It will take more than makeup to carry the White Sox to the postseason. They’ll have to get back to playing at the level that made them look like serious contenders before this first rut of the season, one that continued with a 5-3 loss to the Houston Astros before 14,936 fans Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. The defeat was the Sox’ sixth in their last seven games and their fourth in a row.
But there seems to be no doubt they have the right character, chemistry — grind-ability, if you will — to get through the tough times.
“The makeup is unbelievable,” third-base coach Joe McEwing said before the game. “One of the best, if not the best of any team I’ve been associated with.”
The only team McEwing compares the Sox to in that regard is the 2000 New York Mets, which he and Sox manager Robin Ventura played on. That team lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series.
“Our 2000 Mets club had a very similar character as far as makeup and individuals on a club,” he said. “But this is close to it, if not better. Personalities. Guys that hold everybody responsible and get after it.”
The Sox had said bad stretches were inevitable, even as they were building a 23-10 record before a 13-11 loss to the Texas Rangers last Tuesday that started this current slump.
“We understand where we’re at and where we need to be,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “The main thing is focusing on what we have to do today and keep on winning, finding ways to win. We knew something like this was going to happen. You’re going to go through these little lulls.”
They’re definitely in one now. Mat Latos (5-1) made his fourth consecutive ineffective start after contributing four excellent ones to start the season. The starting rotation shapes up as a mixed bag of the best 1-2 combination in the American League, with ERA leaders Chris Sale (8-0, 1.67 ERA) and Jose Quintana (5-2, 1.54), followed by question marks in Carlos Rodon (1-4, 4.73 ERA), Latos (7.84 over his last four starts and 43 hits over his last 26 2/3 innings) and Miguel Gonzalez (5.17 ERA in three starts).
Latos gave up five runs and 11 hits, including homers to Colby Rasmus and Jason Castro. On the bright side, he said he was better mechanically.
“It was a bunch of weak contact, bloopers that found some outfield grass, a couple of bleeders through the infield,’’ Latos said.
“I’m tired of giving up runs, frustrated and can’t do nothing about it.’’
The Sox let Astros starter Doug Fister escape the first inning with only a run allowed, even though the first four batters reached on hits. Leadoff man Adam Eaton, trying to stretch a single down the left field line into a double, got thrown out by rookie left fielder Tony Kemp, and Melky Cabrera hit into a hard double play.
“I don’t think [Eaton] really noticed where that guy was playing [near the line] when he went around first,’’ manager Robin Ventura said.
Jose Abreu had RBI singles in the first and seventh, the latter against reliever Ken Giles in the seventh, cutting the Astros’ lead to 5-3. Cabrera scored Frazier with a triple in the sixth, but Brett Lawrie, with the Astros’ middle infielders conceding a run, struck out for the third time in the game and the sixth straight time overall.
This difficult stretch won’t be the last, Frazier warned.
“That’s part of a normal 162-game season,” he said.
Said McEwing, “There’s no panic. No panic at all.
“No matter the score, they keep grinding. We get behind, we come back, we get behind again, and we come back again. They keep pulling for each other for 27 outs.”
That’s all well and good, but the Sox (24-16) simply need to be better, too. Having Sale to try and salvage the third game of the series Thursday is a good start.
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