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White Sox provide powerful preview vs. Cubs

@scottmerkin
July 19, 2020

CHICAGO -- The six-run fifth inning produced by the White Sox during their 7-3 victory over the Cubs in Sunday night’s exhibition at Wrigley Field serves as just a small example of what their potent 2020 offense can put together at a moment’s notice. This sort of damage inflicted certainly

CHICAGO -- The six-run fifth inning produced by the White Sox during their 7-3 victory over the Cubs in Sunday night’s exhibition at Wrigley Field serves as just a small example of what their potent 2020 offense can put together at a moment’s notice.

This sort of damage inflicted certainly doesn’t surprise Lucas Giolito, the White Sox Opening Day starter announced Sunday evening, who faced this same basic group during intrasquad action on Saturday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“I'm glad I don't have to face our offense anymore,” said Giolito in a Zoom call prior to Sunday’s contest. “I have a lot of faith in our offense to get the job done. I'm not seeing too many holes. We're going to make a lot of noise here.”

After Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs’ Opening Day starter, held the South Siders in check on three hits for four innings, they knocked out seven hits in the fifth. Not all of those connections were off Hendricks, with reliever Jahrel Cotton touched up for four straight hits and three of the runs. But even against the crafty Hendricks, the White Sox were able to drive up his pitch count to 83 starting with an eight-pitch at-bat from leadoff hitter Tim Anderson.

It’s the same economical Hendricks who threw an 81-pitch shutout against the Cardinals last May 3. Sunday’s contest was only an exhibition game, the first of a home-and-home series between the crosstown rivals, but it’s worth noting the White Sox did their damage without Yoán Moncada and Nomar Mazara in normal lineup positions.

Adam Engel, who got the start in right field with Mazara a little under the weather, homered off Hendricks to cut the White Sox deficit to 2-1 with one out in the fifth. Anderson followed with a single, and José Abreu's two-out single to right put runners on first and third.

Yasmani Grandal connected for a two-run double off of Cotton, giving the White Sox the lead, followed by Edwin Encarnación’s double to left, Luis Robert’s double over the head of center fielder Ian Happ and Leury García’s triple. The White Sox lineup has been lengthened compared to years past, with a mix of young standouts and established veterans.

Robert has drawn the most recent attention of anyone, especially after blasting two mammoth home runs during Saturday night’s intrasquad game and his earlier Summer Camp homer off Carlos Rodón while falling down. But Sunday’s game became a better defined sample of Robert’s capabilities.

During his first at-bat in the second, Robert was called out on strikes on three pitches. In his second at-bat against Hendricks, Robert poked a 2-2 four-seamer into right for a hit. And his double off Cotton came on an 0-2 hanging curve.

“I am very confident in myself,” said Robert through interpreter Billy Russo. “I feel good with this team, I feel good about the atmosphere here, I feel good with the coaching staff and the manager that we have. I am 100 percent confident in myself, and I know that my confidence level is pretty high, and that’s going to help me.”

None of the White Sox primary six starting pitchers appeared at Wrigley on Sunday. But veteran Ross Detwiler fanned four in two innings, and Jimmy Lambert -- ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 16 White Sox prospect -- who is a little over one year removed from Tommy John surgery, looked sharp in two scoreless innings with a strikeout of Javier Baez. It was a solid and briefly explosive start to a week when White Sox baseball truly returns.

“Today is a nice change,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “We start getting to the feel of what it’s going to be like during the regular season. To this point, we are very happy with how we have continued to progress, and we hope everyone has an enjoyable night watching baseball in Chicago.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.