White Sox fight for life in Against Twins, Guardians in AL Central

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Chicago White Sox outfielder Andrew Vaughn grew up in Santa Rosa, the northern California town known for its vineyards and the home of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. Vaughn said his father knew Schulz, the creator of the “Peanuts” comic book, a little and spent a lot of time at Snoopy’s Home Ice, a skating rink in town.

As for him, Vaughn said, he walked around the rink because he didn’t trust the blades.

“I didn’t want to lose my fingers,” Vaughn said.

As the White Sox continue to slide and slide through a disappointing summer, what has become clear is that an injury-ravaged team relies more than ever on good hands and unexpected production from guys. like Vaughn. And the team’s best chance to regain its grip on American League Central begins Monday, when the White Sox play the first of 19 straight games against division rivals Minnesota, Detroit and Cleveland.

Fifteen of those games are against the two teams ahead of them in the standings, the Twins and Guardians, in a streak that looks likely to set the tone for the rest of the White Sox season.

“One hundred percent,” said Vaughn, who was second on the team in batting average (.300) and doubles (14) through Saturday and was ranked third in on-base plus slugging percentage (.810). ). “We have to go and play our game, take advantage of the opportunities and play well.”

“I’m excited,” manager Tony La Russa said. “We have our pitch aligned.”

Pitch is no small part of the equation. Starter Lance Lynn injured his right knee during spring training and didn’t make his first start until June 13. thing we have going on.

Closer Liam Hendriks, who had 16 of 19 save opportunities before straining the flexor tendon in his forearm on June 10, is set to return.

La Russa is loath to discuss the team’s plethora of injuries, noting that such issues are not unique to his squad after a truncated spring training. But with the White Sox, it’s not just the number of injured, it’s who was injured. The Sox currently rank fourth among the majors in most spending on injured players ($22,578,203), according to Spotrac.

Much of the abandonment of the team can be explained by these absences.

Last season, Lynn ranked first in the AL in ERA (2.69) and opponents’ OPS (.605) and second in opponents’ batting average (.209) among pitchers who threw more than 150 sleeves. He has only pitched 22 innings this season.

Third baseman Yoan Moncada finished third in the AL with .375 on-base percentage last season and his 33 doubles led the White Sox. He started the season on the IL with an oblique strain, returned on May 9, suffered a quad injury, then returned to the IL with a hamstring strain. He’s only played 33 games this year and hit .189 with a .238 on-base percentage.

Turned on last Tuesday in Anaheim, 27-year-old Moncada showed flashes of himself, going 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. Then he fouled a ball with his right foot in Wednesday’s game, went for X-rays and finished the night with his foot wrapped in ice.

Even with the return of Moncada, the White Sox currently have nine players in the IL, including outfielders Eloy Jiménez and Adam Engel, receiver Yasmani Grandal, reliever Aaron Bummer and infielder Danny Mendick.

That’s why Vaughn, Chicago’s first pick (third overall) in the 2019 draft, was so valuable. Through Friday, he was ranked eighth in the AL with a .357 batting average with runners in the scoring position. He had also been the leading road hitter in the game, with a .369 batting average away from Chicago.

“Most days, if not every day, he’s as good as any hitter we have on the team,” La Russa said. “He’s smart, he adapts, he takes instructions well. He’s a hungry hitter.

He is also one of the few hitters to satisfy the appetites of White Sox fans who expected much more from this team. Prohibitive favorites to win a second consecutive AL Central title at the start of the season, the White Sox had a 59.2% chance of winning the division by Fangraphs on opening day, with Minnesota at 23.3% and Cleveland at 7.5%. Now those odds have risen to 40.6% for the Twins, 32.6% for the White Sox and 26.7% for the Guardians.

The changing landscape emphasizes the importance of the suite.

“We know what’s coming our way,” said Josh Harrison, the 12-year-old all-round veteran who signed a free agent contract with the Sox in March. “At the end of the day, you have to take care of your opponents in the division.”

Injuries and losses have conspired to not only add frustration to the Sox’s season, but also sparks of controversy and confusion.

In a surprising move for a team with an old-school manager like La Russa, the shorthanded White Sox have advised Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, José Abreu and others not to run hard on plays that appear to be routine withdrawals. He relies on the advice of the team’s coaching staff, who try to preserve the players’ legs.

It’s unconventional to say the least, and a particularly odd decision to advertise. But La Russa wants fans to understand that his guys are giving it their all, even in times when it may not appear that way.

“If you know you’re going to be out, if you hit the ball hard at second base, you know you’re playing pro and the guys know how to catch and throw the ball,” Anderson said. “Skip and the coaching staff know what’s best for the players. We simply follow their example.

La Russa, 77, has come under personal criticism in some quarters since last month when he ordered an intentional two-hit walk on Trea Turner during a game against the Dodgers. Trailing 7-5 in the sixth inning, the Sox saw left-hander Max Muncy follow the intentional march by smashing a three-run homer in a game that Los Angeles ultimately won, 11-9. The strategy was more defensible than it looked: Lifetime Turner was hitting .254 at 1-2 against left-handed pitchers, and this season he was hitting .333 at 1-2. Muncy was hitting .159 at the time.

Anyway, periodic chants of “Fire Tony!” have been heard at Guaranteed Rate Field since. La Russa says he loves fan passion and prefers that to apathy. White Sox players don’t care.

“That’s why you get a good set of earplugs and don’t mind it, man,” Anderson said of the excess noise that accompanied the team’s frustrations on the field. this year, from La Russa’s negativity to the episode. involving the Yankees’ Josh Donaldson, who was suspended for disrespectful comments towards Anderson.

Yes, said several White Sox players, they understand the growing frustration. But they also expect to improve as key players return to active duty and they say it’s too early to obsess over the rankings.

“The thing is, we keep asking ourselves that question,” Kopech said. ” What does it do ? Nobody likes to lose. We are not happy. We are not winning, but no one is panicking. We know we can turn things around tomorrow.

With 15 games against Minnesota and Cleveland on deck over the next three weeks, tomorrow is here. For perspective, Lynn broke under La Russa at St. Louis in 2011 and says he’s seen the manager and his team endure worse.

“It’s part of that culture,” Lynn said. “Everyone expects everything to be perfect all the time, and when it’s not perfect, they have to have someone to blame. It’s part of the gig. He does everything he can to put us in the best position to win. Some days it just doesn’t work out.”

Lynn recalls that 2011 season, when the Cardinals were left for dead before capitalizing on Atlanta’s epic meltdown, erasing a 10.5-game deficit and stealing the National League wild card on the final day of the season. Then they won the second La Russa World Series in St. Louis.

“I’ve seen a lot of weird things in this game over my career, and this is no different,” Lynn said. “You just have to weather the storm.”

nytimes sport

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