HOUSTON — It has been a rough and turbulent 64 games for the White Sox, who aren’t supposed to be fighting to get to .500 in mid-June. Injuries have caused upheaval all about the roster, shaky play has cost them games and the manager has been booed and his firing called for at home games.
Tony La Russa has seen his Sox (31-33) play better of late, a 4-3 loss to the Astros on Sunday notwithstanding. They dropped two of three in Houston but swept the Tigers for a 4-2 road trip.
La Russa just wants to get to .500 and climb from there.
“You can be a contender at .500, but under .500, you’re always upstream, upstream,” he said Sunday. “Get over it, then you start getting pluses, then you get double figures and the vibe changes.”
La Russa has been upstreaming, too, but at least one important voice has his back.
“As a person, as a leader, he’s all that you can ask for in a manager,” Jose Abreu said before the game. “I’m glad that he’s our manager.
“We all support Tony because we all know it’s our responsibility to perform the way we can perform on the field. It’s not his responsibility.
“It’s easy to blame the manager when things aren’t going right, but it’s on us. We are the ones who are performing on the field.”
La Russa was appreciative of the support.
“You have to please the people that hired you, and you have to please the fans who pay to watch your team play,” La Russa said. “But the opinion that means the most are the guys in the clubhouse. If they quit playing for you, I leave.”
Right-hander Michael Kopech made his first start since throwing 13 pitches the previous Sunday and leaving with a sore right knee, and it wasn’t great. He gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings, three of the runs on home runs by J.J. Matijevic and Mauricio Dubon. Matijevic’s 343-foot opposite-field homer into the Crawford Boxes was his first career hit.
Kopech said he felt fine. He threw 75 pitches and threw his right elbow at an object on the bench in frustration.
“The truth is I care a lot about this game, and I want to pitch to my ability and be the best competitor I can be,” Kopech said. “I wasn’t any of those things today. It was an emotional challenge, and it got the better of me today. It happens.
“Just didn’t do my job. Have to make better pitches.”
The Sox’ offensive punch came on Luis Robert’s RBI double to right-center field against Cristian Javier in the fifth inning, AJ Pollock’s RBI triple scoring Robert from first in the eighth and Jake Burger’s groundout that plated Pollock and cut the Sox’ deficit to one.
Ryan Pressly walked Josh Harrison leading off the ninth, but Adam Haseley, Danny Mendick and Andrew Vaughn were retired, and the Sox headed home for Chicago.
When last seen there, the Sox went 2-4 on a homestand against the Dodgers and Rangers. Fans let La Russa know they were unhappy. At times, some made it clear that they want him to leave.
When the Sox play the Rangers on Monday night, Tim Anderson will be back at shortstop and leading off.
“And we’ll be better because he’s there,” La Russa said.
“Having him back is going to be huge for us,” Abreu said.
And righty Lance Lynn will let his big presence be felt on the mound.
“If everybody stays healthy, we’re going to be in a good position,” Abreu said. “One loss doesn’t change the whole picture of the season. Try to stay healthy and perform at the level we all know we can.”
“We go 4-2 on every trip, we’ll have a good year,” La Russa said. “And we had a shot [in the ninth] Sunday.”