Stinker af­ter clincher

Reds smack four homers off rookie right-han­der Stiever, limit Sox to four hits

Chicago Sun-Times - - SOX BEAT - BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN | dvan­schouwen@sun­times.com | @cst_­sox­van

The White Sox are shoot­ing for the stars, and why not?

They lead the Amer­i­can League Cen­tral by three games, are po­si­tioned for a high seed in the play­offs, are av­er­ag­ing six runs in their last 30 games and were ranked third in the ma­jor leagues with a 3.45 ERA, which would be their low­est mark since a 3.12 ERA in 1972.

“We know this team is ca­pa­ble of win­ning the World Series,” gen­eral man­ager Rick Hahn said.

But Hahn added that at least half the 16-team play­off field from this ab­bre­vi­ated 60-game sea­son can say the same thing.

The Sox still owned a glossy 3318 record af­ter a lack­lus­ter, day-af­ter-the-clincher 7-1 loss to the host Reds on Fri­day.

“The op­po­nent struck early, and that puts a damper on ev­ery­thing, and their starter [Tyler Mahle] was ac­tu­ally pretty good,” man­ager Rick Ren­te­ria said.

“I would re­fer to that more than the emo­tional drain, but is there a drain af­ter [clinch­ing]? Sure.”

That the Sox were able to cel­e­brate Thurs­day was no shock to MVP can­di­date Jose Abreu, who last year said he “would sign my­self” if the Sox didn’t want him in free agency. Abreu saw this hap­pen­ing.

“I knew,” Abreu said. “I knew all the way through that this would hap­pen. I didn’t have any doubt in my mind that this year we would be in a very good po­si­tion to com­pete and show peo­ple we have the pieces to be a very good team for a long time.”

Abreu, the good sol­dier and team leader by ex­am­ple, en­dured six los­ing sea­sons since com­ing over from Cuba. He home­red and drove in the ty­ing run in the Sox’ play­off-berth clincher Thurs­day against the Twins.

“It was an in­cred­i­ble mo­ment,” Abreu said. “In­de­scrib­able for me. All the emo­tions, all the feel­ings that we had as a team and me per­son­ally at that mo­ment, it was good.”

Per­haps the Sox were flat a day af­ter that spe­cial mo­ment. Per­haps rookie right-han­der Jonathan Stiever, mak­ing his sec­ond start, just wasn’t sharp enough to get a sin­gle swing and miss. Stiever, who was much bet­ter in his de­but against the Tigers on Sun­day, al­lowed four homers in 2⅔ in­nings and left trail­ing 6-0. The Sox’ lineup, with­out a rest­ing Tim An­der­son, man­aged four hits.

Of grow­ing con­cern with nine games left be­fore the post­sea­son are the slumps of Yoan Mon­cada (0-for3, walk) and Luis Robert (0-for-4, two strike­outs). Mon­cada is hit­less in his last 17 at-bats, and Robert is 6-for-54 in his last 15 games.

“None,” Ren­te­ria said when asked what his level of con­cern was. “They have so much tal­ent, it’s a mat­ter of time be­fore they set­tle in and do what they are ca­pa­ble of do­ing.”

Hahn wouldn’t have pre­dicted a record this good af­ter a 10-11 start and go­ing into the sea­son was not sure how close the Sox would be.

“Had we come in around .500 at the end of the sea­son, I don’t think it would have been a great shock,” he said. “But the fact of the mat­ter is enough of the play­ers have taken that step for­ward and the veter­ans have ac­cli­mated them­selves well, and we’ve been able to achieve at a high level, per­haps a lit­tle more quickly than we an­tic­i­pated.

“I’m not go­ing to be able to put this into words prop­erly. But when you take not just what this or­ga­ni­za­tion and its fans have been through over the last few years, but to add in just the gen­eral state of the world over the last six months and the amount of sac­ri­fice that peo­ple have gone through and the amount of ef­fort it’s taken just to get this sea­son to the point that we got to yes­ter­day, in some ways it was a bit over­whelm­ing.” ✶

ANDY LYONS/GETTY IM­AGES

Sox starter Jonathan Stiever tries to re­group af­ter giv­ing up a three-run home run to the Reds’ Jesse Winker in a five-run third in­ning Fri­day.

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