CHICAGO--Now is a tell-tale point of the season when general managers try to assume their most stoic poker faces.
With the trade deadline less than two weeks away, they have to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em, with regard to going all out for a long-shot playoff spot or looking more responsibly to the future.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn's middling team clearly is improved from last year's 99-loss season, but not clearly on track to make the postseason.
Asked Friday if the Sox will be buyers or sellers at the end of this month, Hahn demurred.
"It's certainly a very fair question, but also not one that I'm going to answer, which I think you can understand," Hahn said before the Sox edged the Astros 3-2 Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
Dayan Viciedo made up for a poor defensive play that led to a run with a two-run homer in the sixth inning off Scott Feldman to tie the game 2-2.
Tyler Flowers delivered the go-ahead RBI double in the seventh.
"I have been feeling good," Flowers said. "The last 10 games, maybe. ... I haven't had a whole lot of success statistically. But I am definitely feeling a lot better, seeing the ball better. So it was nice to see a lot of work that we have been doing pay dividends, especially in a situation like that."
The Sox entered Friday night's game 101/2 games out of first in the American League Central. With All-Stars Jose Abreu, Chris Sale and Alexei Ramirez headlining a team that shows flashes of sensational play, the White Sox continue to disappoint their followers with all-to-frequent shoddy fielding and blown leads.
"Look, we are not where we need to be, we know that," Hahn said. "We are realistic about where we are today. We are realistic about where we are likely to be over the next 10 weeks or so. If there are opportunities to put long-term pieces in place that will allow us to compete on an annual basis, we will follow down those paths.
"But we are not going to force anything. There's no urgency to make any moves at this time. It's going to be dictated based upon the fits and what the return is going to be. I certainly don't plan to make any declarations or hang any signs on the front of the ballpark declaring our intentions. We are going to continue to be consistent and act in the same vein that we have in the past year, and that's trying to find long-term fits that can have an impact here."
The Astros jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning Friday night, in part because of some suspect defense. Matt Dominquez opened with a single, then Jon Singleton singled to right-center field. The ball went under the glove of Viciedo in right field for an error, allowing Dominquez to score as Singleton motored around to third. Robbie Grossman then grounded out to short to drive in Singleton.
Sox starter Jose Quintana, one of the "long-term fits" in Hahn's grand plans, allowed three hits with one walk and eight strikeouts over five innings. The Astros collected all three of their hits in the second. Sox pitchers then retired 22 in a row as Daniel Webb (5-2) earned the victory and Zach Putnam the save.
Sox manager Robin Ventura understands better than anyone else that his team has been wildly inconsistent this season.
"I don't think anyone's sitting here trying to say we're going to play for the wild card or whatever," he said. "You're trying to play well and let the cards fall as they may. Obviously, we feel we have the talent here to do that. We haven't gotten on a good hot streak, a good run yet, that most teams every year seem to do."
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