The White Sox entered their 5-1 loss Saturday to the Marlins having won six of their last seven games and sitting only 3½ game behind the American League Central-leading Twins.
‘‘I just think we’re starting to realize how good we are, how good we can be,’’ manager Pedro Grifol said before the game. ‘‘But there’s a tricky line to that.’’
Yes, on paper, the Sox have the talent in all three phases to contend — if not outright run away with — the subpar division, where the Twins are just one game above .500.
But as Grifol repeatedly has cautioned, a team that even with its recent progress remains eight games below .500 can’t afford to get ahead of itself.
‘‘I say this over and over again, and I don’t really think people believe me when I say that I don’t get too far ahead,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t care about the playoffs right now. I know one thing: I can’t remember the last time a team [eight] under went to the playoffs, if it’s ever happened. So why would I care about the playoffs right now when we’ve gotta worry about us and getting back to where we need to be as a team?’’
The loss Saturday was a chilling reminder. The offense produced one run, five hits and three opportunities with runners in scoring position. After entering with a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning, reliever Joe Kelly got only one out and was charged five runs.
But key to Grifol’s workmanlike mentality is the ability to treat one victory or one loss as just that — one ink blot in a 162-game sea of data points. An opportunity awaits the Sox to win their third consecutive series Sunday.
Grifol spent a chunk of his pregame session with reporters praising the levelheadedness right-hander Michael Kopech has developed to pair with his talent.
‘‘His stuff has always been there; it will always be there,’’ Grifol said. ‘‘He’s just now tapping into his full ability. The key for him is just going to be controlling [his emotions, tempo and focus]. And when things don’t go his way, taking a step back and just making sure that you stay focused and don’t let the emotions get the best of you.’’
Kopech needed that mentality Saturday to escape jams in each of his five innings, across which he allowed no runs and five hits and struck out six.
‘‘Today was more of a grind day,’’ Kopech said. ‘‘It was going out there and gritting my way through it. Didn’t have my best stuff. Struggled a little bit with command. Grateful to put up some zeros and kind of keep us in the game.’’
Kopech’s season ERA is down to 4.03, but it is 2.44 since the start of May.
Andrew Vaughn snapped an 0-for-14 slump with an opposite-field home run against Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara on the first pitch of the fourth. He turned a 97 mph fastball into a 382-foot blast for his team-high 40th RBI.
‘‘I was selling out to a heater, [and] he threw it right where I was looking,’’ Vaughn said.
But that proved to be the Sox’ only offense of the game. Alcantara, the reigning National League Cy Young winner, was brilliant in seven innings, and the Marlins’ bullpen held it down from there. In the first two games of the series, the Sox have pushed across only three runs.