Jimenez and Sheets hit homers in first, and Sox hold on to win

Tanner Banks induced a bases-loaded pop out to seal the victory

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Tanner Banks

Tanner Banks #57 of the Chicago White Sox reacts after the 7-6 win against the Minnesota Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 16, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

If it came easily, it wouldn’t be the 2023 White Sox (57-92).

On a rare night when Eloy Jimenez and Gavin Sheets bashed first-inning homers against Twins ace Pablo Lopez, and a vintage Tim Anderson three-hit performance gave them enough offense to outrun their problems, the Sox still escaped the division leaders with no margin for error.

A mistake-ridden four-run eighth against Gregory Santos gave way to Lane Ramsey and Tanner Banks piecing together the ninth to save a 7-6 win. After inheriting a jam and walking in a run, the 31-year-old Banks induced a bases-loaded pop-up from Willi Castro for his first career save.

Partly because team photographer Darren Georgia chided him for never showing emotion, and partly due to relief, Banks raised his fists in triumph as Andrew Vaughn settled under the final out.

“It’s still nice to have games like that, even at this point in the season,” Sheets said. “We know it’s there.”

Should more outbursts occur over the final weeks, locking down those wins will be tricky. Manager Pedro Grifol alluded to Santos’ career-high innings total affecting his recent performance and will avoid using him regularly down the stretch.

The strobing stadium light effects once reserved for the entrance of closer Liam Hendriks were deployed in the ninth inning as the rookie Ramsey strode in from the bullpen. Similar moments might be seen over the final two weeks on the South Side.

“These guys might be a little uncomfortable at times, pitching in those parts of the game,” Grifol said. “But it’s good experience.”

The new hope

After the queen of the South Side Irish Parade and an Instagram personality had their turn, White Sox first-round pick Jacob Gonzalez threw out a ceremonial first pitch Saturday.

The crisp strike he threw to Lenyn Sosa ideally represents a skill set that ideally will allow Gonzalez to stay at shortstop long-term, despite his admission that he’s taller and a step slower than typical for the position.

“Everyone questions my defense always,” Gonzalez said. “Ground balls are a lot of fun. It’s fun to get better that way. This past season I didn’t hit that good. It’s not going to be the same. I’m going to hit better than that. Just working on how my body moves when I’m hitting and perfecting it so that it’s easier.”

Gonzalez scuffled to a .207/.329/.261 batting line at Low-A Kannapolis after being selected out of Ole Miss with the 15th overall pick. He cited adjusting to the velocity of professional pitching as his biggest issue so far.

Grifol said the Sox took a hands-off approach to Gonzalez’s first professional action, and this winter they will prescribe adjustments to what they have seen from him.

Playing fast

Winning more games is the only attribute future Sox teams actually need, but Grifol and new general manager Chris Getz echo each other in a desire to see a more athletic style of play in the future.

“We want to see our club play fast,” Grifol said. “We’ve got to play defense. We’ve got to pitch. We see this thing the same way. So I’m looking forward to a really good offseason with him.”

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