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Over their last 13 games, the White Sox have nine wins, including a 7-3 road trip. That’s the kind of run that would qualify as “good pennant race play” in almost any season.
Not this season. This season, winning nine of 13 games actually cost the Sox two games in the standings, thanks to the Minnesota Twins. They’re a league-best 39-16 since the All-Star break, and are winners of 13 of their last 16. They have won all five series against the Sox this year.
This proooobably means the Twins are the better team, but the Sox have to treat this as the world’s greatest recipe for regression. Like, the-kind-Grandma-used-to-make great.
Coupon codes for half-priced tickets on whitesox.com:
9/14 – SUN
9/15 – FFN
9/16 – REA
9/14 – SUN
9/15 – FFN
9/16 – REA
A sweep would go a long way in solving both those problems, wouldn’t it?
Of course, that’s damn near impossible considering 1) the Sox’ generally defeatist attitude when facing the Twins, and 2) Ron Gardenhire will be throwing his three best starters at the White Sox.
Overall though, it’s a level playing field. Ozzie Guillen is going with John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Mark Buehrle, three of his best four starting the season. He now has Manny Ramirez, which theoretically solves the DH disadvantage the Sox faced all season long against Minnesota.
The fact that Ramirez is around gives us a litmus test of sorts to read after this series is over. Treat Jim Thome as Justin Morneau, and we can get some sort of idea about the difference a DH could have made.
(And I don’t think that’s a stretch: If Thome weren’t on the Twins, Morneau would more than likely be in the lineup, with Thome playing sparingly. It’s not like some chronic condition sidelined him. He took a knee to the head on a double-play turn. Any different roster construction would likely put him out of the way of a wrong-place-wrong-time injury. A butterfly flaps its wings, etc.)
Really, both teams are in good fighting shape, and largely representative of their original quality considering both suffered key losses en route to September, so this series should provide some closure. If the Sox lose the series, that’s the season. And if that happens, then tip your hat to the Twins, because they’ll have played .707-ball over the second half of the season. That will win just about any division that isn’t the AL East (and they’re making a run at the league’s best record, too).
A White Sox series victory would raise more questions than it would answer, especially if Ramirez comes through with an extra-base hit or two. Most of those questions will start with “What if?” But I’d hold back on asking those until post-mortem time, because that’s what October and November are for. In the meantime, I’d be appreciative of the fact that we have meaningful baseball to still talk about.
It comes down to one game
There’s little difference over the final 16 games of the season when stacking the schedules side-by-side.
|Detroit (3)||Oakland (3)|
|at Oakland (3)||Cleveland (3)|
|at Los Angeles (3)||at Detroit (3)|
|Boston (4)||at Kansas City (3)|
|Cleveland (3)||Toronto (4)|
Three common opponents, three home series, no powerhouse teams. If the Twins are able to sweep teams like the Rangers, it’s probably awfully optimistic to anticipate an 8-8 finish against this slate.
We may as well use .500 ball, though, because it’s going to take a Minnesota malaise to get the Sox to the postseason. If they play 10-6 ball, the Twins will have earned every bit of their division title.
Winning two of three means the Sox have to win 13 of their last 16 to even have a shot. And when you think it through chronologically, it means the Sox have to win something like five of their first six to both put a scare into the Twins, and maintain the same intensity in the dugout. Winning six in a row after being mathematically eliminated doesn’t really count.
A Sox sweep at least allows us to think, perchance to dream, of a 163rd game. The Sox would be three games back, and finishing with an 11-5 run is highly optimistic, but by no means out of the picture.
And then think that one through. The sweep scenario puts the Sox at 93 wins, which is more than they won with a way better offense and two legitimate division rivals back in 2006. That scenario also means they finished the season winning 23 of their last 32 games. And still, that might not be good enough to play into October. That’s how well the Twins have played.
At any rate, if you can afford to go, I hope you can make the trip to at least one game. This is a team worth supporting, this is a series worth seeing, and we’ve seen worse Septembers. It may end up that the Sox concede the division when the dust settles, but at least the White Sox marketing department is conceding something, too.
Christian Marrero Reading Room (Twins edition):
*Jerod at Midwest Sports Fans put together a good primer for the series, breaking down the match-ups for all three games.
*Brian Fuentes retired just one batter over his first 2 1/2 weeks in the Twins’ bullpen due to a balky lower back. He did throw a scoreless inning against Cleveland on Sunday without issue, and Jose Mijares has returned from a torn meniscus, too. With Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz apparently 100 percent themselves, all hands are on deck.
*Brent Lillibridge waited in line for “Halo,” and then came home and played it while binging on Mountain Dew until the sun came up. The Twins, meanwhile, were in bed by 7, with Jim Thome in his FOOTY PAJAMAS.
*Many of his teammates were at Ozzie Guillen’s charity event, including Mark Teahen, Alex Rios and Freddy Garcia. It’s been 21 years since “Major League,” and yet all ballplayers still dress up like Jake Taylor when they go out.