It’s tough to win when you don’t score many runs.
That has been the case for the Chicago White Sox, who recently had a stretch of nine straight games in which they scored three runs or less.
That streak came to an end Sunday, but the Sox still dropped their seventh straight game with a 6-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins in 10 innings at Target Field.
Manager Tony La Russa sees a group that is pressing at the plate. Hitting coach Frank Menechino agrees.
“Right now the mental game is beating us, the mental part of the game is beating us down,” Menechino said before Sunday’s game. “And that can’t happen because when you’re not getting hits and not scoring runs and you start taking your at-bats to the field, that’s not good.
“All of a sudden, runners are in scoring position, you hit the ball hard and you don’t get a hit and now the snowball effect starts happening. You’ve got to pull yourself together mentally first before you get out of this. You’ve got to take one at-bat at a time, you’ve got to be able to separate yourself from the results. Quality at-bats. Get back into it. But mentally, you’ve got to get back into the grind. You’ve got to be able to work, you’ve got to start making adjustments and that takes the mental part of the game.”
The Sox entered Sunday slashing .189/.245/.302 in their last 11 games.
Menechino said Sox hitters have been altering their swings during that stretch.
Said Menechino: “A lot of guys, when it’s cold out, they don’t want to get jammed, they don’t want to hit it off the end of the bat. So now they’re altering their swings. You can’t do that.”
Menechino said the Sox are seeing a lot sliders and off-speed pitches and have to do a better job hitting the ball the other ways.
“You’re getting slider guys, you try to pull them, you’ve got no chance,” he said. “But when you’re not feeling good and you’re trying to do too much, the normal thing for hitters to do is ‘I want to get the head out, I want to feel hard contact. I want to barrel the ball.’ And the natural evolution to that is to think-pull, when it’s the opposite.
“We’ve got to stay up the middle the other way. And that’s what has to happen or it’s going to stay like this.”
Menechino pointed to the approach the team took April 13 against the Seattle Mariners as one to try to duplicate. The Sox hit three solo home runs against 2021 American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray in a 6-4 victory.
The Sox had 10 hits in the win. That was the last time they had scored at least four runs in a game until Sunday.
“That was a great job that night,” Menechino said. “You had such a good night against such a good pitcher who did really good against us (in the past) and you’re like, ‘OK, we accomplished that.’ I don’t know, you have to talk to the players, but sometimes after that high, is it cocky, is it ‘Oh, we got this?’ I don’t know. But the thing is, that approach works against everybody. Especially the way they want to pitch us. They know we can hit fastballs, so you know what, it’s time to make an adjustment.”
Menechino thinks the hitters have been more aggressive this season, especially on fastballs.
“Teams have recognized that and now they’re going to try to make us have patience, they’re going to tease us in and out of the zone, especially with off-speed,” Menechino said. “If you’re not taking your walks, you’re falling into their plan.”
The Sox rank 29th in the majors with 33 walks. Entering Monday, they were 13th in the AL in runs, 12th in batting average and last in on-base percentage.
“You have to be more selective and have a plan for what they’re doing to you,” Menechino said. “You’ve got to make adjustments. We have to make the adjustment now of what the other teams are doing to us and that starts where?”
Menechino pointed to his head.
“Mentally,” he said. “Take your base hits. Base hit them to death. The Cubs scored 21 runs (Saturday), one homer.
“We have the ability to do that. We did it last year. I have some stuff I’m going to start focusing on with these guys. But we have to come mentally prepared.”
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