In 2017, the White Sox finished 22-22 down the stretch to avoid losing 100 games, so it stands to reason that maybe this year’s team can build on the momentum of a season-best four-game winning streak at the outset of August, stay under triple-digit losses and carry something useful into next season.
A respectable finish would be a good thing.
“There’s big value in that,” veteran right-hander James Shields said. “We’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs — more downs than ups — and it’s very important for them to have the confidence in their own ability to compete in this league and go into spring training knowing they belong here and can have success.’’
By “them,” Shields, looking around the Sox’ clubhouse Monday before their 7-0 loss to the Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field, is speaking of the young Sox who might be part of the future core.
“A winning culture is the No. 1 thing,” Shields said. “You never want to get used to losing. You want to get better, not make the mistakes we’ve made all season long, and finish strong.”
Returning home after winning three one-run games against the Rays, the Sox didn’t put up much of a fight against Yankees right-hander Lance Lynn, who retired 19 batters in a row over 7„ scoreless innings.
The Sox’ highlight was a leaping catch by center fielder Adam Engel to take a home run away from Greg Bird in the fourth. The consolation prize was designated hitter Matt Davidson pitching a scoreless inning for the third time in as many outings. Davidson became the first position player in Sox history to make at least three pitching appearances in a season since the inception of the DH in 1973. He’s the 12th position player to have at least three pitching appearances in a single season.
Those things are all well and good, but even in a lost season, they’re not what a team wants to be stuck putting on the season review highlight page.
The Sox need to win games, Shields said.
“You want to win ballgames, and you want to create a winning culture around here,” he said. “Even though we’re not in the hunt, you need that culture in the clubhouse and to understand how to win ballgames.”
Shields, though, was thoroughly enjoying watching Davidson, who struck out slugger Giancarlo Stanton on a slow curve ball in the dirt.
“[Pitching coach Don Cooper] said, ‘If this game gets a little bit more out of hand, we probably want to send you to the bullpen,” Davidson said. “We won four straight, we were using matchups a lot, and the guys were working hard getting outs and getting big outs in those situations. It’s cool to give them a break.”
Davidson is serious about his pitching, but he knows it has its right place.
“It’s also not the coolest thing to come in when you’re losing by a huge landslide like that,” he said. “Tonight was only 7-0, not like a huge blowout. But I guess they’re kind of used to it now. The first time, everybody was laughing in Texas, but now it’s a little more normal.”
Sox starter Dylan Covey opened with three perfect innings but finished with four runs allowed over 6 1/3 innings. The defense behind him was mixed. Engel had his made-for-ESPN catch, but he and right fielder Avisail Garcia both checked up on a deep drive that fell between them. Shortstop Tim Anderson mis-timed a dive on Aaron Hicks’ soft liner, and Covey threw a wild pitch that looked blockable for catcher Kevan Smith but instead scored a run.
Covey got even less support from the lineup, which mustered three hits and struck out 11 times, including three by Yoan Moncada (0-for-4), who went down looking twice. He has fanned 157 times.