Rally fizzles as Astros put an end to White Sox's 5-game win streak
Good teams don't have meetings.
Before last Friday's game against the Tigers, the White Sox were pretty bad.
They lost to the Royals 8-3 two days earlier, prompting starting pitcher Johnny Cueto to say: "We need to fight. We need to show the fire we have -- if we have any."
The Sox lost to lowly Kansas City again the next day and came limping home to face Detroit with a 56-56 record.
Manager Tony La Russa thought the time was right to call in a group of veteran players for a talk.
"There were a couple of tweaks to how we prepare that were helpful," La Russa said before Wednesday night's game against the Astros. "But there wasn't anything that we haven't stressed and the team hasn't represented. Agree or disagree, it's really not important, but we didn't get to the point where we stayed alive without having something special in that clubhouse."
With five straight wins following the team meeting, the Sox entered Wednesday night's game against Houston brimming with confidence.
Facing an Astros team that has the best record (76-43) in the American League, the White Sox rallied late to win the first two of a four-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Trailing 3-0 early Wednesday night, the Sox mounted another comeback but fell short in a 3-2 loss in front of 24,671.
The White Sox had runners on first and second with one out in the eighth inning before Yoan Moncada was called out on strikes and Yasmani Grandal popped out to fellow catcher Martin Maldonado.
Michael Kopech started for the Sox and allowed 3 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks over 6 innings.
Walking Jose Altuve on four pitches to open the game and letting him steal second and third base before scoring on a sacrifice fly was still bugging Kopech after the game.
"That ended up being a difference maker," Kopech said. "You don't want to see in the first inning a difference maker in the end, but that's what happened and I kind of hold myself responsible for it."
Cleveland and Minnesota both won Wednesday, so the White Sox are 2 games behind the first-place Guardians in the AL Central and 1 back of the Twins.
Closer Liam Hendriks was in last week's meeting, which he stressed was flush with "positivity."
"Just making sure we're all on the right page," Hendriks said. "Making sure we're all kind of united and making sure that if there was anything we needed to air, it was a safe space."
According to Hendriks, first baseman Jose Abreu did have something to air.
"One thing that was stated by Abreu was how our confidence turned into cockiness," Hendriks said. "I think that's one thing several have said, the complacency level is we just expected to come in and roll like we did last year. That hasn't been the case. That was not necessarily due to other teams blowing us out of the water or anything like that.
"It's been to our own detriment of us thinking we can go out there and roll over teams and be expected to win. I think a lot of guys are realizing it's not just an easy thing to be able to go and win the division two years in a row. That's something hopefully we can get back."