No sense of panic in White Sox, who have aura of confidence despite poor start

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The White Sox had lost four in a row and fallen four games below .500 before pulling out a needed 3-2 win against the Rays Saturday. For as bad as these underachievers have looked all season, they’d like to assure you they were not losing the faith.

“We’re not even a third of the way into the season,” said closer Liam Hendriks, who finished off the win with a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts in his first appearance since Sunday. “If you worry about standings now it’s the same as if you are in first place, it’s a distraction from what you need to focus on which is the day to day.”

Hendriks said this before the Sox’ win.

The Sox are five games behind the Twins and a half game behind the Guardians in the AL Central. They are supposed to be winning the division comfortably.

“We’ve got a certain aura in this clubhouse where we won’t be overly threatened by any situation, any hill or mountain or however you want to describe it,” Hendriks said.

Sunday was the last time Hendriks had pitched, and he was getting rusty for lack of work. So it goes for the closer when there are no late leads to protect.

After three frustrating Sox losses in Toronto and one against the Rays Friday, Hendriks was warming up and going to get into this game even though the Sox were losing 2-0 and not hitting a lick against Drew Rasmussen (seven scoreless innings).

Hendricks got a save opportunity and 15th conversion, after all, after Kendall Graveman pitched out of an eighth inning bases loaded jam.

“This was a big one,” said shortstop Danny Mendick, the Tim Anderson fill-in while the All-Star is on the injury list made a tough play to get Graveman out of trouble.

Mendick also singled in the top of the Sox’ three-run eighth inning, after pinch hitter Adam Engel’s looping double off shortstop Vidal Brujan’s glove in short left and before Jake Burger’s pinch homer.

He turned around a smiled at Burger as they circled the bases.

“You could tell by the energy when we won, it was ‘all right, let’s take a breath, let’s get this, win a series tomorrow, go home and hopefully we can put a hurtin’ on some people.’

“Everyone was excited. Liam comes out and shoved it, that’s all you could ask for. A beautiful game for the White Sox.”

First baseman Jose Abreu, whose 12-game hitting streak was snapped and whose error on a spinning ground ball led to the Rays’ two runs – both unearned against Dylan Cease – nodded his head convincingly when asked if the team has been getting the right messages from manager Tony La Russa and the coaching staff.

“We’re not playing very good baseball right now and I think that overshadows what you do as an individual, but I’m proud of the effort we’re putting in the game,” Abreu said through translator Billy Russo. “Everyone is trying to do their best, we’re working to get out of this moment and I think we’re going to get out of it sooner rather than later.

“Keep grinding, keep working and trusting each other.”

Abreu agreed with Hendriks that it’s way too soon to panic.

“Of course. No doubt about it,” he said.

Of course. No doubt about it. The feeling in the clubhouse is get healthy, get key players back, piece enough wins together without Anderson, Lance Lynn and Eloy Jimenez to stay afloat and then take care of business.

“We’re haven’t passing through a very good moment, but we know the talent that we have,” Abreu said. “The clubhouse is really united. And that’s important. This is a very long season and I think at the end we’re going to be where we’re supposed to be.”

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