Latest Eloy Jimenez moment puts exclamation point on White Sox’ first half
The rookie thrives in the ‘‘crazy’’ atmosphere of the crosstown series. He belted his second tiebreaking homer against the Cubs.
You could say there is something about the Cubs that brings out the best in rookie left fielder Eloy Jimenez, though he does have 16 homers, none of them cheapies, so the truth is that Jimenez is dangerous no matter what team he is facing.
Jimenez added to his list of Eloy moments Sunday with another tiebreaking homer against the team that traded him, this one a 439-foot, two-run shot off Kyle Hendricks in the fourth inning, breaking a scoreless tie and sparking the White Sox to a 3-1 victory before a second consecutive sellout crowd at Guaranteed Rate Field.
When Jimenez homered — on a broken bat — in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field on June 18 to carry the Sox to a 3-1 victory, he was giddy with joy afterward. It was his first game against the Cubs, and he had crafted a storybook finish with one swing.
He was more subdued after this one. Not that it’s becoming old hat.
“It means the same. It’s a homer,” Jimenez said. “Of course I’m going to enjoy it. But for me the most important thing is we win.”
This win sent the Sox, winners in six of their last nine games and 19 of their last 34, into the All-Star break with a 42-44 record and a split of their weekend and season series with the Cubs (47-43).
Unforgettable stuff, to be sure, for the 22-year-old Jimenez.
“It’s crazy,” Jimenez said. “I enjoy it, but it’s really crazy. You can see [Saturday night], like six fights. It’s not good to see that, but it’s just a lot. Two games at Wrigley Field and here? Oh, my God.”
After Lucas Giolito pitched his second dud of the season against the Cubs the night before, the Sox rebounded behind Jimenez, Jose Abreu, who swatted his team-leading 21st homer against reliever Brad Brach, and Ivan Nova, who pitched 5‰ innings of scoreless ball. Aaron Bummer was nicked for Robel Garcia’s homer in two innings, and Alex Colome pitched a scoreless ninth for his 20th save in 21 chances.
Nova (4-7, 5.58) struck out four, walked one and allowed five hits.
Jimenez, who received words of encouragement from Hall of Famer Frank Thomas in the indoor hitting cage before the game, is shaping up as a special hitter in his own right 62 games into his career.
“He just told me to keep enjoying,” Jimenez said. “ ‘It’s nice to watch you play’ and ‘Just don’t try to do too much. Just be you.’ ’’
Whom will he be?
“I believe he’s going to hit for batting average, I think he’s going to hit for power,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I still believe he’s going to play both sides of the ball.”
Jimenez’s defense in left has looked below average, although he made a couple of good reads on catches moving in different directions on the homestand. On Sunday, he bumped into Charlie Tilson while the center fielder was making a catch on the warning track.
“Today he got mad at me for taking him out [for defensive purposes in the ninth inning],” Renteria said. “I said, ‘I want you to keep staying mad when that happens because hopefully that’ll continue to push you and drive you.’
“He’s going to be capable of playing, trust me, both sides, nine innings, well. He’s showing better jumps on the ball, all those things. I think he’s going to be a well-rounded major-league baseball player.’’