Liam Hendriks delved into his Australian rules football terminology to describe where the Chicago White Sox were in early August.
“The third quarter is the championship quarter,” the All-Star closer said Sunday. “So I feel like August is the third quarter of the season. And it’s something that can make or break a championship run.”
The Sox were two games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins in the AL Central when they began a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Monday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. They are in contention despite being just one game over .500.
“Having hovering around .500, we need to break that curse,” Hendriks said. “And as soon as we do that, I think it’s one of those things that you roll. It’s like that guy teetering around that .200 average. Once he hits .205, he’s suddenly hitting .260 at the end of the year.
“Five hundred is like the Mendoza Line for us this year. But we’re getting to this stretch of games, I think I’ve said it enough times, it’s an important stretch. At some point we need to define our season and have an impact.”
The trade deadline looms at 5 pm Tuesday, and the Red Sox made a move Monday, acquiring reliever Jake Diekman from the Boston Red Sox for backup catcher Reese McGuire and a player to be named or consideration in cash.
Diekman, 35, is 5-1 with a 4.23 ERA, 51 strikeouts and 12 retentions in 44 appearances this season, his first with the Red Sox. He will join Tanner Banks as a left-hander in the White Sox bullpen.
Diekman has a 3.77 ERA, 632 strikeouts, 15 saves and 167 retentions in 573 career games over 11 major league seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (2012-15), Texas Rangers (2015-18), Arizona Diamondbacks (2018), Royals (2019), Oakland Athletics (2019-21) and Red Sox (2022).
He also made 13 postseason appearances with the Rangers (2015-16) and A’s (2019-20), posting a 4.50 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 12 innings.
McGuire joined the White Sox in spring training in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays and slashed .225/.261/.285 with nine doubles, 10 RBIs and 12 runs scored in 53 games.
Hendriks said Sunday that players have been approached by the front office for information about possible additions.
“That’s what I love about the front office here,” Hendriks said. “They ask the guys, ‘How is this guy in the clubhouse? What is this guy like as a person? This guy in the field? He might fit right in, but the guy can be (an asshole) and change the morale of this clubhouse.
“You never want to bring those troublesome guys… especially when we have a compact unit here. We want to make sure that anyone who comes fits into that mold and gets along with everyone.”
Hendriks recalled how trades gave him a boost when he was with the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays.
“A .500 team at the deadline and we went out and got (Troy) Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins, Cliff Pennington, David Price, among other guys that completely changed the trajectory of the season, and that’s something the front office does. a lot,” Hendriks said. “It’s a morale booster that you can get here that can completely change the momentum of things.”
The Red Sox remain a confident group, Hendriks said, “because you see what kind of level of talent there is in this clubhouse.”
“It’s not like we’re playing on our skis,” he said. “We’ve underperformed as a unit and that’s something everyone in this clubhouse understands. That doesn’t give us any wiggle room in the fact that we still have to do what we can do.
“We understand that we have not lived up to our potential, but we need to find that potential. If we do that, we can win the division…especially with the schedule ahead of us.”
Red Sox manager Tony La Russa said center fielder Luis Robert was “feeling better” than he was on Sunday, but cold symptoms persist.
“Watch out for him,” La Russa said of the team’s approach. “He is getting better, so our fingers remain crossed.”
Robert has been on the DL retroactive to July 19 with blurred vision.
He began a rehab assignment Thursday with Triple-A Charlotte, but was out of the lineup Friday with cold symptoms. He returned to Chicago over the weekend and played with the coaching staff in the outfield before Monday’s game.
La Russa said it’s “unlikely” Robert will be ready to play in the series against the Royals.
As for rejoining Charlotte to continue rehab, La Russa said, “That’s something we’ve talked about,” but no decision has been reached.
“The first thing is to get him ready for the game, one thing at a time,” La Russa said.
Pitcher Vince Velasquez will join Charlotte on a rehab assignment. He went on the disabled list July 6 with a blister on his right index finger.