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Reds jump on Stiever with long ball early, defeat White Sox 7-1

At 33-18 with nine games to go, the White Sox know they are ‘‘capable of winning the World Series.’’

A night after the White Sox clinched a postseason berth, the Sox managed only four hits against the Reds. Jose Abreu was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. (AP)
AP Photos

The White Sox are shooting for the stars, and why not?

They lead the American League Central by three games, are positioned for a high seed in the playoffs, are averaging six runs in their last 30 games and were ranked third in the major leagues with a 3.45 ERA, which would be their lowest mark since a 3.12 ERA in 1972.

“We know this team is capable of winning the World Series,” general manager Rick Hahn said.

But Hahn added that at least half the 16-team playoff field from this abbreviated 60-game season can say the same thing.

The Sox still owned a glossy 33-18 record after a lackluster, day-after-the-clincher 7-1 loss to the host Reds on Friday.

“The opponent struck early, and that puts a damper on everything, and their starter [Tyler Mahle] was actually pretty good,” manager Rick Renteria said.

“I would refer to that more than the emotional drain, but is there a drain after [clinching]? Sure.”

That the Sox were able to celebrate Thursday was no shock to MVP candidate Jose Abreu, who last year said he “would sign myself” if the Sox didn’t want him in free agency. Abreu saw this happening.

“I knew,” Abreu said. “I knew all the way through that this would happen. I didn’t have any doubt in my mind that this year we would be in a very good position to compete and show people we have the pieces to be a very good team for a long time.”

Abreu, the good soldier and team leader by example, endured six losing seasons since coming over from Cuba. He homered and drove in the tying run in the Sox’ playoff-berth clincher Thursday against the Twins.

“It was an incredible moment,” Abreu said. “Indescribable for me. All the emotions, all the feelings that we had as a team and me personally at that moment, it was good.”

Perhaps the Sox were flat a day after that special moment. Perhaps rookie right-hander Jonathan Stiever, making his second start, just wasn’t sharp enough to get a single swing and miss. Stiever, who was much better in his debut against the Tigers on Sunday, allowed four homers in 2⅔ innings and left trailing 6-0. The Sox’ lineup, without a resting Tim Anderson, managed four hits.

Of growing concern with nine games left before the postseason are the slumps of Yoan Moncada (0-for-3, walk) and Luis Robert (0-for-4, two strikeouts). Moncada is hitless in his last 17 at-bats, and Robert is 6-for-54 in his last 15 games.

“None,” Renteria said when asked what his level of concern was. “They have so much talent, it’s a matter of time before they settle in and do what they are capable of doing.”

Hahn wouldn’t have predicted a record this good after a 10-11 start and going into the season was not sure how close the Sox would be.

“Had we come in around .500 at the end of the season, I don’t think it would have been a great shock,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is enough of the players have taken that step forward and the veterans have acclimated themselves well, and we’ve been able to achieve at a high level, perhaps a little more quickly than we anticipated.

“I’m not going to be able to put this into words properly. But when you take not just what this organization and its fans have been through over the last few years, but to add in just the general state of the world over the last six months and the amount of sacrifice that people have gone through and the amount of effort it’s taken just to get this season to the point that we got to yesterday, in some ways it was a bit overwhelming.”