White Sox airing it out against Dodgers, and they need more of the same

“We just have to continue to work the strike zone and get the fricking ball off the ground,” manager Pedro Grifol said.

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The White Sox’ Jake Burger hits a two-run home run against the Dodgers on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

The White Sox’ Jake Burger hits a two-run home run against the Dodgers on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Air balls!

That should be the battle cry of the White Sox, who reminded everyone what happens Wednesday night when they hit the ball in the air. Sometimes balls fly over fences for home runs.

It’s the only way to travel.

The Sox launched four in the first four innings Thursday against Dodgers right-hander Michael Grove — all solo shots — after hitting three Wednesday in an 8-4 win against Clayton Kershaw. Burger hit two homers and Luis Robert one Wednesday, and Robert, Jimenez, Burger and Andrew Vaughn homered Thursday.

It was the first time since July 11, 2010, the Sox hit back-to-back homers twice in a game, a refreshing development for a team that has rolled over on too many pitchers’ pitches for ground ball outs.

The Sox’ 1.14 groundout-to-flyout rate ranks last in the majors. By comparison, the Dodgers are first at 0.78.

If that keeps up, the Sox will roll over and die.

“There’s no doubt we have potential to do some damage offensively. We just have to work the strike zone and get the fricking ball off the ground,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “Because when we put the ball in the air, we have enough power to do some damage. We’re going to work relentlessly on that, and we have a ton of games left to figure this thing out.”

What’s there to figure?

“There’s two schools of thought,” Burger said. “Mechanically, you can have something going on that causes you to hit ground balls. When I’m not in my best mechanical spot, I’m rolling over to the left side of the infield all the time.

“The other school of thought is approach-based. Maybe look for something you can put in the outfield, set your sights a little higher. With a sinker-baller, maybe I’m looking middle-middle on him, maybe I need to raise that up by a ball or two to get the pitch a little more elevated.”

It helps to be ahead in counts, but that’s just part of it. Teams meet before the first game of a series to review the opposing starting pitcher and relievers. Sox hitters meet every day to review the starter.

“Our hitters meetings have been great,” Burger said. “Nacci [hitting coach Jose Castro], CJ [assistant hitting coach Chris Johnson] and [coach Mike] Tosar have done a great job. But they can only go so far giving us information.”

Gavin Sheets said putting the ball in the air starts with a mindset change.

“Trying to be more aggressive, get in the box and be more offensive,” Sheets said. “We need to do damage instead of trying to work the at-bats or see pitches or putting the ball in play. We just need to be ready to roll and get back to being a dangerous team.”

The old adage that hitting is contagious holds true, Grifol said.

“You get one or two really good at-bats, and the rest of the guys follow and before you know it you’re having a really good ballgame and scoring eight runs,” he said.

Castro said it starts with pitch selection and not chasing pitches out of the zone.

“Not going after 50-50 balls that are off the plate,” he said. “It comes down to getting pitches to hit. If there’s a flaw in the swing and we’re hitting ground balls, it’s more of a mindset maybe.”

The Sox (30-39 entering Thursday) are 23-22 when they hit a home run. Before Wednesday, they scored three runs or less in seven of the previous 10 games and were averaging two runs a game. In the previous 23 games, they were batting .216/.273/.351 and averaging 3.9 runs.

“Everybody is trying to do so much right now,” Castro said before Wednesday’s breakout. “We’re falling into this snowball that’s going the wrong way where everybody wants to be the guy, putting on pressure and trying to do too much.

“We need to pass the baton and get rolling because we do have some nice hitters in that lineup.”

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