KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Royals walked Jose Abreu intentionally to pitch to Eloy Jimenez.
It wasn’t a good choice.
With Adam Engel on third base as the tying run and Abreu on first, Jimenez launched a hanging 0-1 slider from right-hander Kyle Zimmer in the eighth inning Tuesday for his first home run, giving the White Sox a 5-3 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
It was an interesting, pick-your-poison strategy, and Jimemez seemed to acknowledge Royals manager Mike Matheny’s decision as he watched his 459 feet homer to left-center. It was Jimenez’s second hit of the night following his 0-for-4 season debut Monday.
“I was ready for that moment because I know Jose is a RBI machine,” Jimenez said. “So they don’t want to pitch to him, because they think I was off time [playing only my second game after coming back from a pectoral muscle tear]. But I was ready for that.”
Reynaldo Lopez pitched a scoreless seventh for his first win, Michael Kopech struck out the first three batters in the Royals lineup for a perfect eighth and Liam Hendriks pitched a perfect ninth to even the Sox’ four-game series with their division foes.
Jimenez, who said he was too excited his first game back Monday when he went 0-for-4 as a designated hitter, was more under control. He also made a shoestring catch in left field and threw a runner out at home. He’ll DH again Wednesday as manager Tony La Russa looks to protect his legs.
“First of all Eloy was the defensive star of the game. He played Gold Glove stuff out there, with a Gold Glove throw,” La Russa said. “And that was a legitimate home run.”
Citing Abreu’s 75 RBI and acknowledging Jimenez’s rust, La Russa said he would have done the same thing as Matheny did — walk Abreu.
Jimenez provided a needed jolt to a Sox lineup that had scored only eight runs over their previous five games. The Sox had lost four of those.
It was the latest in a list of moments the Sox have packaged together in an eventful season.
“You look at this team, guys are winning and having so much fun,” Engel said. “It’s a characteristic of this team, and I think it’s because we’ve been on the bottom and we know what it’s like to stink. Now that we are playing good baseball, it’s a lot of fun. I wouldn’t want to go back through the [rebuilding] years and relive that. But now that we’re on this side of it, it’s like man, this is so much better than being the worst team in the league.”
Dylan Cease pitched six solid innings, allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits while walking one and striking out six. The walk, to Jorge Soler leading off the second, was converted into a run on Hunter Dozier’s sacrifice fly, which preceded right fielder Andrew Vaughn’s drop of Michael Taylor’s slicing liner in the Royals’ two-run second. Andrew Benintendi doubled and scored on Ryan O’Hearn’s single in the fourth.
Royals right-hander Brad Keller, who entered with a 5.84 ERA, held the Sox to four hits over seven innings but allowed a home run by Gavin Sheets.
Cease strung three scoreless innings before being pulled after six innings and 89 pitches, perhaps as manager Tony La Russa monitors his workload. Cease, whose career high is 141⅓ innings between the Sox and the minor leagues in 2019, is at 108⅔ innings.
“I’ve never had a full year in the show yet so it’s hard for me to say [what my limit would be],” Cease said. “I want to throw as many innings as I can.”
Jimenez will hit as many homers as he can, but this one was special for more reasons than one.
On a postgame Zoom call, Jimenez gave a message to 12-year-old Brady Nelson, who is fighting pediatric brain cancer.
“That was for you,” Jimenez said.