July 7, 2022

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Hits hard to come by, but White Sox remain optimistic

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CHICAGO — José Abreu doesn’t believe in luck, good or bad.

That point was made clear by Chicago’s first baseman following a 5-1 loss to the Angels Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, which dropped the South Siders to 7-12 overall, 1-10 in their last 11 games and 1-3 on the seven-game homestand.

But after a brief pause, and with a wry smile, Abreu added a second thought to his luck theory.

“It seems like the other teams are playing with more players than us,” Abreu said through interpreter Billy Russo. “They have more players on the field than us.”

A look at Friday’s offensive statistics lends credence to Abreu’s tongue-in-cheek comment.

Tim Anderson doubled to open the contest against Jimmy Herget, one of seven pitchers deployed by the Angels with scheduled starter Noah Syndergaard scratched due to illness. The White Sox didn’t get another hit until Abreu’s two-out single in the seventh off Aaron Loup after 18 straight had been retired.

Meanwhile, the White Sox were consistently pulverizing the baseball to no avail. They put seven balls into play with an exit velocity of at least 100 mph, according to Statcast, but Abreu’s 110.2 mph single was the only one to fall in safely.

Abreu also had extra bases taken away from him on a leaping catch from Mike Trout in the fourth, while Luis Robert, who was making his return from a right groin strain, missed a home run leading off the fifth with a 114.8 mph connection that traveled 398 feet and had an expected batting average (xBA) of .960, per Statcast. The White Sox entered Friday with an average team exit velocity of 90.1 mph, fifth in MLB, so the solid contact has been there all season.

After the game, White Sox manager Tony La Russa had praise for his team’s pregame preparation.

“Guys are grinding. But whatever the reason, the quality of at-bats can get better, and they’re working on it,” La Russa said. “It’s starting to show results. I’ve learned a long time ago, if you try to explain yourself it sounds like an excuse.

“The less you explain, the less excuses people think you’re making. But our offense is going to be fine. We’re going in the right direction.”

There wasn’t complete silence on offense from the White Sox, who loaded the bases in the ninth with two outs and forced Angels manager Joe Maddon to bring in closer Raisel Iglesias to finish off the victory. That last out came via a fly ball down the right-field line from Robert — but just having him back after a six-game absence is a step in the right direction.

“He’s one of the main catalysts of our offense,” said White Sox starter Lucas Giolito, who struck out seven and allowed three runs in six innings on 99 pitches. “He’s unreal in center field. We’ve dealt with a lot of injuries and things like that over the course of the year, so having such an important player like Luis, it feels good.”

“If he’s in the lineup, we’re better because he’s there,” Abreu said.

Abreu also doesn’t acknowledge frustration, not when the team believes in its talent and the work put in. So, while the last two weeks have been tougher than a team with World Series aspirations could ever imagine, the White Sox still know there are far better days ahead.

Just don’t explain to Abreu how their luck has to change.

“Luck doesn’t exist,” Abreu said. “I know that the game of baseball can be very difficult, but you just need to keep working hard. If you are doing your job, doing your preparation, working out and taking care of the stuff you need to take care of to have success, sooner rather than later, you’ll have success.”

“It’s just a matter of getting a little bit more luck on our side and just putting it all together,” Giolito said. “That’s pretty much it. I think we continue to play the game hard. I thought we did that tonight. It’s just that things didn’t go our way.”

“A loss is a loss,” La Russa said. “We keep working, we’re going to be alright.”

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