CLEVELAND (AP)Following his memorable home debut, Nolan Jones introduced himself to the Guardians’ clubhouse staff. He wanted to make sure he knew all their names.
This rookie’s going to be around for a while.
Jones drove in four runs in his first game at Progressive Field, leading Cleveland to an 8-4 win over the Chicago White Sox on Monday night in the opener of a four-game series between the AL Central rivals.
A 24-year-old outfielder with a sweet left-handed swing, Jones hit a two-run single in the first inning off Lance Lynn (1-2). He then chased the right-hander by driving home two more runs with a double in the fifth.
”Really cool,” Jones said of his first game in Cleveland. ”I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. Obviously getting drafted here, got to come sign my contact here and then got to play in the Futures Game here, so I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”
Jones is batting .538 (7 for 13) with a homer – a 457-footer that splashed into Kansas City’s famous fountains on Saturday – and eight RBIs in four games since coming up from Triple-A Columbus.
Back from a 1-6 road trip to Detroit and Kansas City, the Guardians staked Cal Quantrill (5-5) to a five-run lead in the first and moved back to .500 (42-42).
Yoan Moncada hit a three-run homer as the White Sox began an eight-game trip leading into the All-Star break.
Jones, who has climbed through Cleveland’s organization since being drafted in 2016, came to the plate with the bases loaded for his first at-bat. He then delivered a broken-bat single as the Guardians scored five times off Lynn – all with two outs – in the first.
It was the kind of moment the Guardians envisioned for Jones, who has been slowed by injuries the past few seasons.
”He was rated our No. 1 prospect for a couple years,” manager Terry Francona said. ”He just couldn’t stay healthy. Now, the hope is he can because when he got to Triple-A, he worked really hard on shortening his stroke because he was always able to kind of leverage the ball, but it was a little longer.
”Now, it’s shorter and he’s to the ball. It gets a little exciting.”
Cleveland’s big inning was triggered by Josh Naylor hustling down the line to beat out an infield single with two down. Franmil Reyes followed with an RBI single and Andres Gimenez walked before Jones, who was called up from the minors on Friday in Kansas City, blooped his single to center to make it 3-0.
Two batters later, Myles Straw brought in two more runs with a single off Lynn, who settled down but only lasted four innings.
”I don’t think he got beat up in that first inning,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. ”He got the ground balls, they just found holes. It’s different if they’re centering it, but they didn’t. We hung in there. We came back. I like the way we competed.”
In the fifth, Reyes singled and Gimenez, a first-time All-Star, was hit by a pitch before Jones ripped his double to right-center. Straw followed with a hard comebacker that struck reliever Matt Foster and caromed into right field for an RBI.
Jones hasn’t needed long to make a strong impression on his teammates.
”Nolan has been like a lot of the rookies who have come up for us,” Quantrill said. ”He’s been professional. Prepared to play at this level, committed to the approach that we bring and really just doing a good job.
”Just from what I’ve seen in these last three or four games, a really professional at-bat.”
La Russa labeled the latest report about trouble inside the team’s clubhouse as ”irritating.”
La Russa conceded the White Sox haven’t played up to expectations. However, he’s confident his ”very tight” team is united and has the right leaders.
”I like the veterans and I like the way our young guys respond to their responsibilities and their willingness to step forward,” he said. ”I think it’s a terrific mix. … Everybody has their own opinion. It’s like strategy. You win more arguments when you win.”
Gimenez was one of three Cleveland batters hit by pitches. The second baseman has been hit seven times in the past 13 games.
Francona held a meeting in Kansas City on Sunday to introduce the team’s three All-Stars – Jose Ramirez, Emmanuel Clase and Gimenez. While Ramirez is making his fourth trip, this will be the first for Gimenez and Clase.
Francona could see the emotion in Clase’s face at learning of his selection. Gimenez’s teammates erupted when his choice was revealed.
”The place went bananas,” Francona said. ”In the midst of a really tough road trip, that was a nice minute.”
Guardians: Naylor was back in the lineup after being scratched Sunday with lower back discomfort.
The Guardians play their seventh doubleheader at home – and fourth overall since June 28 – on Tuesday. RHP Shane Bieber (3-5, 3.44 ERA) starts the first game for Cleveland against Davis Martin (1-2, 4.29 ERA). Rookie Konnor Pilkington (1-1, 4.08 ERA) goes in the nightcap against White Sox RHP Dylan Cease (7-4, 2.45 ERA).
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