Robin Ventura made it clear early this month that he wants to return for a fourth season as White Sox manager, and he has managed these final weeks of a disappointing season as one who expects to be back.
Indications are the Sox front office isn’t pinning the team’s performance on Ventura, who would be the first Sox manager to survive three consecutive losing years. Whether his coaching staff remains intact is another subject.
“I’m hopeful it’s the same group,” Ventura said before the Sox defeated the Kansas City Royals 4-2 before a paid crowd of 13,042 fans — many of them wearing Royals blue — Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field.
For the Sox to go into next season with no staff changes, though, would be a stretch. Second-year hitting coach Todd Steverson received a strong vote of confidence during the season, the team’s bottom of the majors rankings in hitting notwithstanding, so he would appear to be safe, as would 14th-year pitching coach Don Cooper. Like Ventura, most of the staff is under contract through next season.
“You have discussions,’’ Ventura said when asked about his say in the coaching staff. “You have somewhat of a say, but you don’t have full say. There are people above you, but you do have discussions.”
General manager Rick Hahn, who often meets with media on the first day of a home stand, wasn’t available to offer a hint before the Sox opened their last one Tuesday against the Royals. Hahn is expected to talk this weekend during the season-ending series against the Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field.
One of Hahn’s big offseason acquisitions, right-hander Jeff Samardzija, made his last start of the season Tuesday and likely his last as a Sox. Samardzija, who will become a free agent after the season, finished a disappointing walk year with his second straight strong start, pitching seven innings of two-run ball following a one-hit shutout against the Tigers.
Samardzija gave up back-to-back opposite field homers to Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales in the sixth. Samardzija gave up eight hits, walked none and struck out three to win back-to-back starts for the first time since late July.
By putting a 4.96 ERA in the books, Samardzija (11-13) put a bow on an up and down season that saw him go 4-1 with a 2.66 ERA over eight starts from June 18 through July 28 and then 2-8, 7.82 in his next 10 starts leading up to Tuesday.
The struggling Sox lineup that had averaged 2.5 runs in its previous 12 games – it ranks last in the American League in runs, slugging percentage and OPS – supplied Samardzija with a 3-0 lead on Jose Abreu’s RBI single in the third and Adam Eaton’s 14th homer, a two-run shot to right against Royals right-hander Johnny Cueto in the fifth.
Left fielder Trayce Thompson made one of the top catches of the year by a Sox outfielder, running to his left and extending fully in mid-air to catch Ben Zobrist’s liner. With fleet Alcides Escobar on first base, the catch saved the tying run from scoring.
Thompson, batting fourth, walked leading off the eighth inning and scored on Alexei Ramirez’s double against Joba Chamberlain to give the Sox a 4-2 lead.
David Robertson pitched a perfect ninth for his 33rd save.
NOTES: Chris Sale, who needs three strikeouts to pass Ed Walsh’s franchise record for strikeouts in a season (269 in 1908, will start Friday against the Tigers. Without specifying the order, manager Robin Ventura indicated Erik Johnson and possibly Frankie Montas will start the last two games of the season.
*White Sox pitchers have set a franchise record for strikeouts in a season with 1,314 going into Tuesday’s game.
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