CHICAGO—The White Sox entered Friday night's game against the Royals as one of the hottest teams in all of baseball. It was a long and scrappy night, but the Sox took care of business against their inferior AL Central foes.
Speed and defense
The White Sox exchanged everybody's favorite "International Signing Bonus money" for speedy outfielder and former thorn in their side Jarrod Dyson from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday afternoon.
This marks Chicago's first in-season trade of 2020, with the deadline looming at the end of the month.
Trading for Dyson is by no means a flashy move, but it's exactly the kind of trade that a team makes if they feel like a deep playoff run might be imminent. He's been successful in 85% of his career stolen base attempts, and will be a valuable late-inning defensive replacement in either of the corner outfield positions. The White Sox will still look to bring in a veteran starting pitcher to shore up their young and vulnerable rotation, assuming the price is right, but there's no reason not to like bringing in a speedy outfielder, all things considered.
Reynaldo López made his second start since his stint on the injured list on Friday night. While it was far from perfect, he evaded some near-disastrous innings and worked four innings of two-run ball. He gave up six hits, walking two and striking out four.
While he kept the Sox in the game, I'm not sure anybody watching his start on Friday night would trust him taking the ball in a potential playoff game. It shouldn't be surprising, but it has been rumored that the Sox are looking at shoring up their starting rotation by trading for a veteran. Sox fans may not want to give up young talent to acquire necessary additions via trades, but you have to give up something to get something.
Nick Madrigal officially returned from his IL recovery and rehab stint in Schaumburg on Friday. He was not in the lineup Friday night, but should find his way back in during the weekend series. While Madrigal is still the second baseman of the future, Danny Mendick has done nothing but impress in Madrigal's absence.
It would be a shame to take playing time away from Mendick at this point of the season, after he's played so well and passed each test presented to him. It'll be interesting to see how Ricky Renteria utilizes his new infield depth: Even though the Sox offense has heated up over the last few weeks, one could make a solid argument that Mendick has been the most consistent hitter throughout the season. While he's impressed with the bat, he's also offered a sure-handed approach at second base, which is especially important for a pitching staff that relies on so many ground balls.
Eloy to the shrubbery!
Through the first 4 ⅔ innings Royals starter Danny Duffy pitched, it looked like it might be a quiet night for the Sox bats. Luis Robert gave the Sox the lead with a solo shot to right field in the second, but López gave the lead right back in the third, putting the Sox in a 2-1 hole. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Tim Anderson reached first base on an infield single and Eloy Jiménez followed with a blast to the shrubbery in left-center field.
Jiménez is quietly putting together a magnificent 2020 campaign. The go-ahead home run was his 11th of the season, to go along with a sterling .322 batting average that somehow looks sustainable!
Eleven home runs are quiet? Yeah, because it seems like the hoopla of 2020 has surrounded some other players, and for good reason. But make no mistake, Jiménez has been as impressive as any player this season.
Matt Foster pitched a clean sixth inning of relief for the Sox, but with one out in the seventh, he followed a Hunter Dozier walk with a Jorge Soler blast to right field to draw the game even at 4-4.
Foster has been all kinds of excellent for the Sox this year, not having given up an earned run to his name up until Friday's game. He's earned benefit of the doubt to allow for his struggles tonight to hopefully be nothing more than a blip.
What was that?
With one out in the top of the ninth inning, closer Alex Colomé walked Ryan O'Hearn. Maikel Franco followed with what looked to be a relatively harmless single to left field, but it turned out to be far from it. Jarrod Dyson, who came in for Jiménez as a defensive replacement, threw the ball back in to second base to get Franco in a rundown. The Sox infield had to be careful, with the lead runner having made his way into third, but alas, they were not. José Abreu stumbled at second base trying to tag Franco out. After some confusion, Abreu threw the ball home as Royals pinch-runner Bubba Starling started for the plate, but Yasmani Grandal wasn't ready for the ball, and it rolled through Grandal's legs, allowing the run to score and Franco to move into third. No more damage was done after Colomé retired the next two batters.
After a disheartening top of the ninth, Grandal wasted no time making up for his defensive lapse by crushing a walk-off home run to right field off of Ian Kennedy.
I have often called Grandal the .OBP king, but from now on, he is the WALK-OFF KING.
With the win, the White Sox improved to 20-12 on the season. It wasn't pretty, but the Sox will gladly take it as their playoff chances rose to more than 98%.
During the game, news broke that actor Chadwick Boseman died after battling colon cancer for the last four years. He already had put together an incredibly impressive career, but anyone who watched him knew that he was special, and had so much more to give this world.
Among many roles, Boseman played Jackie Robinson in "42." He passed away on Jackie Robinson Day in the majors.
Let's wrap this game story with a big rest in power to the incredible Chadwick Boseman.