Fire missing again as White Sox fall to Royals
The standings say the White Sox still have a fighting chance to make the playoffs.
In the AL Central, baseball's weakest division, the Guardians have moved into first place, passing the fading Twins.
The Sox are still within striking distance in third place, but they are showing no signs of coming to life as the postseason nears.
After an 8-3 loss to the Royals Wednesday night, White Sox starter Johnny Cueto stated the obvious.
"We need to be more aggressive, show more swagger," Cueto told reporters through a translator. "We can't get comfortable. We need to go out and play hard and show what we can do. We need to fight. We need to show the fire that we have -- if we have any."
Before going out and losing 5-3 to Kansas City again Thursday afternoon, Sox manager Tony La Russa questioned Cueto for speaking out.
"I heard that he said that and I was surprised he said that," La Russa said. "I think it's a curious statement. It's better to be discussed within the family. If there's a problem, we'll straighten it out.
"Take care of it inside the family. that's how we should handle it. You're always going to have issues and problems, handle it like a family."
Outside on the field, the White Sox have been a dysfunctional unit all season, but they had to like their chances Thursday with ace starter Dylan Cease on the mound.
The 26-year-old righty held up his end, again, allowing 1 run over 6 innings. Cease extended his major-league record of allowing 1 earned run or less in 14 straight starts, but the Sox's offense didn't show up until it was too late.
The White Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the third inning against Royals starter Zack Grienke and failed to score.
They had two runners on with no outs in the second and sixth, and again were unable to cross the plate.
"Definitely a tough loss," Cease said after the Sox (56-56) dropped back to the .500 mark. "It's not ideal but we're not hanging our heads. We've battled all year so we pretty much just have to keep battling and not get emotionally negative in any way. Just give it everything we've got."
Trailing 4-0 in the eighth inning, slumping catcher Yasmani Grandal hit a 2-run homer.
Trailing 5-2 in the ninth, Andrew Vaughn hit a solo home run.
Joe Kelly relieved Cease in the seventh inning and gave up 2 runs on 1 hit and 1 walk before having to exit with lightheadedness with one out.
The White Sox are back Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field for a three-game series against the Tigers.
A stretch of 19 straight games against teams with losing records ends with Detroit, and the Sox are currently 8-8 during a time when they should have made a move up.