The remote chance of capturing the final American League wild-card spot ended for the Chicago White Sox a couple of hours after Wednesday’s loss to the Minnesota Twins when the Seattle Mariners defeated the Texas Rangers.
A team many projected to make a lengthy postseason run instead will miss the playoffs for the first time in three years.
“I think something we missed this year was consistency,” acting manager Miguel Cairo said before Thursday’s game against the Twins. “Being consistent during the whole year as a team, as a unit — in the field, at-bats, defense, pitching — being consistent, this is something that I saw that we need to get better on.”
The Sox won for the first time in more than a week Thursday, beating the Twins 4-3 in the series finale at Target Field and snapping their losing streak at eight.
“That was a hell of a stretch we went through,” said Sox starter Lucas Giolito, who allowed two runs on four hits with six strikeouts and three walks in five innings. “But at this point it’s about finishing strong. Playing for each other, just going out and having fun, being loose and being free. We did that (Thursday) and got back in the win column, and it feels good.”
Outfielder Mark Payton had two hits, one RBI and two runs. He reached second in the eighth when second baseman Nick Gordon dropped his popup in shallow right field. Payton scored on a José Abreu double to right, giving the Sox a 4-3 lead.
Abreu and third baseman Josh Harrison also had two hits.
“It is a relief,” Cairo said. “Our bullpen did their job. Our hitters did their job, good at-bats. We did the little things to win ballgames and it was nice to see. They still care and I know they want to go out there and play.
“It was nice to see (reliever Kendall) Graveman (in the eighth) and (closer Liam) Hendriks (in the ninth). When they show up, good things happen. That means we win.”
The Sox had been in a tailspin since losing to the Cleveland Guardians 10-7 in 11 innings on Sept. 20 at Guaranteed Rate Field. They entered that three-game series trailing the Guardians by four games in the AL Central. That defeat started the eight-game slide, which matched a season high.
“Honestly that series against Cleveland was the final nail in the coffin,” Giolito said. “At this point, just change the goal. We have to be an above .500 team. Playing as hard as we can in the final stretch, pushing through and going into the offseason make the adjustments we have to make.”
The Guardians clinched the division title Sunday when the Sox lost 4-1 to the Detroit Tigers. That defeat wrapped up the team’s first winless homestand (0-6) of at least six games since May 19-24, 1989, when they went 0-6 against the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles.
“You look at how hard we were going there, trying to catch up as it was,” Sox starter Lance Lynn said after Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the Twins. “And then it just has kind of been a free-fall since. And that’s unfortunate. But guys were busting their tail, and when you lose that many in a row, it wears on you, especially after everything you tried to do to get back into it. We were right there and then just haven’t played well since we got pretty close.”
Cairo said being eliminated won’t change his approach.
“I don’t feel any different,” Cairo said. “I want to win every game. When I manage, or the coaching staff, we try to put in the best lineup and the best player available that are going to give us a chance to win.”
The Sox are 77-79 with six games remaining — three in San Diego starting Friday and three against the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“I’m motivated,” Cairo said. “Every time I come to the field, I want to win. Hopefully they stay motivated to reach some of their goals and at the same time we have nine guys in there and they are trying to do something to reach their goal, average, homers or whatever, we are going to get a chance to win too.
“They are going to be concentrating on their jobs. You have nine players doing their jobs, you’ve got a chance.”