Jimmy Lambert entered the visitor’s clubhouse following the White Sox 6-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics and was greeted with a beer shower. His teammates doused him with alcohol to celebrate the rookie’s first Major League victory.
Following the flurry of beers, Lambert was smiling as he addressed the media. “I’ll just say the beer was very cold,” Lambert said with a grin.
It was a moment that Lambert will never forget. But while the mood was celebratory, it was an achievement that Lambert does not take for granted.
“I didn’t know if I’d ever get my first Major League win,” Lambert admitted after the game.
The 26-year old has had a tough go during his early action in the big leagues. Last season he cracked the Opening Day roster which was a huge achievement for him especially considering the White Sox were contending and every game was amplified during the shortened 60-game season.
He had an impressive debut that saw him throw a scoreless ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins and pick up his first career strikeout against Miguel Sano. However, he was placed on the 45-day IL after just two appearances with a right forearm strain. It was especially frustrating for Lambert who already missed the majority of the 2019 season due to Tommy John’s surgery.
This season he has bounced between Charlotte in Chicago. He owns a 4.98 ERA in Triple-A this season. The Major League returns we not much better. Heading into Tuesday’s series opener against Oakland, Lambert had thrown eight innings, allowing eight runs.
During his season debut, he was assigned with a spot start on May 31s. He threw 3.2 innings and allowed three earned runs on seven hits. He struck out four. The following month, he was called in for mop-up duty against the Seattle Mariners during the second game of a doubleheader. He was unable to record the final out and allowed four earned runs in 1.1 innings and surrendering two walks. He faired much better during his last appearances. On an August 1st start against Cleveland, he tossed three innings of one-run ball and struck out two.
But when the White Sox starting rotation was peppered with injuries Lambert was once again given an opportunity to start. The White Sox were bracing to have a bullpen day with Lambert expected to throw the first leg. But Lambert exceeded expectations.
The White Sox 2016- a fifth-round pick got off to a shaky start in the first inning. After surrendering a leadoff double, he allowed two deep sacrifice fly balls that yielded a run. The next inning he had to work around two base runners.
“He came out in the first inning and he was nervous, which he should be,” manager Tony La Russa said. “And what’s so impressive was once he got into the flow, he showed his reputation. He has a reputation for being a closer; he can finish innings, he can pitch deep into the game. And that’s exactly what he did. He got, actually, sharper and better and better as he relaxed and just pitched.”
Lambert went into cruise control for the rest of his outing. He retired all but one batter in his final three innings before passing the baton to the bullpen. Having future Hall of Famer Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks, who was making his return to Oakland after five years with the organization, attached to the victory was “pretty special” for Lambert. They recorded the final five outs to secure the victory.
Lambert also received a huge assist from his defense, specifically Luis Robert. His 19 percent whiff rate gave his fielders plenty of opportunities to track down baseballs. Out of the 15 outs that Lambert recorded, seven of them were flyballs. Five of those flyballs were snagged by the White Sox Gold Glove centerfielder. Robert evened saved a run in the first inning when he raced back to rob Starling Marte of extra bases.
It wasn’t the prettiest start but, it was an effective one. He was able to outlast fellow rookie James Kaprielian who was yanked after four innings. Lambert is just the latest in a long line of players on the 40-man roster who have stepped up and contributed to wins this season.