White Sox fans were waiting for the high-powered offense to explode like the Southside scoreboard when the club opened the season on Friday night, but save for a three-run blast by Yoan Moncada in the second inning, Friday night didn’t go as planned for anyone from Chicago.
Thankfully, Ricky’s boys delivered on Saturday afternoon, keeping everyone’s hands off of the panic button for the time being.
Yoan Moncada stayed hot opening the scoring up with an opposite-field double that scored leadoff man Tim Anderson to make it 1-0 early, and then the rest of the lineup combined for nine more runs much coming from five home runs.
Leury Garcia expelled the demons of his rough defensive showing Friday night with a pair of homers, Eloy Jimenez went yard, James McCann joined the party too, but none were quite as impressive as Edwin Encarnacion’s mammoth blast that Twins’ left-fielder Eddie Rosario didn’t even take a look at as it sailed far beyond his resting spot in left.
The offense was as advertised, and so was Dallas Keuchel who tossed 5.1 innings of near-perfect baseball. Keuchel’s lone blemish was two earned runs credited to him as a result of a Nelson Cruz three-run home run against reliever Steve Cishek.
Keuchel pounded the zone down, drew a flurry of ground ball outs, and kept the high-powered Twins offense largely at bay on Saturday afternoon before turning it over to the bullpen.
This is a formula that the White Sox can deploy with great success, but it didn’t come without plenty of talk about the way that Sox skipper Ricky Renteria put together his lineup on Saturday.
While the offensive onslaught quelled much of the disdain by the time Jimmy Lambert made his major-league debut by retiring the Twins 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth, the fact still remains that there are things that can — and should — get better with the lineup construction.
Leury Garcia hitting two home runs doesn’t make it true that he’s the best solution at second base in 2020. Leury should be playing right field in Nomar Mazara’s absence while Nick Madrigal (or Danny Mendrick in the interim) provide better defense at the spot.
James McCann collecting three hits doesn’t change the fact that Yasmani Grandal is the superior option of the two. And while McCann is plenty competent, if Grandal needs an afternoon off behind the plate after a night game, Ricky can keep his bat in the lineup by putting him in the designated hitter role.
The lineup scoring 10 runs in a home run derby like display doesn’t change the fact that Jose Abreu’s struggles against right-handed pitchers should warrant the veteran slugger hitting somewhere other than third. Jose showed something that Jerry Reinsdorf values immensely leading up to his free-agency last fall, loyalty. And for that, he was rewarded with a three-year contract that overpaid him as far as numbers are concerned.
That’s fine, it happens all the time. Abreu grinded through the thin years here and did it gracefully as he played mentor to the bevy of young Latin players coming up through the system.
But the contract was the reward for his loyalty, and hitting third — with the pieces on this roster being so good — shouldn’t be a part of that package. Jose Abreu should be hitting lower in the order, Eloy Jimenez (and very soon Luis Robert) need to be in the middle of that order. Feelings aside, that’s a fact.
At the end of the day, the ire surrounding Renteria’s lineup construction is real, and it needs to be better over the long-term. There’s going to come a day when Ricky’s boys don’t absolve him with a barrage of home runs, a day where the kinks in his thinking cause the club to leave an intolerable amount of runners stranded on base, and that day will have consequences in a truncated 60-game season where every game counts.
Hell, the White Sox are using the “Every Game Counts,” slogan as a marketing piece on television, so their manager should act like it when he’s deploying his arsenal of talent each day before this conversation becomes a post-mortem conversation surrounding a talented team missing an expanded playoff field.
Featured Photo: Nam Y. Huh | Associated Press