CLEVELAND — Executive Vice President Ken Williams reportedly addressed Chicago White Sox players and staff Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
News of the meeting, reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, broke Monday just as the Sox began their final trip before the All-Star break with the first of four games against the Cleveland Guardians.
It was a bumpy start for the Red Sox, as the Guardians scored five in the first off Lance Lynn. The Sox came within a run before losing 8-4 in front of 13,655 at Progressive Field.
“When you give up five runs with two out, that hurts,” Lynn said. “But I have to be better from the beginning. I have to be better in every way. There is no other way to say it.
“Make better pitches. Put me in better counts. And when you get into those counts, pull people apart and don’t give up hits.”
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The Sox had a chance to overtake the Guardians and take second place in the American League Central Division. Instead, they fell to 41-44, 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins and 1 1/2 games behind the Guardians.
According to Nightengale, Williams spoke about the “poor performance this season, reminding them of their talent, but that it was time to focus and work together”. Nightengale added in the tweet: “No one was cleared, from the staff to the players, for the team’s problems.”
Monday’s shaky start wasn’t the product of a particular problem. The Guardians didn’t hit the ball as hard in the inning, but they kept finding ways to get ahead.
Franmil Reyes drove in a run with a single. Two runs scored on a single to center field by Nolan Jones. Myles Straw’s two-run single made it 5-0.
Lynn threw 39 pitches in the first.
“I don’t think he took a beating in that first inning,” Red Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “He got the groundout and they found holes. It would be different if they were centering it, but they didn’t. Vulture luck in the first inning”.
It looked like it was going to be a long night for the Sox.
But Yoán Moncada got the team back in the game with a three-run homer in the third. AJ Pollock’s RBI single an inning later made it 5-4.
“We know that we have to defend ourselves every time,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “Fight through the whole game and that’s what we did (Monday). It doesn’t matter if we’re up or down on the scoreboard, we have to give our best in every inning.”
That’s the closest they would get.
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Lynn gave up a single to Reyes and hit Andres Gimenez in the fifth. She came out after giving up a two-run double to Jones on his 100th pitch.
“I saw it in the room,” La Russa said. “First and third (with one out), they took the heart out of the lineup. We checked it out and he said, ‘I’m ready to go.’”
Jones scored on Straw’s single that deflected off reliever Matt Foster, extending the Guardians’ lead to 8-4.
“You’re looking at two games (Tuesday),” Lynn said, referring to the split doubleheader. “To be honest with you, I have to go six (innings) and I let the team down.”
Lynn allowed eight runs on nine hits with three strikeouts and two walks over four innings.
“I have to get off to a better start,” he said. “For sure the last two games, when you throw 30 pitches in the first game, you’re getting into a high pitch count early. And then later in the game, you’ll be higher than you’d like.
“Find out how to get through the first inning in 15 (pitch) or less and go from there.”
And the Sox have to find ways to improve against teams that precede them in the division. They are 1-5 against the Guardians and 1-5 against the Twins, against whom they begin a four-game series Thursday at Target Field.
“It’s definitely important because we’re playing our division rival,” Moncada said of the run up to the All-Star Game. “We need and want to win every game. And that is our goal. That’s what we’re trying to do this week. (Monday) is in the past. We have to keep going and try to get as many wins as possible.”
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Before the match, La Russa addressed a report from Nightengale, who wrote on Sunday“There have been many whispers of riots, cliques and a lack of player leadership within the clubhouse that is tearing this talented team apart.”
“We talk about family, responsibility, being accountable, getting better, being honest about what we’re doing right or wrong,” La Russa said. “Very tight club. That’s why it’s more annoying, but more annoying if our fans accept it.
“Again, it is in our power to go from a losing team to a winning team. And you win more arguments when you’re winning.”