Those good vibes are back in the White Sox clubhouse.
Now they must retain them.
Previously unable to find an escape route from a month-long downward spiral, this week the White Sox rediscovered the energy that propelled them to a fantastic start and rode it to only their second series victory in their last 11. Twice in three days, the White Sox rallied — once improbably — to beat the Detroit Tigers and snap a four-series losing streak.
It was the perfect remedy for a high-energy team that recently has struggled with the ups and downs of the roller coaster. And it couldn’t have come at a better time as the team is still hovering at .500 and remains within striking distance of first place. The White Sox open a three-game series at first-place Cleveland on Friday night.
“As bad as we’ve been, look where we’re at,” White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale said on Wednesday. “We’re in a good spot. We still have most of the season left.
"You can’t get down on yourself or throw parties any time you win or lose. It’s a long season, and we’re not going to the World Series tomorrow and we’re not going to the World Series yesterday. It’s a marathon, and you can’t falter early on and get down on yourself because of what’s going on. There’s a lot of baseball left, and you have to build confidence and keep pushing forward.”
The effort has been present during a 10-23 span that mirrored a 23-10 start to the season. The preparation has, too.
But the confidence has wavered at times.
With what occurred in Kansas City and Detroit and how against the Royals and Indians, how couldn’t it?
Whereas the White Sox executed their pitches, made all the ordinary defensive plays and produced in the clutch in April, the well ran dry. One day they’d get pitching but no hitting and vice versa the next. The stretch has been difficult to handle for a team that has proven to run hot and cold.
“Terrible,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “Terrifying. It didn’t matter what we did, we were going to fall short.”
Once a focal point of the team’s success, the bullpen has received its share of lumps in the process. The team’s relievers posted a 1.69 ERA in their first 69 1/3 innings. The White Sox started off 20-0 in games they led after seven innings. But over the last month, the White Sox lost three of 10 games when they led after seven in part because a heavily taxed bullpen has a 4.37 ERA over the last 127 2/3 innings.
Those kinds of stretches can play tricks on the psyches of even the most battled-tested of players.
“It can really grind on you mentally, physically,” closer David Robertson said. “Sometimes you look at things you shouldn’t be looking at to figure out what you’re doing wrong when really it’s just nothing. You’re just having some bad luck and things aren’t going your way any more.”
To an extent, players have had to retrain their way of thinking.
It hasn’t been easy.
The first month of games produced a cornucopia of high-profile team celebrations in the dugout and in the clubhouse. Whether it was Matt Albers slapping himself in the head during his franchise-record scoreless streak, Todd Frazier and Navarro keeping the clubhouse loud and lively or Brett Lawrie’s emotions spilling all over the field, the White Sox rode their highs high. That’s not as easy to maintain over a 162-game season. It becomes even more difficult when good feelings are few and far between.
Still, players managed.
“These guys have adjusted to it really well,” Robertson said. “No one is giving up. The fight is still in everyone. We’re playing hard.”
Said Navarro: “The best way is to show up every day and battle. It sucks to go through the stretch we went, but it’s a long season. We started really hot and then we hit a bump. We’ve just got to even that up and try to keep the roller coaster as even as possible. We’re going to lose a lot of more games. So we’ve just got to minimize that to one game at a time and win series.”
They also have to take advantage of the good feelings when they resurfaced.
The White Sox recaptured some of their magic in a series win over the New York Mets earlier this month. But they couldn’t sustain the momentum in Detroit as an offense playing without Melky Cabrera and Austin Jackson looked lifeless.
Those same vibes resurfaced the last three days against the Tigers, and the White Sox capitalized. They rallied from seven runs down Monday, made a game of it despite an eight-run deficit on Tuesday and came from behind to win on Wednesday.
Now it becomes a question of whether or not they can hold on to it again and get on another roll.
“That game the other day when we came back, it was just a different,” Frazier said. “Something just clicks. You can’t explain it. It just didn’t seem like we were going to lose that game. Other games that we’re down 7-0 it’s like, ‘Ah, this is gonna be a long one.’
“All of a sudden the positive energy just comes back.
“It’s just weird. It’s tough to explain. Just keep on winning, keep on rolling.”