White Sox big win vs. Reds: How to weather the Luis Robert injury

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Vinnie Duber
·5 min read
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Sox win vs. Reds shows how they can weather Robert injury originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

It's the biggest question facing the White Sox right now.

How can they stay in contention without Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert? How can they achieve their sky-high, championship-level goals without two of their most important players?

Well, in their first game since it was announced Robert would miss months while recovering from a complete tear of his hip flexor, the White Sox showed exactly how.

RELATED: Cease goes 3-for-3, but great pitching means more for Sox

It will be a difficult blueprint to reproduce on a nightly basis, surely. But the White Sox showed with a 9-0 clobbering of the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night that they still have what it takes to chase a World Series title, even as their road got significantly more difficult in the previous 48 hours.

"That was some demonstration of, we’re going to go forward, see how good we can be and stay in contention till Luis and Eloy can join us," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said after the game.

It's unknown whether Robert or Jiménez will be able to make their returns in 2021, though the White Sox certainly aren't ruling it out yet. But even without those two huge bats, two big reasons why the White Sox were pegged as preseason contenders to begin with, the South Siders put on a show Tuesday night.

An offense that ranks among baseball's best was at it again, scoring nine runs on 13 hits. Even starting pitcher Dylan Cease, who hadn't faced live pitching since he was a senior in high school, got in on the fun with three of those base knocks, nearly taking a pitch out of the ballpark for a double off the wall.

Cease's exploits were the most thrilling of the evening, but José Abreu actually homered and had a big night with three RBIs. Tim Anderson, too, drove in a trio of runs. Yoán Moncada had two hits. Yasmani Grandal had two walks.

Though Yermín Mercedes and Andrew Vaughn have done well to help make up for Jiménez's absence, it's the team's more established hitters who will have to shoulder the load now down two important bats. That means Abreu, Moncada, Grandal, Anderson and Adam Eaton. Those guys did exactly that Tuesday night.

"Tonight was one of those nights where we still showed we can be dangerous without those guys," Anderson said. "And you can only imagine if we had those guys in the lineup how more dangerous we could be.

"We still got it. The bats are still there. It's all about having good at-bats and being able to pass the (baton) to the next guy and taking good at-bats. And that's something that we were able to prove tonight."

But of course not every night will feature a nine-run onslaught, something White Sox fans know well. While the offensive statistics have been pretty good for these White Sox, you wouldn't know it from the constant consternation over offensive woes, which certainly have occurred throughout the first month and change. The bats have had numerous instances of failing to come through in scoring chances, giving a hit-or-miss, Jekyll-and-Hyde feel to the proceedings on a night-to-night basis.

What has been more consistent has been the starting pitching, and Tuesday, it remained a strength. Cease was excellent in his other, non-hitting role, silencing the Reds to the tune of six shutout, one-hit innings while matching a career high with 11 strikeouts.

Suddenly, Cease and Carlos Rodón have emerged to join Cy Young types Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn to form what could be a downright dominant rotation. It should be giving the White Sox bold visions of what's possible come October, not to mention throughout the summer.

Thoughts understandably turned to the lineup when Robert went down. But there's more than one way to win baseball games, and it's possible the starting staff could do plenty to help make up for Robert's absence — by making sure the offense doesn't need to score so many runs.

"There's nothing specific where we have to do this," Cease said, "but if we bring our best game and we all pitch collectively, we've got a lot of nasty guys here.

"Missing Luis, it's going to be tough and it's sad, but at the end of the day, we have the ability to win close games and to hold offenses down."

La Russa sees it all as just a continuation of what the White Sox have been doing or have been capable of doing all along, and he's not wrong. Indeed, this roster was a loaded one a month and a half ago, before the Jiménez injury, the reason the White Sox were projected to be among the American League's finest teams. Two big holes have been blown in the lineup, but the rest of what made the White Sox look primed for big things — what made them look championship caliber — remains.

Tuesday night was one game, and surely the remaining 134 on the schedule won't all look like that. But to everyone who wondered how in the world the White Sox could possibly go on without Robert and Jiménez, well, that's how.

"The common-sense thing is, if somebody like Luis gets hurt and you can do more, then you weren’t doing your best before that," La Russa said. "There's only two things that you want to avoid. One is you want to avoid getting discouraged or giving in or giving up. And the other is you don’t want to say, 'Hey, I have to pitch more shutout innings,' or the hitters got to do more. If you're doing your best, which our club has been doing, it's don’t get discouraged, just put your piece in.

"It's like (former White Sox general manager) Roland Hemond used to say, if you win a game, enjoy the moment. And we're going to enjoy it."

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