White Sox try to 'light that spark' with players-only meeting
CHICAGO -- The White Sox have a perfect record on days when they have a players-only meeting. They rolled to a 7-1 victory over the Royals on Thursday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field after a morning clubhouse get-together.
Johnny Cueto allowed one run over 5 1/3 innings on a warm Chicago afternoon, AJ Pollock and Andrew Vaughn went deep and the White Sox (65-66) moved back to within one game of .500 with a second straight win. Could this meeting serve as a season turning point?
Well, taking down a team that sits 26 games under .500 isn’t exactly a seminal moment, although the Royals (53-79) finished with a 10-9 season series edge over the White Sox. But with the second-place Twins coming to town this weekend holding a three-game edge over the White Sox in the American League Central standings, more could be known by Sunday night.
“Everybody left the meeting motivated,” Cueto said. “Knowing we have to keep battling and keep fighting to get to the point where we want to be.”
“It's been frustrating this year,” Pollock said. “We've had times where we had a lot of meetings and it really just comes down to us. It was good to get the guys together. We had some guys speak their mind a little bit. We're going to get after it and see what happens the last 30-whatever games."
Pollock was asked how Thursday’s meeting was different from others. He smiled, thought for a second and provided a detailed response.
“When you're rallying everyone and everyone's putting the work in, and you're trying to get that energy, sometimes it's something you can't fake in a baseball season,” Pollock said. “Football, you can rally and just psych yourself up for a couple games. Baseball, if it's generated and you're trying to get that energy, you can kind of get exposed.
“We've had times where we felt like we were going to get on a roll and it just never happened, and it probably deflated us a little bit. We're trying to light that spark. When you get guys talking real and you get guys just sharing what's really going on and not faking it, it felt good. We'll see what happens. It'd be cool to look back and say that was a turning point.”
Chicago produced seven home runs and 11 walks across the three-game series win over Kansas City, with the offense avoiding the chase outside the zone, which manager Tony La Russa has preached for most of the season. They have hit multiple home runs in their last three games and are 21-5 when knocking out two or more homers in a game. Thursday’s win was their first by three or more runs since Aug. 7 at Texas, a six-run victory.
“Our guys know that we have to get good at-bats,” acting manager Miguel Cairo said. “If we hit the ball in the strike zone, be careful with this offense, this offense is dangerous.”
“That’s got to be your approach all the time,” Vaughn said. “That’s how we get beat, chasing. If we keep it in the strike zone and stay to our approach, I think we can do a lot of damage like we did today.”
Some sort of meeting almost seemed necessary after the whirlwind of the past three days. La Russa went through his pregame work Tuesday, only to miss Tuesday’s game based on a doctor’s recommendation with the White Sox issuing a press release one hour before first pitch. A few players found out about La Russa’s absence via social media.
On Wednesday, it was announced La Russa would be away from the team indefinitely while returning to Arizona for tests as ordered by his personal physician. No further statement will come from the team until those test results, but the White Sox made their own statement against the Royals.
“He puts so much effort into this group, and we’re out there, we’re playing for him, we’re playing for each other,” Pollock said. “But we know we've got work to do. We know we've got to show up and just keep getting after it and keep pushing and put pressure on the teams above us. Maybe they fold and we can get hot too."
“We miss him. The guys really love him and miss him in the clubhouse, and you can see the different energy,” Cairo said. “They know we have to do this for him.”