After driving in the deciding run with a two-out double in the seventh inning of the White Sox’s 4-3 win over the Twins on Thursday afternoon, Eloy Jimenez let loose with a celebratory scream.
“I just felt really emotional after striking out three times,” the 23-year-old left fielder said. “That was a really special moment, and I just let it go.”
In his second year with the Sox, Jimenez was filled with understandable joy. And why not?
With the gritty victory over Minnesota, the Sox became the first American League team to clinch a playoff spot.
“It definitely means a lot,” star shortstop Tim Anderson said. “It had been a minute. Just bringing some more excitement back to the South Side, giving the fans a reason to be excited.”
In truth, it’s been an extended minute since the Sox and their fans celebrated a postseason berth.
Jimenez was just getting started as an 11-year-old baseball player in the Dominican Republic when the Sox last clinched – in 2008.
Anderson was 14 at the time, and much more polished as a basketball player.
After a 12-year wait that featured a full-blown rebuild, a 100-loss season in 2018 and 99 losses in ‘13, a player revolt involving Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Adam LaRoche and plenty of all-around bad baseball, the Sox finally have flipped the script.
Trailing Minnesota, 3-2, with two outs in the seventh inning, Jose Abreu tied the game with an RBI single and Jimenez followed with the big double.
Holding the best record (33-17) in the AL, it was just a matter of time before the Sox made their trip to the playoffs official.
“It’s really, really fun,” Jimenez said. “At the beginning of the year, at SoxFest, I said we’ll be disappointed if we don’t make the playoffs. So now we made it and now we just need to continue to play hard and win our division.”
Playing a season shortened to 60 games by COVID-19 has been a big adjustment for every major league team.
After they got off to a 1-4 start and were still sputtering at 10-11, the Sox’s offense started pounding the baseball, and everything else fell into place.
The one thing that’s really been missing is fans at Guaranteed Rate Field. Staying patient during a long run of failure has been no easy task, and they would have really enjoyed watching this Sox team live and in person.
“They are the reason why any team exists,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The fan base is the most important part of an organization’s existence. Everybody understands that, I think everybody knows it. All through the pros and the cons, through the love and through the hate and all that good stuff, it’s just a part of it because you want your club to do well.
“This is for them, too. I hope they’re enjoying it. I hope they’re enjoying it more than us because we know they’ve been going through a tough time, not only now but over the last few years.”