General manager Ken Williams got his message across Thursday in a 10-minute pregame meeting, but his words couldn't prevent the White Sox from losing their fifth consecutive game.
Rookie Kurt Suzuki's three-run homer off Matt Thornton in the bottom of the 10th inning handed the Sox an 8-5 loss, their 27th setback in their last 33 games at Oakland. The team's latest tailspin sets up what promises to be an intriguing final 42 games with jobs and roles at stake.
Before the game, Williams calmly conveyed the need for players to play with more passion and patience at the plate and in the field.
There were glimpses of players heeding Williams' words, as rookie Danny Richar executed a hit-and-run RBI single in the second and drew a leadoff walk, stole his first major-league base and scored the tying run on Jim Thome's infield hit in the sixth.
But the Sox still fell short before departing for Seattle and a three-game series with the wild card-contending Mariners.
"I pointed to specific instances that I felt our focus and our concentration has been lapsing on the defensive end, which is our first line of defense when we have won here," Williams said before the game. "And the fact that offensively we need to go into our at-bats as a team, instead of individuals trying to grind out at-bats. And situationally, buy into it to a greater degree.
"This thing has been on my mind quite a bit, but there has been a noticeable lapse lately."
Right fielder Jermaine Dye said Williams' message was intended to "keep everyone on the same page, to finish the season strong."
Dye acknowledged that the intensity has been "off and on."
"It's tough coming in the park as many as [games] as we're out. But we're still a professional team and playing well."
Williams is frustrated that the Sox have faltered again after sweeping Detroit while winning six of eight and 11 of 17.
Their latest losing streak has prevented them from taking advantage of recent struggles by AL Central pace-setters Cleveland and Detroit.
"No. 1, until the last pitch is thrown this year, I expect them to play like a championship's on the line," Williams said. "And had we been playing like that for the last week, we might be looking up at seven games out right now instead of 11 1/2 . Which, if you get to that point, you're looking at one bad week by the teams ahead of you, and you're right there, making it interesting."
Williams intends to seek players with a higher on-base percentage at the top and the bottom of the order to help Jim Thome, Paul Konerko and Dye (if he's re-signed), manager Ozzie Guillen said.
"I guarantee you we have more solo home runs (80) than home runs with people on base (50)," Guillen said. "That's [Williams'] point about trying to get better at-bats to get on base."
Guillen said the lack of offense, before Thursday, had made the Sox look "boring." They staked Javier Vazquez to a 3-0 lead after three innings, then tied the game in the sixth and briefly regained the lead in the seventh before Shannon Stewart hit a game-tying homer off Boone Logan.
Stewart robbed Darin Erstad of a potential RBI extra-base hit in the fifth that Guillen called the play of the game.
Williams said Guillen shouldn't be blamed solely for the lapses that have occurred recently.
And the manager was just as supportive of his boss.
"Kenny had to say what he had to say," Guillen said. "If players don't like it, look themselves in the mirror. It's easy to handle it. If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it. If your shoe fits, wear it. If you don't feel guilty about what he says, move on."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun