekend at Wrigley Field to know that the tides have turned in Chicago baseball.

A week earlier, the Chicago White Sox landed Craig Kimbrel in a splashy win-now deadline deal with Crosstown-rival Chicago Cubs, who sent their All-Star closer away amid a near-complete stripping of the major league roster, the one-time world champs swapping their star players for parts.

Meanwhile, the White Sox bulked up, adding Kimbrel's Hall-of-Fame heft to a team that already stood atop the American League Central with the biggest division lead in baseball and a fleet of once-injured reinforcements en route to vault them from World Series contenders to potential postseason favorites.

RELATED: Robert next Sox reinforcement: 'Watch this lineup take off'

The White Sox' time had clearly arrived. The Cubs' time was clearly over.

And yet, there was something about the way the White Sox blasted three homers in the first inning of Sunday's sweep-completing series finale that seemed like a flag-planting moment for the South Siders.

The nail, perhaps, in the coffin of the Cubs' reign as the city's baseball kings.

There officially are new kings in town.

"To come here and take over this park and get all three of them," White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said, "I can definitely say we were the better team this series, for sure."

 

Indeed, this is a coming-out week for the White Sox, who not only got to flex their muscles against the Cubs on national TV on Sunday night, but will star in baseball's latest jewel event Thursday, when they play the New York Yankees in a cornfield in Iowa.

It can only be a coming-out party, though, can only be a burst onto the national scene, if they win.

Well, mission accomplished Sunday night, with some of their brightest stars part of the home run derby. Tim Anderson, the face of the franchise, took the first pitch into the bleachers. Eloy Jiménez hit two homers as part of a five-RBI night against the team that traded him. And just in case the rest of the baseball-watching public wasn't well versed on just how long the White Sox are set up for success, Andrew Vaughn had himself a night, too, with a homer and a trio of RBIs.

Thursday, it'll be Carlos Rodón in the Field of Dreams game, and the ABC audience that got a sneaky solid effort from Dylan Cease on Sunday can flip over to FOX and see why the White Sox have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, the thing that can truly make them a team to beat come October.

"That they're dangerous, once everything's clicking they're dangerous" Anderson said, asked what he wanted the folks watching to come away knowing about these White Sox. "They've been missing it. If you don't watch White Sox baseball every day, then you won't get a chance to see us. For us to have a shot to be on national TV and we go out and play the way we're capable of, that says a lot about this ball club and what we can do.

"It's good exposure for this club. Everybody went out and we competed. We competed from Pitch 1 all the way to the end. We had the chance for the world to see what our lineup looks like. You know how good these guys are. Tonight we played some really good baseball and have an outstanding staff."

White Sox fans already knew all this, of course, and perhaps the biggest development Sunday was that the offense is showing signs of the kind of thunder it was projected it could produce in the preseason. With Jiménez back in the swing of things and Luis Robert arriving Monday, a lineup that scored three runs or fewer in 10 of 14 games prior to the Crosstown series is looking capable of smashing opposing pitching in the playoffs, too. Though a warning of, "Hey, let's see what they can do against a staff that isn't singing the Cubbie blues," would not be without merit.

But considering that, regardless of the record in Crosstown games the past five years, the Cubs have been the contending team in town while the White Sox rebuilt, the weekend was representative of something bigger.

 

"I feel like we have to take four steps to get any sort of national recognition," White Sox closer Liam Hendriks said in May, "while our Crosstown rivals just have to put together one game and they'll get on it."

Who knows if that will ever change. But for one of the first times since the White Sox started their rebuilding effort with the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in 2016, they'll be deserving of the attention. All of it. The Cubs are the ones about to go into the dark tunnel of a rebuild. The White Sox have just emerged.

Whether that means they'll have enough to topple the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays on the AL side of the playoff bracket, or slay the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Diego Padres or San Francisco Giants in the World Series, remains to be seen.

But the Cubs are officially a thing of the past, the faces of their franchise shipped across the country like Amazon packages.

Alert: Your Kris Bryant has been delivered.

The White Sox have more faces, more reasons they're capable of greatness, than you can count: Anderson, Jiménez, Robert, Vaughn, Rodón, Hendriks, Kimbrel, Cease, José Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, Yoán Moncada, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito.

There's only one place in Chicago you'll be able to catch baseball this October. And that might be the case for years to come.

While you could've seen this coming, it always helps to have a visual aid. And that's what this weekend was:

A three-day coronation for the new kings of Chicago baseball.

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