DETROIT – White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal reminded a pair of reporters this weekend that he isn’t a fortune teller.
“I can’t really tell you how it will transfer over on to the postseason,” he continued, when presented with his team’s middling record over the past month. “The one thing about the postseason is you just want to take it, you want a chance at being the last team standing. You never know what’s going to happen.”
With a 5-3 loss Tuesday to the Tigers, the White Sox’ second-half record sunk to .500. They’re 8-10 in September. They’ve lost three of their past four games.
Immediately after the game, the White Sox’ magic number still had a chance to drop to one, depending on the result of Cleveland’s game against Kansas City later that night. But the White Sox’ loss guaranteed that they wouldn’t clinch a playoff berth on Tuesday.
“We've been treading water for a while,” manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday.
A double-digit lead in the division means a sub-.500 September record isn’t challenging the White Sox’ prospects of making it to the postseason. But as White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino said in a conversation with NBC Sports Chicago earlier this month, “it's not about winning the division.”
Menechino continued: “It's about keeping that everyday mentality so when we get to the playoffs, we stay the same. You can't try to, ‘Okay, we'll turn it on from the playoffs. All right, I'm done resting, I'm going to turn the switch on.’ It don’t work that way.”
Days after right-hander Lucas Giolito dubbed Sunday’s win at Texas a “really nice turning point” for the team’s energy, La Russa said the dugout was “alive” all game Tuesday.
“But then you've got to translate it,” the skipper said. “You play hard, then you've got to play well. If it was all about playing hard, then I'd have been a star. But you've got to be able to execute in this league. Our execution is not what it has to be, in all phases."
Of course, injuries to the starting rotation have played a role in the White Sox’ momentum slowing. Both Giolito (left hamstring strain) and Lance Lynn (right knee inflammation) used IL stints to address their ailments before the postseason. Carlos Rodón’s persistent shoulder soreness has meant extra time between starts and a three-inning outing against the Tigers on Monday.
But Giolito and Lynn are back. And on Tuesday southpaw Dallas Keuchel held the Tigers to two runs through five innings. So, other than the strain that Rodón’s short start the night before put on the bullpen, rotation health wasn’t the problem.
“We’re still making plays; we’re not making all the plays,” La Russa said. “We’re having at-bats, but not enough at-bats. We’re making pitches, but not enough pitches.”
So, what does that mean for October?
“It’s kind of like, hey, flip a coin, what’s going to happen,” said Keuchel, a postseason veteran. “Are we going to come out really strong like we know we can, or are we going to come out and not put all three phases of the game together? I don’t know.”