'Yeah, I'm back': Eloy's return fires up White Sox

Slugger homers, drives in 3 in first game off IL as Chicago walks off on Twins in 10

July 7th, 2022

CHICAGO -- There was , lying on the ground just beyond first base at Target Field in Minneapolis, pounding his fist in anger after being injured while trying to beat out a slow roller to third during the second inning of a game on April 23.

His pain was even more palpable the following Sunday morning when Jiménez simply was trying to sit down in front of his locker. That last game he played looked as if it might be the very last game he played during the 2022 season.

But there was Jiménez on Wednesday afternoon, surrounded by media in the Guaranteed Rate Field home clubhouse, flashing his familiar smile and talking about his return featuring a home run and three RBIs in a 9-8, 10-inning victory over the Twins. It was almost a must-win for the White Sox (39-41), who avoided a three-game home sweep at the hands of the American League Central leaders, beat the Twins (47-38) for the first time in six games this season and moved back within 5 1/2 games of first.

There also was a different vibe with Jiménez back in left field, hitting sixth in what could be a truly powerful lineup not consistently shown to this point.

“It was good,” Jiménez said. “It was one of the days you feel like, ‘Yeah, I’m back.’”

“I’m excited right now,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “Big-time lift, and we got our bats going.”

La Russa and the White Sox have waited since April 13 to see the following line in a postgame boxscore: HR: Jiménez, Robert. They connected off reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray on that night in Chicago against the Mariners. On Wednesday, it was Jiménez doing the damage against Joe Ryan in the fourth and Luis Robert connecting against Emilio Pagán in the fifth.

Minnesota held advantages of 1-0, 3-1, 5-3, 6-5 and 8-6, and the White Sox rallied back from all five deficits. Gio Urshela’s two-run homer in the eighth off reliever Matt Foster gave the Twins what looked like their final edge, but Andrew Vaughn’s two-out, two-strike homer in the eighth tied things again.

“We scored a lot. They scored a lot. It was up and down, and in the end, we won and it was awesome,” Vaughn said. “Kind of going back and forth, and it was a good baseball game. We pitched well when we needed to. We hit well when we needed to, and got the win out of it.”

“For the offense to keep doing their thing and scoring some runs there and tie it up with some big hits, it was a good win,” said White Sox starter Lance Lynn, who allowed five runs in five innings. “Those guys have been doing everything they can and trying their butt off. And hopefully today, that's something that sparks them.”

 delivered the game-winning single, scoring Adam Engel in the 10th, after José Ruiz pitched out of a two-on, nobody-out situation in the top half of the inning. It was García’s fourth career game-ending hit, as he was trying not to do too much with the team needing only one run.

Jiménez was at the center of the more powerful White Sox results. He started in left field -- making a nice running catch to retire Luis Arraez for the only time in five at-bats -- and returned from his injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Charlotte after being sidelined by a strained hamstring behind his right knee, which required surgery on April 26.

When the injury occurred, Jiménez was filled with negative thoughts. But upon getting the results, Jiménez knew the injury was bad, but he was going to be back. It was somewhat similar to the 2021 season, when Jiménez was out until July 26 following surgery to repair a ruptured biceps tendon in his left arm suffered at the end of Spring Training.

He admitted to feeling better in this comeback compared to how he felt in 2021. The White Sox hope to continue feeling good with Jiménez in the middle of the action.

“Right now, we're 1-0,” said a smiling Lynn of Jiménez’s return. “So hopefully, it's something we can feed off of and get going, and everybody can start playing some good baseball here going into the break and definitely when we get back after the break."

“Every day is going to be different,” Jiménez said. “Sometimes, you are going to score a lot of runs, and sometimes, you don’t. We come out, compete and do our best and see what happens. So everybody knows that we had that team that can score runs. And to see that today, it was good.”