KANSAS CITY, Mo. – His strong push to the finish line has salvaged what was becoming his worst season into what will be another good one when the final numbers are tallied, but for Jose Abreu, this will be his third losing season in as many years in a major league uniform.
The frustration has been apparent before, and it was evident once again Monday afternoon after the Sox lost to the defending World Champion Royals 8-3. Abreu tipped his cap to the Royals for their success and said it was their desire to win that makes them special, even in what has been a disappointing season for them. The Royals took three of four from the Sox to finish a dominating 14-5 against the South Siders this season, the most losses ever in one year by the Sox against their American League Central counterparts. In Abreu’s three seasons, the Royals are 39-18 against the Sox.
“It’s their hunger to win games and to be good,’’ Abreu said through team translator Billy Russo. “For me, that is the main point for them.’’
Abreu then seemed to question the Sox’ desire to win when asked if the Sox had as much as the Royals, at least when it comes to playing against them. Asked if the same type of desire exists in the Sox clubhouse, Abreu simply said “No.’’ He paused and then repeated “No.”
And how do the Sox get that?
“I don’t know,’’ Abreu said through translator Billy Russo. “I think it begins with me.’’
Monday’s loss began with starting pitchers Carlos Rodon, who gave up six runs for the second straight outing, and the Royals’ Yordano Ventura, who gave up a 431-foot home run to Abreu but pitched a complete game. Three of the eight hits Rodon allowed were home runs by Paulo Orlando, Kendrys Morales and Alcides Escobar.
“It’s a good ballclub with guys who have been in the game for a while and understand they need to make me throw pitches and get deep in counts,’’ Rodon said.
The Royals have now won seven straight series from the Sox, who are 255-341 against division teams since 2009, and whil their trademark has been a relentless edge and capacity to come from behind in games, they have done so with more than, as broadcaster Ken Harrelson might say, “The will to win.’’ They’ve also had better talent and deeper 25-man rosters than the Sox, who haven’t been to a postseason since 2008.
Abreu, who does not speak English, is more of a leader-by-example type because of his work ethic, so it is meaningful when he does speak up as he did Monday. He spoke out in the middle of the season about the importance of the team staying unified during a rough stretch.
The Sox are 72-78, and while it’s obvious they have little to play for from a standings standpoint they have by and large played their games hard to the finish, most scouts and others observing them would agree.
But the season is getting down to the wire. Players get mentally drained and are physically beat up. The Sox coaching staff is wondering where it stands with manager Robin Ventura in the final year of his contract, his status in doubt for next season and beyond.
“We’re just playing games right now,’’ said Ventura, when asked about the Sox being eliminated from contention the day before.
“We’ve gone through the period of all that stuff [analysis] and they’re playing to win today’s game. That’s it. That’s all I can ask for right now. Not worried about looking back a month or fourth months. I want them to play for today.’’
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