The blend of plate discipline and taking advantage in hitters’ counts paid off Saturday for the White Sox.
It started with Luis Robert laying off a 3-2 sinker and Gavin Sheets whacking a 3-0 pitch for a three-run homer that set the tone for an 8-0 victory over the Tigers.
“We’re a different hitting team when we do that,” said Tony La Russa, referring to the offense tidying its strike zone.
The Sox entered Saturday’s game with a 35.9 percent rate of swinging at pitches outside the strike zone – highest in the American League, according to Fangraphs.
But Roberts didn’t chase, and Sheets reinforced La Russa’s faith by whacking a low pitch down the middle off Garrett Hill over the wall in right center.
La Russa said his batters have practiced batting with 3-0 counts, with the warning of getting an off-speed pitch in a fastball count.
“I knew that (Hill) wanted to come to me, he didn’t want to get the bases loaded for (Yoan) Moncada,” Sheets said.
The left-handed hitting Sheets has hit all six of his homers this season at home and against right-handed pitchers.
Jose Abreu extended his hitting streak to a season-high 14 games with a two-run double in the second. Abreu has seven hitting streaks of 14 games or longer. Only Hall-of-Famers Nellie Fox (nine), Luke Appling (eight) and Eddie Collins (eight) have more hitting streaks of 14 games or longer, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
New and improved Jimenez?
After returning Wednesday from his latest injury setback, Eloy Jim?nez has demonstrated his body might be able to withstand the rigors of the final 2 1/2 months of the regular season.
“He’s really in good shape,” La Russa said Saturday. “He’s paid his dues. Just make sure he stays on his program, which I think he will. He knows we’re better when he’s not hurt. He’s assuming responsibility.”
Jimenez, 25, went 3-for-13 with a home run and four RBIs, as well as making an impressive catch in foul territory, since returning from surgery to repair a torn hamstring tendon that sidelined him for 65 games.
Jimenez, under the advisement of team doctors and trainers, didn’t start Saturday and reported normal soreness after playing three consecutive games. That is encouraging news for Jimenez and the Sox, who play doubleheaders against the Guardians on Tuesday and July 23.
Jimenez missed the first 99 games of 2021 because of a left pectoral muscle tear.
“Sometimes when you’re younger, you get away with not crossing every t,” La Russa said. “And later on you realize how important it is to make sure you stretch. He’s learning early. It will help him.”
Rest for Anderson?
With nine games remaining in the next eight days, shortstop Tim Anderson will receive a rest before flying to Los Angeles to participate in All-Star Game festivities.
“We’re aware of that and know we’re going to have to give him some time,” La Russa said of Anderson, who will start for the American League. “Not sure we’ll give it to him this weekend or during the week. We’re going to have to give him a break some place.”
La Russa intimated that Davis Martin could start in one of the games in Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Guardians.