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Playoff baseball starts now for mashing White Sox, hitting coach says

The White Sox (30-16) have the best record in the American League and have won 20 of their last 25 games.

Tim Anderson is congratulated by teammate Jose Abreu, left, after hitting a home run against the Detroit Tigers, Aug. 20, 2020, in Chicago. (AP)
AP Photos

If you’ve found the best hitting show in the American League to be enjoyable, how do you think it looks to the guy in charge of the White Sox’ hitters?

From his front-row seat in his first year as Sox hitting coach, Frank Menechino is soaking it in with much satisfaction, but he knows what lies ahead in the Sox’ last 14 games of this abbreviated 60-game season.

And then it’s playoff time.

“As far as I’m concerned, the next 14 or 15 games are playoff games,” Menechino said Sunday before the Sox completed a three-game sweep of the Tigers with a 5-2 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field. “These are playoff games, fellas. Let’s go out and execute like it’s the playoffs, so when the playoffs do come, we’re going to be the same.”

The Sox (30-16) haven’t been in the playoffs since 2008 but have the best record in the AL after winning their fourth game in a row and 20th in their last 25. They are in first place in the AL Central with the defending division champion and second-place Twins coming to town Monday for four games.

“You try to put this on your team as a coach, bring it to these guys’ attention, say, ‘Hey, we have to start preparing,’ ’’ Menechino said. “The bell has rung; it’s playoff baseball now. Let’s go after it and see how we do.”

The Sox have rung opposing pitchers’ bells to the tune of the AL lead in average, runs, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS and run differential (+77). They are attempting to become the first team since the 1995 Indians to lead the AL in those categories.

Eloy Jimenez hit a go-ahead homer in the fourth against right-hander Spencer Turnbull, his 13th and the Sox’ 78th. Jimenez is heating up with a .326/.354/.587 hitting line, two homers, six doubles and 10 RBI in his last 11 games.

“He’s so strong,” manager Rick Renteria said. “That was a big home run.”

Jose Abreu raised his league-leading RBI total to 48 with a single in the Sox’ three-run fifth, and Tim Anderson had two hits to hike his league-high average to .362. Yoan Moncada had three hits, including an RBI double.

It’s all nice to see for Menechino, whose hitters produced 4.2 runs per game when they started the season at 10-11. That average is now up to 5.5 runs.

“As you know, in the beginning of the year, our approach was bad,” Menechino said. “Started emphasizing more on approach and showing these guys that when they hit strikes, they’re really good.”

Sox hitters have crushed mistakes, and their two-strike approaches have improved, Menechino said.

“These guys are starting to understand that, and they’re starting to take their base hits, take what the guy gives you,” Menechino said. “Because that’s what’s going to happen from now on, all the way to the World Series. You’re only going to get one pitch to hit, you can’t miss it and you’ve got to take what they give you.”

The Sox were believed capable of posting a winning record in the fourth year of the rebuild, but few expected this. Except Renteria, perhaps.

“Would you have believed me if I told you [yes]?” Renteria said.

Renteria did say as far back as last September that it would be time to turn a corner and be a playoff team in 2020.

“The players’ talents are showing, and we’ve got to keep going,” Renteria said. “It’s not easy to win a big-league ballgame, let alone push through what is a unique season, trying to ultimately get to where we want to go. There are a lot of things that we still have to do.

“Did I believe that they had it in them? Absolutely. And the results, we’re judged by the results. So you guys are seeing what they’ve been doing. I think they speak well for them.”