New attitude and new additions pumping life into White Sox’ offense
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter April 6, 2014 8:19PM
Updated: April 9, 2014 11:13PM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Maybe it’s because the White Sox have better hitters with Adam Eaton at the top and Jose Abreu in the middle. Or maybe it’s just a new attitude.
Whatever the case, third-base coach Joe McEwing loves what he’s seeing from an improved offense and the belief that the Sox are always in the game regardless of the score.
“It’s the personality of our ballclub right now,’’ McEwing said before the Sox’ 5-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. “Guys continue to grind from the first pitch to the last pitch, playing 27 outs and battling through every at-bat and every play defensively.’’
With ace left-hander Chris Sale putting up eight scoreless innings, the challenge was to scratch out a run against All-Star James Shields. It finally came in the seventh inning on Alexei Ramirez’s two-out infield single that glanced off shortstop Alcides Escobar’s glove, allowing Conor Gillaspie (two doubles) to score and break a scoreless tie.
The Sox broke it open with four runs in the ninth, including Ramirez’s RBI double and Tyler Flowers’ two-run single.
Players often talk about guarding against “giving away at-bats.’’ The Sox are trying to keep those giveaways to a minimum.
“I don’t think we’ve given away many at all,’’ McEwing said. “The good thing is, it’s not just offensively. It’s defensively also. Guys have been in every play and every pitch, and it’s been nice to watch.
“That’s the way the game is supposed to be played day in and day out. Don’t give away a pitch, don’t give away an at-bat, don’t give away an out and don’t take a pitch off. Guys have responded very well.
“You can see it, and it’s contagious. It does rub off. I think Eaton has done an unbelievable job of setting the tone from the beginning of the game.’’
Through the first six games, Eaton has reached base four times in the first inning.
General manager Rick Hahn isn’t about to characterize a team he had to make over after it ranked last in the American League in runs in 2013. But he sees the same intensity McEwing sees.
“Being [six] games in, we’re essentially the equivalent of halftime of the first game of a 16-game NFL season, so I’m pretty hesitant to draw any grand conclusions, certainly about individual players, much less the direction of the club,’’ Hahn said before the game. “I will say the first five games we’ve shown from an offensive standpoint that we’re going to grind out every game till the end, that we have the heart and grind to get back in games, that things aren’t over if we’re down 3-1 in the sixth inning. Certainly it’s the same, higher level of life, energy and competitiveness we saw in Glendale [during spring training] that has carried into the regular season, which is good.’’
The Sox have scored five, seven, nine, five, three and five runs. They even scored runs for Sale, who had a total of one run of support in his previous five starts against the Royals. He had to wait till the eighth inning for breathing room, but it was worth the wait.
“Even if the outcome isn’t what we want, you still know they’re scrapping and fighting and giving everything they got,’’ Sale said. “We’re there late in the game … you get a rally going with Alexei and that big double right there. Leury [Garcia] with a big heads-up play stealing third. That’s just an energy booster. You’ve got guys running around with energy like that, it’s always nice.’’