White Sox must play better, keep it together in clubhouse

“If this locker room can stick together through wins and losses, we’ll be good,” AJ Pollock said.

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White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech reacts after allowing a solo home run to Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals on Monday.

White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech reacts after allowing a solo home run to Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals on Monday.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The White Sox hear the noise. From fans, media and even loved ones on occasion.

Much of it comes from angry voices because the Sox, who have a 51-51 record after their 2-1 loss to the Royals on Monday, have been mediocre this season. Mediocre means bad when expectations are high.

“There are expectations here,” said outfielder AJ Pollock, who is nearing his 10-year service-time milestone in a career that includes a World Series championship with the Dodgers in 2020. “There’s going to be a lot of outside stuff that, if you don’t perform, you’re going to hear it, and you’re going to get criticism.”

The Sox need to perform better, and they know it.

“We haven’t played well all year except for a couple [of brief] stretches,” Pollock said.

The Sox got a strong pitching performance from Michael Kopech, who worked through some back stiffness to throw a career-high 100 pitches over seven innings of two-run ball, but they mustered only one run from 10 hits, nine of them singles, and watched the 41-62 Royals out-homer them 2-0, an all-too-common occurrence at their own park. The Sox rank 26th in the majors in home runs.

In any event, Pollock said it’s more important now than at any point in the season that the clubhouse remains tight.

“If this locker room can stick together through wins and losses, we’ll be good,” he said. “It’s tough. It seems like the expectations for this team and organization are fairly new. That’s a whole new thing to tackle. Say what you want, we’re at .500 and [three] games back [of first place in the American League Central]. We’re right there. See what this team is made of down the stretch.”

On the day before the trade deadline, fans hoping to see Shohei Ohtani obtained in a fantasyland deal (he’s not getting traded) or Jose Quintana acquired in more doable territory (the Cardinals got him) settled for veteran left-handed reliever Jake Diekman from the Red Sox.

Diekman was a teammate of Sox closer Liam Hendriks, who said he liked how the front office talked to players about potential acquisitions.

“He’s got one of the highest ceilings of any left-hander in the league,” Hendriks said. “His stuff is unreal. Not only that, but he’s going to mesh really well in this clubhouse.

“He just has the same vibe a lot of the guys in here do. He has that ability to kind of joke around with guys and then take it and then give it back. That’s something that this clubhouse does well, and that’s one thing that’s going to mesh really well with us.”

Which is a big deal to the players.

“You can have friction all over the place [from outside], but the players have to stick together and ignore some of the noise,” Pollock said.

The 17,500 in attendance had little to make noise about. Lefty Daniel Lynch threw 5„ scoreless innings, and the Sox’ only run came in the seventh on pinch hitter Gavin Sheets’ sacrifice fly.

With no margin for error, Kopech (3.12 ERA) allowed homers to Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield. He struck out three, walked one and allowed six hits.

The Sox have won 10 of their last 16 and 12 of 20 but failed to get that elusive third win in a row at home. They’re 23-29 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

There are 60 games to play.

“We have been together with all that has happened,” outfielder Eloy Jimenez said.

It has to stay that way, Pollock said.

“This team will get through some stuff because guys like hanging out with each other,’’ he said. “We’ve had some injuries and frustrating points that sometimes don’t look so good, but we’re right there.”

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