Chicago White Sox drop the opener of an 8-game trip after Ken Williams reportedly addressed the ‘underachieving’ team

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Executive Vice President Ken Williams reportedly addressed Chicago White Sox players and staff Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

News of the meeting, reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, became public Monday just as the Sox were beginning their final trip before the All-Star break with the first of four games against the Cleveland Guardians.

It was a bumpy start for the Sox as the Guardians scored five in the first off Lance Lynn. The Sox got within a run before losing 8-4 in front of 13,655 at Progressive Field.

“When you give up five runs with two outs, that hurts,” Lynn said. “But I have to be better early on. I have to be better all the way around. There’s no other way to put it.

“Make better pitches. Get myself in better counts. And when I do get in those counts, put people away and not give up hits.”

The Sox had a chance to move past the Guardians and into second place in the American League Central. Instead they dropped to 41-44, 5½ games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins and 1½ behind the Guardians.

According to Nightengale, Williams discussed the “underachieving performance this season, reminding them of their talent, but that it was time to focus and pull together.” Nightengale added in the tweet, “No one was absolved, from staff to players, for the team’s woes.”

Monday’s wobbly first wasn’t the product of one particular issue. The Guardians didn’t hit the ball all that hard in the inning, but they kept finding ways to come through.

Franmil Reyes drove in a run with a single. Two runs scored on a broken-bat single to center by Nolan Jones. Myles Straw’s two-run single made it 5-0.

Lynn threw 39 pitches in the first.

“I don’t think he got beat up in that first inning,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “He got the ground ball and they found holes. It would be different if they were centering it, but they didn’t. Buzzard luck in the first inning.”

It looked like it would be a long night for the Sox.

But Yoán Moncada got the team back in the game with a three-run homer in the third. AJ Pollock’s RBI single an inning later made it 5-4.

“We know that we have to fight back every time,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “Fight through the whole game and that was what we did (Monday). It doesn’t matter if we are up or down on the scoreboard, we have to do our best in every inning.”

That’s as close as they would get.

Lynn allowed a single to Reyes and hit Andrés Giménez in the fifth. He exited after giving up a two-run double to Jones on his 100th pitch.

“I watched him in the fourth,” La Russa said. “First and third (with one out), got the heart of the lineup out. We checked him and he said, ‘I’m ready to go.’”

Jones scored on a single by Straw that deflected off reliever Matt Foster, extending the Guardians lead to 8-4.

“You are looking at two games (Tuesday),” Lynn said, referring to the split doubleheader. “To be honest with you, I have to get through six (innings) and I let the team down.”

Lynn allowed eight runs on nine hits with three strikeouts and two walks in four-plus innings.

“I’ve got to get off to a better start,” he said. “The last couple of games for sure, when you are throwing 30 pitches in the first, you are getting yourself in a high pitch count early. And then later in the game you are going to be higher than you like.

“Figure out how to get through the first inning in 15 (pitches) or less and go from there.”

And the Sox have to figure out ways to improve against the teams ahead of them in the division. They are 1-5 against the Guardians and 1-5 against the Twins, against whom they begin a four-game series Thursday at Target Field.

“It definitely is important because we are playing against our division rival,” Moncada said of the stretch before the All-Star break. “We need and we want to win every game. And that’s our goal. That’s what we are trying to do this week. (Monday) is in the past. We have to move forward and try to get as many wins as we can.”

Before the game, La Russa addressed a report from Nightengale, who wrote Sunday, “There have been a lot of whispers of unrest, cliques and the lack of player leadership inside the clubhouse tearing apart this talented team.”

“We talk about family, responsibility, accountability, improving, being honest about what we’re doing right or wrong,” La Russa said. “Very tight club. That’s why it’s more irritating, but more irritating if our fans buy into it at all.

“There again, it’s in our power to go from a losing team to a winning team. And you win more arguments when you’re winning.”