Jose Abreu continued to drive home his point about unity Wednesday. He preached it Sunday after the White Sox were swept by the Tigers in Detroit and expanded on it before the Sox got clobbered by the Washington Nationals for their fifth straight defeat and 20th of their last 26 games.
“I have full confidence in this team,’’ Abreu said before another Sox loss, this one by an 11-4 count before 15,273 fans. “I believe we are going to get out of this, but we have to be united. And we have to act like a family, like a real family. In the tough moments, you can see some people are down.’’
The tough moments continued Wednsday, with new acquisition James Shields getting bombed for three runs and failing to finish the third inning. Max Scherzer stymied Sox bats with seven scoreless innings before the Sox scored four meaningless runs in the ninth against the Nats bullpen. Closer David Robertson, pitching the eighth to get some rust off because he hasn’t been needed in days, gave up a three-run homer to Jayson Werth. Then, to save pitching, manager Robin Ventura used outfielder J.B. Shuck on the mound in the ninth. Shuck gave up the Nats’ 11th run.
Once again, the Sox clubhouse, once a funhouse filled with music, was dead quiet in the aftermath.
During spring training and then while the Sox were winning 23 of their first 33 games, a good chemistry developed in the clubhouse, and it flourished there with the team’s early success.
But this recent stretch of losses that saw a six-game lead in the American League Central turn into fourth place — and the manner in which games have been lost — is taking a toll and testing the Sox’ resolve. Abreu sees it and warns of the potential fallout.
“I don’t want to get into specifics, but probably some of the things that are happening right now . . . we have to be united no matter what because this is a long season, and if we are not united, this could be very bad for us,’’ he said. “We have to find a way to be together and to regroup and begin to play the way we did at the start of the season.’’
Winning is the cure-all for whatever ails. Losing can be the true test of character.
“In spring training, we were getting ready for the season, and it didn’t matter if you lost or went 0-for-4,’’ Abreu said. “We were united, but it was different. Once you start to lose some games, you see everybody’s character. Some personalities are different. It’s hard to handle and put it all in perspective, and that is one of the challenges right now. We have to be united. That’s the message.’’
Manager Robin Ventura said Abreu’s “be united” sentiments probably stem from “punch in the gut” losses, such as the three in Kansas City in which the bullpen blew leads in each game.
“There’s no infighting or anything like that,’’ Ventura said. “It’s just making sure guys are focused on the right stuff.’’
Abreu has had his own personal challenges to produce at the levels of his first two seasons. He knows the Sox desperately need more than his .260 average, seven homers and 32 RBI, and he credits a recent uptick to being focused on the right stuff, as Ventura said, by arriving at the park early every day and working hard — as he always has through slumps and hot streaks.
“Try to be better every day,’’ said Abreu, who had two hits including a double Wednesday. “I’ll work hard through 162 games and hopefully beyond.’’
In any event, there’s no doubt frustration is setting in. Chris Sale blew off steam after the Sox’ loss Saturday against the Tigers.
“How can you not be frustrated?” Sale said. “We have to stop losing games. It’s plain and simple.’’
Because Abreu speaks Spanish, talking through the media is one way he can get his message to the entire team. Told of Abreu’s “stay united” theme, Todd Frazier said, “When you’re losing, every little thing gets blown up.
“The more we stay close — say, ‘Hey, man, we got you; we’ll get you next time’ — or pick a guy up every once in a while, the better.
“I just think people are upset at losing. Nobody’s going after each other at all. There’s no finger-pointing. It’s a matter of, as Jose said, sticking to our approach, our mindset and our goals we have during the year and don’t stray away from that.’’