I know we’ve been saying to ourselves all year: “It’s early. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’re playing good ball, but it’s a loooooooong season.” We’re not the bee’s knees quite yet.
Sweep of the Yankees is Great, But Beat the Cellar-Dwellers
Here we are tailing like a Chris Sale fastball toward the tail end of August, and the Chicago White Sox, they of the predicted to be in a rebuilding mode of sorts squadron, are still sitting atop the AL Central. The formidable foe that is the Detroit Tigers are (and have been all year) within striking distance, only two games back as I write this. They’ve got Verlander on the hill today while we take a day off, so you do the math. We are heading into the home (plate) stretch with a very small margin for error. We are in for an exciting fall of baseball, but let’s reflect on the summer and another sweep of another first place team, this week’s victim: the New York Yankees.
The Yankees have been the best team in baseball on and off since what feels like the beginning of time. The White Sox know they’re going to have to beat the best to be the best, and they bring their A Game for games against good competition. That’s fine and dandy, but focus has to remain on the other tasks at hand, and that’s winning the division, that’s winning the games you’re supposed to win. You’re supposed to beat the Kansas City Royals, yet the White Sox can’t seem to pull away from Detroit when golden opportunities are handed over to do so. That’s a cause for concern. That’s a red flag.
On the plus side, if and when the White Sox do make the playoffs, they can rest assured and sleep easy that they won’t be matched up against the Kansas City Royals any time soon. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice…
A team they can definitely count on standing in their way come Playoff time is the juggernaut, the perennial contender, the Evil Empire, the sitting-on-a-plane-right-now-picking-broom-bristles-out-of-their-asses, New York Yankees and their ageless wonder of a leader, Derek Jeter. Jeter’s “power surge” and career year at age 38 has kept his team together during a year full of injuries to A-Rod, ace CC Sabathia, best closer of all-time Mariano Rivera, and team RBI leader Mark Teixeira. None of Jeter’s longevity, fundamentals, or charisma mattered much during this series though. This one was all White Sox.
Pitching, Not Bitching
Sox Pitching, namely Chris Sale has been nothing short of spectacular, unless your name is Gavin Floyd. He needs to kindly find his way to the bullpen…or the minors…or some local car dealership to sell cars. An ERA north of 6.00 for the month of August does not bode well for a pennant run. Whatever it takes for him to either get his shit together or help the team otherwise, he needs to do it and fast. The Sox bats won’t bail him out every start (the way they did in Game 1 of this series), and they can not afford to sheepishly send him to the mound every six days. Sale and his awkwardly powerful, violently intimidating delivery is too good to be cancelled out by Floyd’s shenanigans. Peavy’s renaissance can not hang in the balance while we wait to see if Floyd’s ever going to come around and be a Major League pitcher.
Seriously though, how good is this Sale kid? He struck out 13 Yankees en route to his 15th victory and a jolt to the top of a short list of AL Cy Young candidates that includes David Price, the aforementioned Verlander, and Felix Hernandez. The first guy to 20 victories should claim Cy. We’ll see how this sub-story plays out over the next month and a half.
You kill us, Youkilis. Thanks, Boston!
All that clutch, all that experience is starting to pay infinite dividends to Kenny Williams and everyone who believed Youk had plenty left in the tank. His demeanor, plate discipline, and winning mentality is rubbing off on the rest of the team as well. His grand slam in Game 2 of the series broke a tie, and sent the team to victory. The Sox of White have thrived since the acquisition, while the Sox of Red have floundered toward the basement of the AL East. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it a thousand times: a change of scenery does wonders for players, and Youk has found his mojo here in Chicago. He became a fan favorite from the get go, and his pennant run experience will prove invaluable as we get into the autumn weather.
Beating the Yankees always feels good. Sweeping them feels even better. But winning the games we’re supposed to win en route to a division title and beyond? That would be the bee’s knees…