Liam Hendriks dug into his Australian rules football terminology to describe where the Chicago White Sox stood at the start of August.
“The third quarter is the championship quarter,” the All-Star closer said Sunday. “So I feel like August is the third quarter of the season. And it’s something that can make or break a championship run.”
The Sox fell three games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins in the American League Central after opening a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals with a 2-1 loss Monday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. They’re in contention despite being .500.
“Teetering around .500, we need to break that curse,” Hendriks said. “And as soon as we do that, I think it’s one of those things you roll. It’s like that guy who is teetering around that .200 average. Once he gets to .205, all of a sudden he is hitting .260 at the end of the year.
“Five hundred is like the Mendoza Line for us this year. But we’re coming into this stretch of games — I think I’ve said it enough times — it’s an important stretch. At some point we need to define our season and make an impact.”
The trade deadline looms at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and the Sox made a move Monday, acquiring reliever Jake Diekman from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for reserve catcher Reese McGuire and a player to be named or cash considerations.
Diekman, 35, is 5-1 with a 4.23 ERA, 51 strikeouts and 12 holds in 44 appearances this season, his first with the Red Sox. He’ll join Tanner Banks as lefties in the White Sox bullpen.
He is signed through next season with a club option for 2024.
Diekman has a 3.77 ERA, 632 strikeouts, 15 saves and 167 holds in 573 career games during 11 major-league seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (2012-15), Texas Rangers (2015-18), Arizona Diamondbacks (2018), Royals (2019), Oakland Athletics (2019-21) and Red Sox (2022).
He also has made 13 postseason appearances with the Rangers (2015-16) and A’s (2019-20), posting a 4.50 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 12 innings.
McGuire joined the White Sox in spring training in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays and slashed .225/.261/.285 with nine doubles, 10 RBIs and 12 runs scored in 53 games.
Hendriks said Sunday the front office has come to players for input on potential additions.
“That’s what I love about the front office here,” Hendriks said. “They ask guys: ‘How is this guy in the clubhouse? How is this guy as a person? This guy on the field?’ It could be the perfect fit but the guy can be (a jerk) and change the morale of this clubhouse.
“You never want to bring in those trouble guys … especially when we have a tight unit in here. We want to make sure anyone who comes fits that mold and gets along with everybody.”
Hendriks recalled how trades provided a lift when he was on the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays.
“A .500 team at the deadline and we went out and got (Troy) Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins, Cliff Pennington, David Price, among other guys in there that completely changed the trajectory of the season, and that’s something the front office does a lot,” Hendriks said. “It’s a morale booster you can get here that can completely swing the momentum of things.”
The Sox remain a confident group, Hendriks said, “because you see what kind of talent level is in this clubhouse.”
“It’s not like we’re playing over our skis,” he said. “We have underperformed as a unit and that’s something everyone in this clubhouse understands. That doesn’t give us any leeway in the fact we still need to do what we can do.
“We understand we haven’t lived up to our potential but we need to find that potential. If we do, we can win the division … especially with the schedule laid out ahead of us.”
Luis Robert ‘unlikely’ to play in Royals series
Sox manager Tony La Russa said center fielder Luis Robert was “feeling better” than he did Sunday, but cold symptoms remain.
“Be careful with him,” La Russa said of the team’s approach. “He is getting better, so our fingers remain crossed.”
Robert has been on the injured list retroactive to July 19 with blurred vision.
He started a rehab assignment Thursday with Triple-A Charlotte but was out of the lineup Friday with cold symptoms. He returned to Chicago during the weekend and played catch with the training staff in the outfield before Monday’s game.
La Russa said it’s “unlikely” Robert would be ready to play in the series against the Royals.
As for rejoining Charlotte to continue rehabbing, La Russa said, “That’s something we’ve talked about,” but no decision has been reached.
“The first thing is just get him game ready, one thing at a time,” La Russa said.
Pitcher Vince Velasquez is joining Charlotte on a rehab assignment. He went on the IL on July 6 with a blister on his right index finger.