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One Cliché At A Time

Crash: Learn your clichés. Study them. Know them. They're your friends. Write this down. "We gotta play 'em one day at a time."

Nuke: Boring.

Crash: Of course. That's the point.

This has been a season of clichés so far for the White Sox. Chances are manager Robin Ventura and most of his players don't have the Bull Durham scene playing in their heads, but they have been well-schooled nevertheless.

"It's still early" was the mantra back in April, when the promise of a contending team was questioned due to a sluggish beginning when the team lost 11 of its first 20 games.
Back on May 3, pitcher John Danks proclaimed, "There's a lot of season left, but definitely [we] don't want to dig ourselves too deep of a hole. We've got to pick it up."

Defensive lapses and the team's much-heralded bad starts - the Sox have been outscored 57-19 in the first inning this season - led to Ventura repeating, "We've got to fix this."

Long before the eight-game losing streak that mercifully ended on Saturday with a 3-2 win over the Texas Rangers at The Cell, the theme was familiar.

"Anytime you lose a few in a row, you've got to hit reset and come back out tomorrow and do the best you can," said first baseman-designated hitter Adam LaRoche about a month ago when the Sox were just two games under .500. "It's frustrating. Individually, it's frustrating. I'm trying to figure it out. So you know, we'll snap out of it."

"One way or another, you've got to turn [the offense] around," said Ventura that same night when the club stood at 18-20.

Two weeks later after yet another loss, Robin repeated, "We have to be better."

But how to become better is the question. Clearly it's not easy.

Consider these numbers from last week's four-game sweep by the Pirates. The Sox scored a total of four runs and were shutout both games in Pittsburgh before returning to the South Side for two more against the National League club. Our fellows managed to score two in a pair of 3-2 losses. For the four games, the Sox mustered a total of 13 hits for a .112 team batting average. It's conceivable that their Class A team at Kannapolis could have performed better.

The operative word is "frustrating," and it couldn't have been more so on Friday. Thanks to the schedule-makers, the Rangers arrived at their hotel around 7:30 a.m. after losing a tough 1-0 game to the Dodgers in Los Angeles the night before. With little sleep and a long flight, the visitors then had the challenge of facing Chris Sale, who just may be the toughest pitcher in all of baseball.

After eight innings and 111 pitches, Sale departed. He had fanned 14 Rangers and walked no one, while shutting them out on two measly singles. How they got those two hits can only be attributed to luck. Sale was that dominating.

Meanwhile, his mates continued their impotent ways, accounting for a lone tally, Tyler Flowers' long home run in the fifth inning.

Ventura summoned closer David Robertson, who unfortunately simply had a bad night. Mitch Moreland's two-out two-run single doomed our lads 2-1.

However, Sale possibly hasn't seen Bull Durham. Responding to a reporter's question about having to be almost perfect because of the Sox inability to score runs, Sale bristled.

"That's kind of a crappy question to ask, really," he said. "You think I'm gonna say something bad about one of my teammates, you're dead wrong. We have a bunch of fighters in here. We have guys that come in here every single day and play as hard as they can, plain and simple.

"Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. Tonight it didn't, and it hasn't for a few games. But that doesn't mean that we're doing anything different or going to point a finger at anybody."

There have been various signs at times since the start of the season that the team was turning a corner. A six-game winning streak last month left the Sox a game over .500, but, of course, that didn't last long. And certainly Sale's run of six straight starts with at least 10 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.19 signals that every fifth day the team will be competitive.

Maybe Sale's strong words on Friday lit a spark since the club not only ended its eight-game slide on Saturday, but followed with Gordon Beckham's walkoff Father's Day home run that made it two straight as they travel to Minnesota for three games beginning Monday night. The Sox have two walkoff wins this season, one Sunday and the other on Mother's Day. Beckham's single also won that one.

Even though the ship has been temporarily righted, the Father's Day success, played before a loyal crowd of 33,668, continued to highlight an offense that can't score. The Sox were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position. For the seven games last week, they were a miserable 5-for-38 in those situations. For those of you keeping score at home, that measures out to .132.

Of course, our guys will continue to play them one game at a time. The games will be played between the lines. Even though the Sox are dead last and eight games below .500, don't forget that this is a marathon and not a sprint.

And finally, if you get bored watching this team, try Bull Durham for an entertaining evening.

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Roger Wallenstein is our man on the Sox. He welcomes your comments.

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