Jimmy Lambert getting bigger outs for White Sox’ bullpen

“To get in there in a one-run game and deliver, there is no better feeling than helping the team win, that is for sure,” Lambert said.

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White Sox right-hander Jimmy Lambert.

Jimmy Lambert of the White Sox pitches a scoreless eighth inning against the Houston Astros at Guaranteed Rate Field on August 16, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Getty Images)

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Jimmy Lambert is gaining more trust from White Sox manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Ethan Katz. Consider Tuesday’s 4-3 win against the Astros, when the 27-year-old right-hander pitched a scoreless eighth inning after the Sox tied the game in the seventh.

“I mean, anytime you go into a game whether it’s high leverage or not you contribute because all the outs are important,” Lambert told the Sun-Times Tuesday. “But to get in there in a one-run game and deliver, there is no better feeling than helping the team win, that is for sure.”

Lambert (1-2) earned a relief win and lowered his ERA to 2.97 in a victory that ran the Sox’ winning streak to five. Groomed as a starter during his minor league career, the Sox’ fifth-round pick in the 2016 draft is spotting a 94.3-mph (average, per Statcast) four-seam fastball up and down in the strike zone, working both sides of the plate and using his starter’s arsenal of pitches to get big outs in relief. His ERA in 21 relief outings is 2.28.

“My best pitch is just mixing my pitches,” Lambert said. “Some nights it’s my changeup, some nights it’s my slider but the combination of all four, that’s been helping me out.”

Lambert has been effective against lefties (.197 batting average, compared to .231 vs. righties) and has struck out 29 batters over 30 1/3 innings with 14 walks this season, the latter number too high for his liking. But he hasn’t issued a walk in seven of his last eight outings.

“Throwing strikes is the name of the game,” he said.

Fourteen of Lambert’s last 15 outings have been of the scoreless variety. Lambert struck out all four batters he faced in a 5-3 win against the Tigers Sunday and he allowed a two-out single after striking out two in the eighth Tuesday, running his streak to six whiffs in a row. It was the kind of inning generally earmarked for veterans Kendall Graveman, Joe Kelly or Jake Diekman. He has pitched in the eighth or ninth innings in five of his last six games.

The Sox have climbed to five games over .500 and are one game out of first place in the AL Central. What has been a disappointing and frustrating season for a team with World Series goals has taken a turn for the better since veteran Johnny Cueto questioned the team’s “fire.”

Coincidence?

“The whole time I haven’t sensed anything off so it’s kind of hard to answer but obviously [five] wins in a row, guys are playing well, guys are pitching well, the offense is doing their thing and the timely hitting is there,” Lambert said. “Hopefully we can keep it going.

“Obviously we haven’t been winning as much for a while as much as we expected, or everyone expected, but it wasn’t anything in the clubhouse that was ‘Oh this is why.’ Baseball is hard. Hopefully we can keep it going on the right foot.”

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