CLEVELAND – Todd Frazier has been at or near the top of the major league home run leaders for most of the year, leads the White Sox with 74 RBI and at third base has stabilized what’s been a shaky corner of the Sox infield since Joe Crede was there.
But an important part of Frazier’s game has gotten away from him, not unlike the bats which inexplicably began flying out of his hands – five times – in the last handful of games. Frazier was batting .137 with a .598 OPS with runners in scoring position, compared to .223 and .726 in his career.
Frazier brushed that up a bit by driving in two runs with a double against Carlos Carrasco in the fourth inning and starting a stunning five-run Sox rally in the ninth against closer Cody Allen with a single to left in the White Sox’ 10-7 win over the Indians Wednesday at Progressive Field. Adam Eaton’s first career grand slam, on an 0-2 pitch, gave the Sox a three-run lead, and David Robertson put the tying run at the plate but worked through a nervous ninth for his 30th save.
The Indians had beaten the Sox seven straight times and were 62-0 after eight innings.
“Frazier and [J.B.] Shuck get on and [Dioner Navarro, bloop RBI single] gets a big base hit to put me in that position,” said Eaton, who hit his career high 11th homer. “To not give up and have a whole-team effort is huge. It shows a lot of fight in this team. It would be easy to lay down there.”
Tim Anderson, who homered in the third inning, also walked in ninth before Navarro’s bloop single.
It was one of Frazier’s more satisfying games in what has been a good/bad first season with the Sox. When asked to grade his performance, Frazier says he doesn’t know what to pencil in, certainly not an A by his standards. Perhaps an incomplete.
“I wouldn’t know where to put myself,’’ said Frazier, who ranks fourth among AL third basemen. “You don’t look at the batting average (.208) but you also look at other stuff like runners in scoring position and little things like getting a guy over. Tem stuff. But runners in scoring position, geez, that has to be better.’’
Frazier said he’ll use these last six-plus weeks to keep working, continue to talk to hitting coaches Todd Steverson and Greg Sparks and hope to iron some things out.
“If I look back on the year right now, I need to do some more work again [in the offseason],’’ he said. “I have a month and a half to work on things, and hopefully build off it toward some positive things for next year.’’
Some positives in the Sox victory, which raised their record to 4-4 on a road trip with Thursday’s series finale yet to play: Anderson extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a two-run homer, his seventh, in the third, and Frazier alertly scored the Sox’ fifth run when Shuck got trapped in a rundown.
Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana homered for the Indians against AAA call-up Anthony Ranaudo, who lasted four innings.
When the Sox were rolling in April, Frazier reflected on how sweet it was and how challenging it can be to play meaningless games in August and September. But he insists his frame of mind is good, playing for a team he would like to stay with beyond next season, his last before free agency.
While the energy stage has leveled off in the clubhouse commensurate with the mounting losses, Frazier continues to be a man about the room, interacting with veterans, manager Robin Ventura and staff and rookies alike. His own struggles haven’t broken him.
“I’m good; every day I come to the park, I’m the same person,’’ Frazier said. “I don’t change a bit. I get ready for the game the same way. I have to look myself in the mirror and say ‘Let’s go here, stop trying to swing at pitches you can’t hit, start swinging at strikes and get after the game like you know how.’ I’m having fun but at the same time it’s not fun when you’re not doing great. You have to keep battling.’’