- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Normally during slumps, teams work in and out of hitting funks without much fanfare. During this pennant race the Chicago White Sox have no such luxury, needing to improve or go down trying under the microscope of the media and their fan base.
The Sox’s lack of clutch hitting has cost the team nearly all its lead over the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, clinging to a half-game advantage that had been three games after Monday’s win over Detroit. The Sox are hitting just .081 (3-for-37) with runners in scoring position over the past five games entering play on Sunday.
But the run production collapse has not affected the approach, or apparently the confidence, of this resilient group.
“The only thing I see that is different is we are missing pitches we were hitting up until recently,” hitting coach Jeff Manto said. “We are fouling them off when before we were making solid contact. If they pull back a bit I think they will be alright.”
Manto, like his hitters, has been staying up at night trying to outwork the recent downturn in offensive production. The Sox have scored only seven runs in their four-game losing streak.
Handling the pressure of the pennant race is something the most successful players do.
“The pressure is there,” Manto said. “It does exist and that is something they have to deal with. That is why we have the players we do, because they have done it before in the past. It comes down to just trusting yourself.”
Luck sometimes plays a role for teams which struggle in certain areas like the Sox offense has done recently.
“There are a lot of clichés for luck coming into play,” Manto said. “There is the old expression, ‘The harder you work the luckier you get.’ These guys should be pretty lucky because they have been working hard all season long.”
One player who has managed to continue to hit is right fielder Alex Rios.
“We are a very competitive team,” Rios said. “That is why we are playing important games in September. We have played the whole season the same way. We have the approach that every game has the same importance. That approach by this team has made this a fun season.”
Although Rios hit 12-for-25 in his last seven games, his run production numbers are down due to a lack of baserunners. He has one RBI and one run scored in that seven-game stretch.
Sox manager Robin Ventura is still pleased with his team’s demeanor during this recent rough patch of games.
“You learn more about people through adversity,” he said. “We are at a point where we just keep playing. It is no time to panic.”