CLEVELAND — The records speak for themselves.
The Chicago White Sox have lost six of nine games against the Cleveland Guardians and five of six against the Minnesota Twins.
If the Sox are going to move up from third place in the AL Central, they have to improve against the teams that precede them in the standings.
The Red Sox wrapped up a four-game series against the second-place Guardians on Wednesday with a 2-1 win at Progressive Field. Up next is the final series before the All-Star break: four games against the first-place Twins beginning Thursday at Target Field.
“I was taught that you treat every game like it’s the last game of your life,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said before Wednesday’s game, answering no when asked if he’s a different manager now. compared to his last year in St. Louis in 2011. “So the urgency is there because you have to win that game.
“That’s why I don’t feel like anything that has been accomplished before (in previous stops) matters with this job. Because that’s before. And that was true with any club you were in. You have a good year and next year, ‘Hey, you won two years ago.’ No, you have to win that year.
“I know the circumstances here and I have been here before. I literally want to win as much as I have in my life. So if we can’t get over .500, and we haven’t and this hasn’t been fun, I still respect and admire what’s out there (in the clubhouse) and how we keep pushing. And I think it’s coming.”
The Sox won a split series victory Wednesday when Lucas Giolito allowed an unearned run on five hits with five strikeouts and one walk in 6⅓ innings. Jose Abreu had an RBI double and Andrew Vaughn drove in a run on a groundout during a two-run sixth inning.
But the Red Sox got some bad news later when Eloy Jimenez went out with a stiff right leg. The left fielder limped after making a running catch for the final out of the sixth. Jiménez is the day to day.
With the win, the Red Sox (43-45) remained five games behind the Twins (49-41) and moved a half game behind the Guardians (43-44).
“If you’re preaching player responsibility, you better start with yourself,” La Russa said. “I think our record should be better, so I should handle myself better.”
The eight-game trip got off to an inauspicious start on Monday when the Guardians scored five runs in the first inning en route to an 8-4 win. Shane Bieber silenced the Sox bats in Game 1 of Tuesday’s split doubleheader, limiting them to three hits in the Guardians’ 4-1 win. Dylan Cease provided a boost in Game 2he struck out nine and allowed five hits in 5⅔ innings in a 7–0 Sox win.
“(Cease’s) slider is one of the best pitches in baseball,” Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz said Wednesday. “It’s hard to think of anyone who has a better pitch than that in the game. As teams made adjustments, he made adjustments. He is throwing it in the zone much more consistently.
“Teams are trying to line up lefties against him to try to combat him. He is still looking for ways and doing a good job of getting into the zone and continuing to grow and build trust. It’s really nice to watch.”
Katz thinks Cease, who leads the American League in strikeouts (142) and is third in ERA (2.30), should be an All-Star. was not on the list when pitchers and reserves were announced Sunday.
“I feel sorry for him,” Katz said. “It’s something I know he really wanted. If something is opened, I hope it will be considered (as an addition). He is one of the most exciting pitchers in baseball and deserves the opportunity to show what he can do on center stage. It’s hard to swallow.”
Cease is scheduled to pitch Sunday’s series finale against the Twins. Johnny Cueto, Michael Kopech and Lance Lynn are scheduled to start the first three games.
The Twins are fighting back with Sonny Gray, Devin Smeltzer and Dylan Bundy in the first three games with their Sunday starter to be determined.
It’s a chance for the Sox to make up ground in what has been a notoriously disappointing season.
“From experience, when you try to explain something, some people will take the explanation and others will say it’s an excuse and you’re covering up,” La Russa said. “You better say the record isn’t good enough. And I like it better when you say that any part of the game that you don’t like, the coach is responsible for improving it.
“Now internally, if you look at how our season has gone, in my opinion, we’ve had some games where ‘What the hell was that?’ But there have been plenty of times where we followed up with a really gutsy performance that has kept us spinning. And that’s why I think the club feels good for the price we’ve paid and where we are and we’re going to warm up. But what we feel is important because it controls your confidence and your personal urgency.
“But there’s no way if someone criticizes your record (and) says you’ve been a losing club for the first few weeks of the season and you go out there and say, ‘OK.’ Not well. accept it. We had expectations for a reason. We have talent. And when we get hurt (with injuries), everyone gets hurt. And then you have to win with what you have.”