White Sox, Rodon pushing to finish strong

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Chicago White Sox’s Justin Morneau watches his home run off Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Jake Thompson during the fifth inning of an interleague baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The White Sox were 8½ games out in the American League wild-card race with 39 games to play before they routed the Philadelphia Phillies 9-1 on Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field. They have been out of the postseason picture for weeks, albeit not mathematically.

But you have to hand this much to manager Robin Ventura’s club: By and large, the players haven’t checked out.

‘‘All of us are playing hard,’’ said left-hander Carlos Rodon, who allowed three hits, struck out four and walked one in 6⅔ scoreless innings to improve to 4-8 while lowering his ERA to 4.02. ‘‘We are leaving it all out there.’’

Rodon finished strong after a bumpy first half as a rookie in 2015 and is continuing on the same path this season, with two, one, two and zero runs allowed in his August starts. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft said he wants to put together a good full season, not just good half seasons, to be in the same class as teammates and Cy Young candidates Jose Quintana and Chris Sale.’’

“I’d love to be like that,’’ he said.

With a 96-mph fastball and hard slider he featured Tuesday, plus a developing changeup – he threw 21 including 14 for strikes – Rodon has the stuff.

“If he keeps running like that, he’s going to be a superstar I think,’’ Sox rookie catcher Omar Narvaez, who has become Rodon’s regular catcher.

Saying the lefty had nothing to lose, Narvaez helped Rodon introduce a back-door slider (outside corner to right-handed hitters) with good results.

“We’ll just win another pitch,’’ Narvaez theorized. “If we don’t command one pitch, we can do another pitch. That was pretty nice.’’

After the Sox took two of three games from the struggling Oakland Athletics last weekend, Rodon helped them open a two-game interleague series against the Phillies with a victory that put them at 60-64. They have six teams to climb over to earn a wild-card spot and would have to win at an almost unattainable pace to do so.

You’ll hear the Sox are out of it everywhere but in their clubhouse. That’s just how players roll.

‘‘I wouldn’t say we’re out of it,’’ said designated hitter Justin Morneau, who combined with Jose Abreu to hit back-to-back home runs in a three-run fifth against Phillies starter Jake Thompson (1-3). ‘‘We’re going to have to get on a pretty good run to get into those wild-card spots, but you can’t get caught up thinking you have to win 35 of whatever.’’

For Morneau, the most important thing is seeing players “coming in early, doing their work to get ready to win ballgames. Until we’re officially done, we’ll do everything you can.

‘‘I’ve seen it on teams that fall out of it early and kind of get in that selfish mode, where guys start playing for themselves. I haven’t seen that here yet.’’

Abreu homered for the third consecutive game and with three RBI and has 14 in his last 17 games. Tim Anderson tripled and drove in two runs, and leadoff man Adam Eaton tripled, reached on a bunt single and scored twice.

‘‘Most people see a mountain and don’t want to climb it,’’ Eaton said of the Sox place in the standings. ‘‘We’re athletes; we do. You don’t go out there just playing to play; you play to win. It doesn’t change with how well or crappy we play. It doesn’t matter.’’

Players have individual goals, so there’s that aspect related to effort. But playing out the string doesn’t seem to be in the Sox’ DNA.

‘‘Because if you do pack it in, well, a lot of people watch us every night and live and die by the games,’’ Eaton said. ‘‘And we should live and die by the win-loss record, too.’’

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