Sox rookie Eloy Jimenez brings power and drama to Wrigley debut, beats ex-mates with HR in 9th

But the lack of hitting and another wasted starting pitching performance were the stories for the Cubs as they await bullpen savior Craig Kimbrel.

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Chicago White Sox v Chicago Cubs

Ex-Cub prospect Eloy Jimenez lifts the White Sox to a 3-1 win with a ninth-inning home run in his Wrigley Field debut.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Attach whatever greater meaning and universal truth about trades and rivals, but the Cubs’ ninth-inning loss to the White Sox on Tuesday night was less about Eloy Jimenez than it was their agonizing wait for Craig Kimbrel.

A few hours after Kimbrel, the Cubs’ newly signed elite closer, used just eight pitches in his 1-2-3 organizational debut with Class AAA Iowa, Jimenez drove a long, two-run home run to left field off Cubs interim closer Pedro Strop.

Eyes lit up and boos rained down as quickly as the broken-bat shot reached the seats for what turned into a game-winner by the powerful 6-4 rookie outfielder the Cubs sent to the Sox in the Jose Quintana trade two years ago.

But this 3-1 Cubs loss was on its slumping lineup and — once again — a bullpen that for the seventh time this season lost a game in which the Cubs led or were tied in the ninth.

Cubs starter Cole Hamels, who had another impressive seven-inning start go for naught, downplayed the team’s anticipation for adding Kimbrel to the bullpen, especially after losing for the sixth time in eight games.

“If we’re not winning right now, [adding him] is just a little small piece,” Hamels said. “We all want to be a large piece and have him just fit right in and make it easier on him. I don’t think we just all of a sudden want to turn to him hoping that he’ll save us at the end of the day.”

Jimenez, who reached twice earlier in the game on an infield single and walk, earned and deserved the headlines. But the Cubs also can throw this one on a growing pile of wasted starting pitching performances.

“We have to score more than one run,” said manager Joe Maddon, whose club has just 11 combined runs in its last five games.

“Things are going to turn, there’s no doubt,” said leadoff hitter Kyle Schwarber, whose first-inning home run provided the Cubs more offense on the first pitch of the game than the 123 other pitches they saw combined.

The lineup’s mini slump aside, the Cubs are counting down the days until Kimbrel can bring the 96 mph fastball he showed at Iowa and help create a desperately needed length in the bullpen for a team that trails first-place Milwaukee by a half-game.

“Things are trending in the right direction, obviously,” general manager Jed Hoyer said of Kimbrel’s first appearance after a spring-like series of bullpen sessions and live batting practice since signing two weeks ago.

“But we’re not going to rush to judgment on any one outing,” he added. “We’re just going to take this process as we planned it out and try to get him ready for the length of the season.”

Hamels, who recorded his 2,500th career strikeout, is focused more on the team getting right regardless of Kimbrel’s ETA, which should be next week.

“It’s something where we know who he is, what talent he has and what he’s going to provide,” Hamels said, “but I think we all want to be part of this team and helping win.”

Hamels has done his part, especially this month. The earned run he allowed in the sixth was the first since May 27 — snapping a streak of 28 consecutive innings.

When Hamels struck out Sox pitcher Ivan Nova in the second, he became the 38th big-league pitcher — and just the 10th left-hander — to reach 2,500 K’s, receiving a big ovation from the capacity crowed.

“To get that moment where they appreciate what I’ve been able to accomplish, it blows me away,” he said. “We’ll see what happens, where I can go from there. To do it in front of fans that really understand and get it, that’s a very special moment.”

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