White Sox crushed again; manager says team’s focus isn’t where it needs to be

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Starter Miguel Gonzalez gets the hook in the fourth inning Tuesday in Oakland. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

OAKLAND, Calif. — White Sox manager Rick Renteria insisted before the game Tuesday against the Athletics that Jose Abreu’s ninth-inning solo home run in the previous night’s defeat had made a difference.

“It tells you that you don’t stop, you don’t relent,” he said. “You keep fighting.

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“It’s not necessarily the homer that you celebrate. It’s the fact that you kept fighting, that you put together an at-bat that gave you an opportunity to drive the ball out of the ballpark. That’s what we celebrate because everybody’s got to watch that. That’s what we learn from.”

How much did that lesson help the Sox? So much, they blinked and were down by five after the first inning less than 24 hours later in a 10-2 loss. So much, starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was off to the showers in the fourth inning. So much, the Sox were buried in a 10-0 hole before Yoan Moncada finally put them on the board with an eighth-inning homer.

If there was much of any fight in the Sox on a night celebrating 50 years of A’s baseball in Oakland, it was impossible to spot with the naked eye.

“I’ll defend every single one of my guys in that [locker] room,” Renteria said.

It’s a good thing because there’s a lot to defend them for. And Renteria is in a fighting mood, in a manner of speaking.

“Winning a big-league ballgame is very difficult,” he said. “You play 27 outs. You play nine innings of baseball. And you try to win as many innings as you possibly can, kind of like a prizefight. I had a former manager tell me that one time — it’s a fight. You try to win as many rounds as possible.”

But the Sox have spent the early part of the season beating themselves up. They’ve been deficient in a lot of areas.

We’ve been lamenting daily the Sox’ awful offensive performance with runners in scoring position. On an unrelated, but just as troubling, note: Entering play Tuesday, Sox starting pitchers had issued the most walks in the American League — an impressive feat considering all the postponements on the team’s schedule.

The defense has been a real problem, too.

This flared up in a big way with Monday’s season-high four-error performance. Three of those miscues — by first baseman Jose Abreu, shortstop Tim Anderson and right fielder Avisail Garcia — came in the critical seventh inning. The night left the Sox with a .972 fielding percentage, the worst in all of baseball.

Renteria’s take: The young Sox are learning valuable lessons about the need to remain focused.

“In my humble opinion, in order to put yourself in what puts you in an elite class or a class that allows you to compete on a daily basis, you have to remain focused,” he said. “We have to enjoy what we do completely, be relaxed, have fun out there when we’re playing. But it does require focus, and it requires focus on every pitch of the game.”

Exhibit A, perhaps: In the final game of the team’s last homestand, Anderson was picked off first base. In the lone game that was played in Minnesota, only a highly questionable replay ruling saved him from being picked off first again. Monday’s ground ball between his legs gave him errors in consecutive games.

Is he letting his guard down?

“Letting my guard down? Come on, man,” Anderson said. “There’s no explanation, man. We go out and play and we bust our tails, and we’re just kind of falling short.”

Third baseman Yolmer Sanchez chipped in his own truly bad play against the A’s on Monday when he was thrown out — by a mile — trying to go from first to third on a groundout, ending an inning in what at the time was a scoreless game. He doesn’t believe, though, that his team has an issue with its overall focus on the field. He used errors to make the point.

“Errors are in the game,” Sanchez said. “If you don’t make errors, it’s because you’re not playing.”

Renteria probably wouldn’t like the sound of that.


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