After losing much of the season to injury, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert are back and healthy for the White Sox as they gear up for the playoffs. And with the postseason only weeks away, it’s clear that one is swinging the bat better than the other.
Another obvious point is that the Sox need to figure out their postseason rotation and whether Dallas Keuchel fits in. In the Sox’ 3-2 loss to the Angels on Wednesday, Keuchel went six innings and allowed two runs and five walks, getting support on Yoan Moncada’s fourth-inning home run.
“I thought it was mostly ups [for Keuchel],” manager Tony La Russa said.
The Angels went ahead on Brandon Marsh’s eighth-inning home run off Michael Kopech, and the Sox’ magic number to clinch the American League Central stayed at seven. They also fell two games behind the Astros for home-field advantage in a Division Series against Houston.
Garrett Crochet fanned Shohei Ohtani in the ninth for the Sox’ 90,000th all-time strikeout.
Signed to a three-year, $55 million contract in December 2019, Keuchel has a 2017 World Series championship ring and a postseason pedigree most of his teammates cannot match. But his work this season has put in doubt whether he’ll get the ball in the playoffs. Keuchel has a 5.23 ERA and is winless since Aug. 16.
Walks aside, this outing was better than his Sept. 8 start against the Athletics in which Keuchel allowed five runs in 5⅔ innings.
“Overall, tonight was one of the better-feeling starts I’ve had,” Keuchel said.
“I’d like to keep with that, but I felt good last time out, too. So it’s just the way things go.”
Unlike Keuchel, Jimenez and Robert definitely will take part in the playoffs assuming they’re healthy. Jimenez, though, would like to enter the postseason with different momentum.
Jimenez went 1-for-4 and is hitting .186 in his last 16 games. His last home run was Aug. 29, and Jimenez is still waiting for his first RBI this month. He did lead off the ninth with a sharp double.
“We know what kind of hitter he is,” La Russa said. “It’s just a matter of time. I think the bigger the moment, the closer he is to being himself.”
Of course, any analysis of Jimenez has to mention the time he missed, that his 2021 debut didn’t come until July 26 after sitting out 99 games with a torn left pectoral tendon.
La Russa acknowledged how that could be a factor in Jimenez’s recent struggles.
“He’s kind of in between, take a pitch, then chase a pitch,” La Russa said. “It happens to everybody. His timing’s a little off; his swing gets a little long.
‘‘I think to expect him to not show the effects of all those at-bats he missed is unfair.”
Meanwhile, Robert is producing the way the Sox would like when the calendar turns to October.
Leading off with shortstop Tim Anderson getting rested after his return Tuesday from the injured list, Robert went 1-for-4. Going back to when he came off the injured list on Aug. 9, Robert is batting .371 with seven homers and 24 runs scored.
With Anderson back, Robert likely won’t be leading off when he’s in the lineup. But Robert probably won’t be dropping too far.
“Luis, the way he’s swinging now, you love him at the top of the lineup, middle,” La Russa said. “You really don’t want to put him at the end because you’re going to lose at least an at-bat.”