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The White Sox won 15 out of 16 at one point before the calendar turned to July. One week later, they’re riding a five-game winning streak, giving them 22 wins in their last 27 games.
And yet they still find themselves a half-game out of first place in a weak division.
Yes, the AL Central standings serve as an enduring record of the hole the Sox dug for themselves over the first two months of the season, and there’s no better tangible reminder than the team coming to town to close out the first half of the season.
Halfway through their season series with the Kansas City Royals, the White Sox are 4-5 against the division’s long-running laughingstock, which only looks good next to their 4-8 record against the Cleveland Indians.
Righting previous wrongs won’t be easy. First off, they had missed Zack Greinke in the first two series. Lately, the Royals have played respectable baseball since making their managerial change, with 10 wins in their last 13 games and a 27-23 record under Ned Yost.
They’re a different animal, and starting pitching is a big reason. Oddly enough, despite the incredible run Sox starters are on, they may be at a disadvantage in that department this weekend.
The Royals own the best batting average of any AL team, and are the second-hardest to strike out to your hometown nine. Mark Buehrle, tonight’s starter, gives up a lot of base hits and is trying to cope with a career-low K-rate. Not surprisingly, the Royals have beaten Buehrle in two of three starts this season, hitting him at a .367 clip.
And on Sunday, Daniel Hudson has his hands full with Greinke in his 2010 White Sox debut.
The fact that the Sox will need (as much as you can need a half-game out of first in July, anyway) two good pitching performances illustrates how poorly they played early on. White Sox starters are 18-9 with a 3.10 ERA since the start of June, and they’ve thrown quality starts in 29 of their last 32 outings — and yet that’s not quite good enough.
On the other hand, winning this series will go a long way when it comes to the big-picture ledger. Two out of three would put the Sox at .500 with Kansas City on the season, which would place them squarely in between their two chief rivals (the Twins are 6-3 against the Royals; Detroit 4-5).
I should say that losing the series wouldn’t be the end of the world, lest I overhype three games in the middle of the season. But thanks to the way they played against the division’s weakest early in the season, they really can’t win enough from here on out.
Minor league roundup:
- Charlotte 6, Gwinnett 3
- Brent Morel went 2-for-3 with two doubles and a walk.
- Tyler Flowers earned a silver sombrero, but at least was hit by a pitch.
- Clevelan Santeliz pitched two 1-2-3 innings, ending a rough patch.
- Alejandro De Aza hit a bases-clearing double, his only hit in five at-bats.
- Jordan Danks was 0-for-2 with two walks and a strikeout.
- Mississippi 7, Birmingham 1
- Christian Marrero was 2-for-4.
- Justin Greene struck out twice in three hitless AB.
- Winston-Salem 4, Myrtle Beach 3
- Chris Sale struck out two batters in a 1-2-3 inning.
- Jose Martinez ended a 4-for-29 slump with a three-hit day.
- Brandon Short and Jon Gilmore were both 1-for-4 with a strikeout.
- Eduardo Escobar went 0-for-4 with a K.
- Terry Doyle allowed three runs on five hits (two homers) over seven innings. He fanned six with no walks.
- Kyle Bellamy closed it out with a perfect ninth, recording one K.
- Augusta 5, Kannapolis 4
- Kyle Colligan tripled, homered and drove in two. He also struck out once.
- Nick Ciolli went 2-for-3 with a double, walk and an RBI, striking out once.
- Miguel Gonzalez singled, walked and struck out over four PAs.
- Kingsport 8, Bristol 3
- Matthew Heidenreich had a nice night: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.
- Daniel Black went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk.
- Rangel Ravelo was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
- Great Falls 15, Helena 2
- Thomas Royse allowed a run (solo homer) on three hits and a walk over five innings, striking out two.
- Ross Wilson singled twice, walked twice and struck out once.
- Juan Silverio went 2-for-4 with a double, homer and two RBI.