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White Sox working to cut down strikeouts, but not overly concerned

MINNEAPOLIS — The White Sox struck out 12 times in their 2-1 loss in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader Friday against the Twins and seven more times in a 12-4 defeat in Game 2, raising their total to 1,570, one shy of the major-league record 1,571 set by the Brewers last season.

It’s a distinction the Sox would rather not have.

“Obviously,’’ hitting coach Todd Steverson said.

But it’s not one they’re terribly concerned about or troubled by, even though Steverson said they emphasize two-strike approaches from the major-league club down to the lower levels of the minors.

White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada reacts after striking out against the Cleveland Indians Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (AP)

“I’m not concerned about the number of strikeouts, no,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said Wednesday. “Yes, we have struck out a ton as a club. It’s up throughout baseball. If you look at the caliber of pitching right now, it’s no surprise strikeouts are up throughout the game.’’

The latest face-to-face example of high-caliber stuff was Jose Berrios (12-11, 3.84 ERA), who carved through Sox bats from the get-go in Game 1, fanning Yolmer Sanchez, Leury Garcia and Avisail Garcia to open the game. The Sox have struck out 10 or more times in 81 games, and Berrios did his part by striking out nine in seven innings to become the eighth Twin with 200 in a season.

“Oh, my goodness,’’ Renteria said. “Pretty special kid.’’

“Hitting is getting increasingly more difficult with the velocity and movement a lot of guys have,’’ Steverson said. “But you signed up to go up there and try to square up a baseball. That’s what you’re striving for. Nobody is happy with walking back to the dugout without putting the ball in play.

“The player has to have the ability to fight in certain situations, even against some of the toughest pitchers that are out there.’’

Yoan Moncada (215 strikeouts) was threatening to break the major-league record (223) set by Mark Reynolds in 2009, but he’s safe after sitting out the first game and striking out looking to end Game 2, going 1-for-4 with a double and a walk.

“Maybe it’s a true stepping-stone to say this is something I don’t want to do,’’ Steverson said.

“It becomes an opportunity to dig inside yourself and say, ‘I created this situation; let me do something different.’ You do have to step up and compete.’’

Behind Moncada, Matt Davidson (162), Tim Anderson (149), Daniel Palka (149), Sanchez (135) and Adam Engel (129) were most responsible for the historic whiff total that Hahn hopes becomes no more than a piece of Sox trivia one day.

He believes the numbers will dwindle with an influx of better talent, or with experience.

“We have drafted or acquired certain types of players who command the strike zone, tend to put the ball in play, [first-round middle infielder] Nick Madrigal [five strikeouts in the minors this season] being the latest example of that.

‘‘I do think you’re going to see future Sox teams profile offensively a little differently than this one. It’s an area that needs improvement.’’

Steverson, assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks and coaches in the farm system teach two-strike approaches. As Steverson puts it, “You’re given a set of players, and you do your best with them.’’

He compared it to being a parent.

“You try to teach your kids how to be a good person, but they mess up; that doesn’t mean the message is wrong,’’ he said. “It means they haven’t gotten to the point where they’re ready to make the necessary adjustments to go down the right path.

‘‘Will they ever? You hope. At some point, you have to hammer the information into your kids, or your players in this situation. You get the work in. It’s up to the player to go up there and execute the fundamentals.’’

With two losses Friday and their ninth in 12 games, the Sox (62-98) need to win one of their last two games to avoid losing 100 for the fourth time in franchise history.