HOUSTON — It’s been a rough and turbulent 64 games for the White Sox, a team that’s not supposed to be fighting to get to .500 in mid June. Injuries have strewn upheaval all about the roster, shaky play has cost them games and the manager has been booed and his firing called for at home games.
Tony La Russa has seen his Sox (31-33) play better of late, a 4-3 loss to the Astros Sunday notwithstanding. They dropped two of three in Houston but swept the Tigers for a 4-2 road trip.
La Russa just wants to get to .500 and climb from there.
“You can be a contender at .500 but under .500 you’re always upstream, upstream,” he said Sunday. “Get over it then you start getting plusses, then you get double figures and the vibe changes.”
La Russa has been upstreaming, too, but has at least one important voice at his back.
“As a person, as a leader, he’s all that you can ask for in a manager,” Jose Abreu said through translator Billy Russo before Sunday’s game. “I’m glad that he’s our manager.
“We all support Tony because we all know at the end of the day it’s our responsibility to perform the way we can perform on the field. It’s not his responsibility.
“It’s easy to blame the manager when things aren’t going right, but at the end of the day, it’s on us. We are the ones who are performing on the field.”
La Russa was appreciative of the support.
“You have to please the people that hired you and you have to please the fans who pay to watch your team play,” La Russa said. “But in the end, the opinion that means the most are the guys in the clubhouse. If they quit playing for you, I leave.”
Michael Kopech made his first start since throwing 13 pitches the previous Sunday and leaving with right knee soreness, and it wasn’t great. He gave up four runs on seven hits in five innings, three of the runs on homers by J.J. Matijevic and Maricio Dubon. Matijevic’s 343-foot opposite field homer into the Crawford Boxes was his first career hit.
Kopech said he felt fine. He threw 75 pitches and threw his right elbow at an object on the bench in frustration.
“The truth is I care a lot about this game and I want to pitch to my ability and be the best competitor I can be,” Kopech said. “I wasn’t any of those things today. It was an emotional challenge and it got the better of me today. It happens.
“Just didn’t do my job. Have to make better pitches.”
The Sox’ offensive punch came on Luis Robert’s RBI double to right center field against Cristian Javier in the fifth, AJ Pollock’s RBI triple scoring Robert from first in the eighth and Jake Burger’s groundout that plated Pollock to get the Sox within one.
Ryan Pressly walked Josh Harrison leading off the ninth but Adam Haseley, Danny Mendick and Andrew Vaughn were retired and the Sox headed home for Chicago.
When last seen there, the Sox went 2-4 on a home stand against the Dodgers and Rangers. Fans let La Russa know they were unhappy. At times some made it clear they want him to leave.
When the Sox play the Rangers Monday night, Tim Anderson will be back at shortstop and leading off.
“And we’ll be better because he’s there,” La Russa said.
“Having him back is going to be huge for us,” Abreu said.
And Lance Lynn will let his big presence be felt on the mound.
“If everybody stays healthy, we’re going to be in a good position,” Abreu said. “One loss doesn’t change the whole picture of the season. Try to stay healthy and perform at the level we all know we can.”
“We go 4-2 on every trip, we’ll have a good year,” La Russa said. “And we had a shot [in the ninth] Sunday.”