White Sox fight for life against the Twins and Guardians at AL Central

ANAHEIM, California. – Andrew Vaughn, an outfielder for the Chicago White Sox, grew up in Santa Rosa, a northern California city best known for its wineries and home of cartoonist Charles M. Schultz. Vaughn said his father knew Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comics, a bit, and spent a lot of time at Snoopy’s Home Ice, an ice rink in the city.

As for himself, according to Vaughn, he bypassed 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 slip and slide through a disappointing summer, it’s become clear that an injury-ravaged team is relying more than ever on good hands and unexpected production from guys like Vaughn. And the team’s best chance to regain control of the American League Central begins on 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 leading teams, the Twins and Guardians, which will likely 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) until Saturday and was third in batting percentage plus slugging (.810). “We have to play our game, seize opportunities and play well.”

“I’m excited,” manager Tony La Russa said. “We’ve got our pitching lined up.”

Delivery is a big part of the equation. Starter Lance Lynn injured his right knee in spring training and did not start until June 13. La Russa said that Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cees and Johnny Cueto finally started working together “the most positive thing.” we are going to”.

Closer Liam Hendrix, who had 16 of 19 save opportunities before spraining his flexor tendon on June 10, is close to making a comeback.

La Russa is reluctant to discuss the team’s many injuries, noting that such issues are not unique to his team after a shortened spring workout. But with the White Sox, it’s not just the number of injuries, it’s who was injured. The Sox are currently ranked fourth among the big players. most money spent on injured players ($22,578,203), according to Spotrac.

Much of the team’s decline can be attributed to these absences.

Last season, Lynn ranked first in the AL in ERA (2.69) and OPS (.605) and second in batting average (.209) among pitchers over 150 pitches. He’s only thrown 22 innings this season.

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

Moncada, 27, who activated last Tuesday in Anaheim, showed flashes of his former self, winning 2-of-5 with a double and two RBIs. He then fouled a ball with his right foot during Wednesday’s game, went for an x-ray and ended the night with his leg frostbitten with ice.

Even with the return of Moncada, the White Sox currently have nine players in the IL, including outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Adam Engel, catcher Yasmani Grandal, supplyer Aaron Bummer and infielder Danny Mendik.

That’s why Vaughn, selected by Chicago in the first round (third overall) in the 2019 draft, was so valuable. On Friday, he was ranked eighth in the AL with a .357 batting average with runners in scoring position. He was also the top hitter of the game with a .369 batting average away from Chicago.

“Most days, if not all days, he’s as good as any striker we have on the team,” La Russa said. “He is smart, he adapts, he listens well to instructions. He’s a hungry striker.”

He is also one of the few forwards to satisfy the appetites of White Sox fans who expected much more from the team. The favorites to win a second consecutive AL Central title at the start of the season, the White Sox were given a 59.2 percent chance of winning. win the division according to Fangraphs on opening day, Minnesota was 23.3 percent and Cleveland was 7.5 percent. 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 highlights the importance of what comes next.

“We know what’s ahead of us,” said Josh Harrison, a 12-year all-round veteran who signed as a free agent with the Sox in March. “Ultimately, you have to take care of your opponents in the division.”

Injuries and losses conspired to add not only frustration to the Sox season, but also a few arguments and confusion.

In a surprising move for a team with an old-school manager like La Russa, the incomplete White Sox advised Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, José Abreu and others not to overdo things that seem like regular strikeouts. It is based on the advice of the team’s coaching staff, who are trying to save the players’ legs.

This is at least unconventional, and a particularly strange decision for publicity. But La Russa wants the fans to understand that his guys are giving their all, even at times when it may not seem so.

“If you know you’re going out if you hit the ball hard to second base, you know you’re playing at a professional level and the guys know how to catch and throw the ball,” Anderson said. “Skip and the coaching staff know what is best for the players. We’re just following their lead.”

La Russa, 77, has personally come under fire in some quarters since last month when he ordered Trea Turner’s deliberate two-hit move during a game against the Dodgers. Trailing, 7–5, in the sixth inning, the Sox watched as left-hander Max Munsey followed up on a deliberate walk, smashing a three-way homer in a game Los Angeles ultimately won 11–9. The strategy made more sense than it seemed: all his life, Turner hit .254 in 1-2 against left-handed pitchers, and this season he’s hit .333 in 1-2. Munsey had .159 at the time.

Despite this, the occasional chants of “Fire, Tony!” they have since been heard on the Guaranteed Rate Field. La Russa says he loves the passion of the fans and would prefer it to apathy. The White Sox players shrug their shoulders.

“That’s why you buy yourself a good set of earplugs and ignore it, man,” Anderson said of the excess noise that accompanied the team’s disappointment on the field this year, from the La Russa negativity to the episode involving Josh Donaldson of Yankees, disqualified for disrespectful comments towards Anderson.

Yes, several White Sox players said, they understand the growing frustration. But they also expect improvement as key players return to action and say it’s too early to fixate on the standings.

“The thing is, we get asked this question all the time,” Kopech said. “What’s it like? Nobody likes to lose. We’re unhappy. We don’t win, but nobody panics. We know we can make a difference tomorrow.”

With 15 games against Minnesota and Cleveland over the next three weeks, tomorrow is here. For perspective: Lynn broke into La Russa in St. Louis. Louis in 2011 and says he has seen both the coach and his team suffer the worst.

“It’s part of our culture,” Lynn says. “Everyone expects everything to always be perfect, and when it’s not perfect, someone has to be blamed. This is part of the concert. He does his best to put us in the best position to win. Some days it doesn’t work.”

Lynn recalls that 2011 season when the Cardinals were practically left for dead before taking advantage of Atlanta’s epic collapse by closing a 10.5-game gap and stealing the National League wild card on the final day of the season. They then won the second La Russa World Series in St. Petersburg. Louis.

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