As struggling lineup digs in against ‘downfall,’ Tony La Russa backs White Sox’ hitting coaches
“Some guys are chasing,” Sox outfielder Andrew Vaughn said. “It gets to the point where there is a little press.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The White Sox haven’t been walking, they’ve been chasing bad pitches and they hadn’t been scoring runs.
That’s why crossing home plate seven times seemed like an avalanche of offense Thursday. A team that ranked last in the majors in walks, 29th in on-base percentage and 26th in runs walked five times, reached base 20 times and, thanks to 14 hits, topped four runs for only the seventh time in a 7-4 win over the Royals.
The Sox were only 5-for-16 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base, so all was far from cured in one day, but at least it looked more like last season when they were fourth in the majors in walks, third in on-base percentage and seventh in runs.
“We did what we did last year, and this year is different,” said Andrew Vaughn before the game, stating the obvious. “Some guys are chasing.”
Vaughn included himself among those having bad moments. But, at least for a day, the Sox hitters could feel a little better about themselves.
“We had better at-bats,” manager Tony La Russa said. “We were not perfect, we did chase a little bit. We had a lot of hits, it was well-earned up and down the lineup.”
A lineup featuring Tim Anderson (.346) at the top and Luis Robert (.301) batting third, but six with batting averages of .226 or less dug in to stop the tumble.
The Sox appeared to be proactive about taking pitches. Anderson walked twice after walking only three times going in. Jose Abreu walked twice and AJ Pollock also walked.
“There is definitely an effort where you evaluate and say why didn’t we perform like we’re capable of,” said Adam Engel, who lined a pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh to break a 4-4 tie. “It’s probably different for each guy but for me it’s swing at strikes. I know it’s a simple concept but it’s a hard game. Some guys are really hot, like Tim Anderson, but others are making small adjustments and working. I think we’re going to come out of this.’’
After the Sox went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position Wednesday, manager La Russa huddled with hitting coach Frank Menechino and assistant hitting coach Howie Clark after the game.
La Russa believes they are the ones to lead the hitters out of this.
“I’m in the cage a lot,” La Russa said. “The players will tell you the messages they’re getting, whether it’s strategy or mechanical, with both those guys it’s sound. We’re just not executing.
“If you coach or manage in the big leagues and if somebody points a finger at you and that bothers you, you’re doing the wrong thing for a living.”
It’s been a challenging season for La Russa, 78, MLB’s second-winningest manager ever with a Hall of Fame pedigree hired out of retirement by chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to guide the Sox in this championship window. His team is a disappointing 19-19 heading into a tough series with the Yankees. But they’re not tougher times, he said.
“If we’re struggling, now I have another gear I can go to? That’s bull—,” he said. “All you do is make decisions, so you better give it your same all the time. No, I take every game like it’s the last game of my life.
“This script hasn’t been written. We are in charge of writing it ourselves to the extent that we can improve and play the best baseball we can.”
“You keep building on it,” Engel said. “We’re about to go play a really, really good team in New York. So take quality at-bats, and stack quality at-bats through the lineup.”