Five weeks to go and the White Sox are rolling. If they can continue this momentum, things start looking a whole lot brighter for the Southsiders. In the last week, August 29 to September 5, the White Sox stepped it up a notch or two to narrow the contest in the AL Central. The action during that time span looks like the following:
The White Sox went 5-2.
The Twins went 3-4.
The Guardians went 2-5.
In the end, the White Sox moved up to two games behind the first place Guardians and one game behind the Twins for second place. The Sox took two of three from Kansas City, two of three from the Twins (which is huge), and won the opener against Seattle which helps in the Wild Card situation. The White Sox rebounded fabulously from the week before. For this upcoming week, the White Sox finish their series against Seattle with two more games and then have a four-game series in Oakland. The White Sox must do damage against Oakland who stands in last place in the West with a 50-85 record.
Beating division rivals Cleveland and Minnesota is the best thing that the White Sox can do to help their playoff chances. Taking two from the Twins was a great start in that direction. Though the Twins took two against Boston, they dropped to the Yankees on Monday night and must face them three more times in New York this week. The Twins then move on to three home games against Cleveland. The good news is that one of those teams will lose each game which will benefit the White Sox no matter the outcome. The White Sox have a huge opportunity to leapfrog the Twins while the Twins play New York and the Sox play the A’s.
Cleveland had a rough stretch last week, dropping two to Baltimore and getting swept by Seattle. The week starts out a little easier with two more games against Kansas City but finishes with the series against Minnesota. The White Sox opportunity to play the A’s while their rivals play each other can’t be overstated.
What Went Right, What Went Wrong
Two weeks ago, the White Sox averaged 3.1 runs per game which would put them last in the MLB. This week the White Sox averaged 5.5 runs/game which would put them first in the MLB. The numbers are a little skewed with a 13-run win against the Twins. But even if we take that game out, the White Sox averaged 4.33 runs per game, still above their season average. Run production for the week was outstanding. The White Sox averaged 5.5 RBI’s per game this week, up from their season average of 4 RBI’s per game.
The White Sox continue to get on base. Over the last week, Abreu and Elvis Andrus had eight hits, Andrew Vaughn and AJ Pollack had 7 hits, Eloy Jimenez had five hits, and Gavin Sheets had four hits. Grandal and Harrison each had multi-hit games. The difference is that the Sox got those runners home this week. Andrus had nine RBI’s (there was a grand slam in there), Jimenez, Sheets, and Pollack had five, and Abreu had three. It was a fun week at the plate. When the dust settled, the White Sox had moved up to second place in the MLB in batting average, tied with the Blue Jays at .260, just slightly behind the Dodgers at .261.
The White Sox pitching remained stellar this week. The White Sox gave up 0 runs once, one run once, two runs twice, and then five and 9 run games. The ERA for the week was 1.71 which would put them well ahead of the league leading Dodgers at 2.88 for the year. 1.71 is also very different than their season average of 3.96 which puts them in 18th place. Lance Lynn continues his late season resurgence with a one run game against Kansas City (seven innings) and a one run game against Seattle (seven innings). Johnny Cueto did 5.1 innings and only gave up a run against Kansas City. The White Sox did a bullpen game against Minnesota that showcased Joe Kelly, Martin, Reynaldo Lopez, Jimmy Lambert, and Liam Hendriks and only gave up two earned runs. Dylan Cease pitched 8.2 innings before he gave up the only, soul crushing hit against the Twins but preserved the complete game shutout. Giolito continues to have a rough second half, giving up two runs in five innings against the Twins and five runs in five innings against Kansas City.
What about the Wildcard
Though it was a fantastic week for the White Sox, they lost ground in the Wild Card race and are now 7.5 games back. The easiest path to the playoffs remains winning the Division (easier said than done). During this stretch:
Toronto went 7-1. They beat the Cubs twice (they did win once) and Baltimore twice.
Baltimore went 4-4 which puts them 4.5 games out of the Wild Card race.
Tampa Bay went 5-1 including two wins against the Yankees.
Seattle went 6-1, sweeping both Detroit and Cleveland until they met the White Sox on Monday night.
The Wild Card race will remain extremely difficult as it seems that Tampa, Toronto, and Seattle continue to play well. The White Sox can help themselves out as they play Seattle two more times this week but don’t play any of the other teams the rest of the year.
So far, the playoff run has been the tale of two teams with a really rough week and a really great week. Consistency will make all the difference down the stretch including situational hitting, relief pitching, and more of the excellent starting pitching we continue to see.