Dallas Keuchel’s winning debut helps White Sox enter next phase

Leury Garcia hit home runs from both sides of the plate. Edwin Encarnacion, Eloy Jimenez and James McCann also homered.

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Dallas Keuchel delivers during the first inning of Saturday’s game.

AP Photos

Other than the empty seats at Guaranteed Rate Field, games such as the one Saturday are what the White Sox and their fans envisioned during the darkest days of the rebuild.

Big-ticket left-hander Dallas Keuchel threw well against an American League Central rival, free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion justified his money with a home run and young stars showed why they’re so hyped. Not only that, but useful veterans such as Leury Garcia (homers from both sides of the plate) and James McCann more than chipped in to help the Sox beat the Twins 10-3.

‘‘You start to see the difference from last year to this year, just the confidence level with the young guys that have taken the next step forward and the addition of the veteran players that have been there and done that,’’ said McCann, who also homered. ‘‘It’s a special group, and I think that when you have that healthy mix of young players and veteran players, you can do a lot of special things.’’

In his Sox debut, Keuchel allowed two runs and three hits in 5„ innings. A day after right-hander Lucas Giolito struggled, Keuchel cruised until leaving after allowing two one-out hits in the sixth.

In short, he looked the part of a pitcher who signed a three-year, $55.5 million contract to stabilize a young rotation, pitching the Sox to their first victory in this delayed but highly anticipated season.

‘‘That’s one of the best lineups that any of us will see this year,’’ Keuchel said of the Twins. ‘‘They won the division for a reason last year, and we’re going to have to go through them to win this thing. I have a lot of respect for a ton of those guys over there.’’

The Sox decided to spend big on Keuchel because they thought he would help them beat teams such as the Twins after several seasons of rebuilding. That confidence was based in part on projected growth from the Sox’ core of young hitters.

On Saturday, Eloy Jimenez hit his first homer of 2020, Yoan Moncada had a run-scoring double and Luis Robert had a hit. In two games, the Sox have scored 15 runs.

‘‘Since I’ve joined the team, I’ve talked about the young guys taking that next step after they’ve already taken a step,’’ Keuchel said. ‘‘The biggest key for us this year is them taking another step forward to star status or superstar status.’’

Of course, the Sox aren’t going to win this 60-game sprint without contributions from all over the lineup. Garcia, who struggled defensively in the season opener Friday, homered from both sides of the plate. It was only the 11th time in team history a player had done that.

‘‘They have a pretty good team, as well,’’ Garcia said of the Twins. ‘‘We all know what they can do. At the same time, we are not trying to hit homers. We just try to score some runs and win some games.’’

Winning games consistently is something the Sox didn’t do much of during their rebuild. They sacrificed the present for a better future, and adding Keuchel was a signal the future might have arrived.

Working with McCann, his college teammate at Arkansas, Keuchel used his patented mix of offspeed stuff and control to limit one of the best offenses in the majors. It was certainly a good first impression.

‘‘You all see the specialty of [Keuchel’s] game, which is command the zone,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘Not afraid, works with a good tempo. He’s a pro.’’

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