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Chicago White Sox are 4 games under .500 entering July — and still trying to turn the corner

The Chicago White Sox occasionally appeared on the verge of turning the corner in June.

They took two out of three against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, a series that featured a dramatic pinch-hit two-run homer by Jake Burger.

They also won two of three against Toronto Blue Jays at Guaranteed Rate Field, a series that included a 4-hour, 23-minute, 12-inning marathon victory.

But the Sox have yet to put it all together, which led to a losing record (12-15) for the month.

“You’ve got to have the pitching, but you’ve got to score enough,” manager Tony La Russa said Monday when asked about keys to stringing together a streak.

There were conversations about steaks — ribeye or fillet, according to pitcher Lance Lynn when describing a lively dugout discussion with third-base coach Joe McEwing in Detroit — but not enough streaking in the right direction for the Sox. They won three straight on two occasions in the month but also had a four-game losing streak in late June.

The Sox were 5-8 at home, squandering leads of at least four runs in 11-9 losses to the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 9 and the Texas Rangers on June 11.

In that Dodgers game, an intentional walk to Trea Turner on a 1-2 count became a topic of discussion nationally. Some fans let their displeasure be known during the loss to the Rangers by chanting “Fire Tony.”

The Sox wrapped up June with a 4-1 loss Wednesday to the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. They had Thursday off and begin July with a weekend series against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park starting Friday.

The Sox are in third place in the American League Central at 35-39, 5 ½ games behind the division-leading Minnesota Twins and 4 ½ behind the second-place Cleveland Guardians.

“We’ve been hovering at .500, just below .500 for a while,” Sox starter Lucas Giolito said Monday. “It’s important we come prepared to win every day. I feel like we are all trying here. But trying doesn’t necessarily get the job done. You have to go and do it.

“Each day that goes on we’ve just got to continue to play and play for us. When we play our best, we are loose, we are free, we are having fun. We need to have some of that go on and just have that relaxed, free state going so we can build a rhythm as a squad. The goal is to go out and win series, series, series and put us right back where we need to be.”

Here are three areas that stood out in June.

1. The offensive numbers improved — but more pop would be helpful.

Josh Harrison hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning Tuesday, tying the game against the Angels. Luis Robert gave the Sox the lead later in the inning with a mammoth 448-foot two-run home run.

The Sox had 17 hits in the 11-4 victory.

Entering Tuesday, the Sox had just one home run over their previous seven games and five in their last 11. Tuesday marked just their second multi-home run performance in their last 12 games. The other was when they hit three home runs on June 20 against the Blue Jays.

Added power could be on the way when left fielder Eloy Jiménez and catcher Yasmani Grandal are cleared to return from injuries.

The Sox had their most productive month of the season in terms of hitting (.281) and scoring (137 runs). That placed them second in the AL in average and third in runs for the month.

La Russa said there’s a balance when discussing home runs.

“I’m always really careful with that,” La Russa said Wednesday. “Because if that conversation gets going (in the dugout), then you start seeing the longer swings and coming off the ball. When we square the ball left-center and right-center, you’re going to see a lot rallies and you’re going to see longballs. The most important hits are the ones that start the rally, move them around and get them in. But the home run is nice.

“Day in and day out you have to start the rally. And one of the things that was mistaken there for a while was everyone trying to go up there and hit the ball out and you don’t score as much.”

2. The opponents capitalized on small moments.

Turner just beat out Burger’s throw from third for an infield hit during the June 9 game and later scored in the six-run fifth inning.

An inning later, Gavin Lux just beat pitcher Bennett Sousa to the bag for another infield hit. Lux later scored during a four-run inning.

Alex Bregman sparked a 10-run inning for the Houston Astros on June 17, reading the play well and going from first to third on a single. He headed home on the play when Andrew Vaughn’s throw from right field skipped away at third base.

The Sox had several hard-hit balls June 23-26 against the Orioles. But it seemed as if the Orioles’ outfielders were everywhere to make catches while winning three of four from the Sox.

Those type of moments can be the difference between winning and losing. And those aren’t even physical errors but winning plays by the other team.

As for errors, the Sox entered Wednesday last in the AL with a .980 fielding percentage. They had allowed a major-league-high 51 unearned runs.

It shows in the results. The Sox are 12-25 when committing at least one error and 23-14 when they play a clean game.

3. The Sox are working on ‘keeping them healthy.’

La Russa sometimes says “keep them healthy” to stress the necessary patience for a player battling an injury.

The Sox have had to juggle injuries all season.

They began June with Tim Anderson on the injured list. The shortstop returned June 20, but third baseman Yoán Moncada landed on the IL at that time. The Sox reinstated Moncada from the IL on Tuesday, and he had two hits in the win against the Angels.

Closer Liam Hendriks (right forearm strain) and Grandal (back spasms) are among those out. Hendriks has a simulated game scheduled for Friday.

Jiménez is on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte, working his way back from a right hamstring tendon tear.

The Sox lost infielder Danny Mendick for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee suffered June 22 against the Blue Jays when he collided with outfielder Adam Haseley.

Even active players such as Anderson, Vaughn, AJ Pollock and Robert were — according to La Russa on June 25 — “playing under trainer instructions that if they make a routine out, they slow it down” to avoid aggravating their particular soreness.

The rotation is at its healthiest since Lynn returned June 13. Even when Michael Kopech exited a June 12 start against the Rangers after two-thirds of an inning with right knee discomfort, fellow starter Johnny Cueto pitched five relief innings later in the game. Cueto followed that performance with seven shutout innings against the Astros on June 18.

“It’s the most positive thing we got going,” La Russa said of a healthy rotation Wednesday. “A couple weeks ago we mapped the rotation between now and the end of the All-Star break. We’ve got legitimate starters. In San Francisco we have Lynn, (Dylan) Cease and Giolito. That’s where it starts.

“Liam had a good throw (in the bullpen Wednesday). We get him back and we start swinging the bats, we can percolate.”


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