Eloy Jimenez makes his former team pay in his first trip to Wrigley Field

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JUNE 18: Eloy Jimenez #74 of the Chicago White Sox hits the game-winning, two run home run in the 9th inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on June 18, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – Once the White Sox game against the Yankees on Sunday ended, a lot of the attention turned to the biggest prospect on the team – and it made sense.

Eloy Jimenez was once on the Cubs, but a trade sent him to the south side in 2017, giving the White Sox rebuild a major piece moving forward. It happened before the outfielder could make an appearance in the blue pinstripes at Wrigley Field, so the first City Series game on Tuesday would be Jimenez’s first time at the venue.

He was asked a number of times between Sunday and Tuesday what it would be like for him to go to the ballpark where the initial plan was to have him playing for the home team. Jimenez said a few times that he didn’t know what to expect, shrugging off the significance of his first game at Wrigley Field.

“I don’t know,” said Jimenez when asked about the reception he might get from the fans in the bleachers. “I know I’m gonna hear ‘You Suck’ a lot.”

As it turns out, he had the perfect response for those rooters in the ninth inning, and in the process created quite a narrative for the first of four Cubs-Sox games.

With the game tied at one in the ninth, Jimenez smacked a two-run homer off Pedro Strop in the left field bleachers to give the White Sox a 3-1 win on Tuesday evening. It was the 12th homer of his rookie season and perhaps the most satisfying, as it gave him his first win over his former team to start a quick two-game series.

It also gets the White Sox back within a game at .500 while sending the rival Cubs to their second-straight defeat. Meanwhile, it gave Jimenez a big smile that was on his face when he got back to the White Sox dugout and remained there in postgame interviews.

“I can’t explain it right now,” said the soft-spoken yet smiling Jimenez when asked how he felt after the homer. “It was really good.”

Jimenez’s ninth-inning blast is arguably the most memorable City Series moment to date for the White Sox since their rebuild started back in 2017. It followed a single by James McCann, who had a pair of hits on the night, and came on the second pitch he saw from Strop.

Jimenez cracked his bat when he hit it, but the ball still had plenty of power to carry a few rows up into the bleachers.

“It’s an amazing moment, I just tried to hit a line drive up the middle, and it went over the fence,” said Jimenez, who showed off the broken bat to reporters after the game. “It’s just amazing.”

It was only the second scoring play of the night, with the first coming on a Tim Anderson infield single in the sixth in which an errant throw by Javier Baez allowed Leury Garcia to come in and score. White Sox pitching did their job on the night, as Kyle Schwarber’s leadoff homer was the only run allowed by starter Ivan Nova while four bullpen pitchers shutout the Cubs the final four innings.

All of that led to Jimenez’s big moment against the Cubs, and it continues an incredible month for the outfielder, who is hitting better than at any point this season. Jimenez’s homer was the sixth in the month of June as his RBI total went up to 14 as he’s hitting over .320 in 14 games.

But this moment was the sweetest of them all, and in the ninth inning the “You Suck” chants that Jimenez said he heard at times during the game disappeared from the bleachers for good.

“There were a lot of White Sox fans over there too, and they started saying ‘You’re the best’ and I was so happy for that,” said Jimenez.

It’s safe to say the feeling is mutual as they watched the young prospect reach his potential in the silver and black at the Friendly Confines.

 

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