For White Sox, it's good to be normal


They'll embark on a difficult 20-game stretch after opening season with two series victories

There's nothing that needs to be done this early in the season. Had the Mariners stolen two extra-inning victories in Chicago for a rare series win, it would have been a bummer, but it wouldn't have meant anything. There's plenty of time to make up for stumbles out of the gate.

Still, it's nice to escape the first week of the season by taking a pair of series, and without any "if only" losses. The White Sox won both their series for a 4-2 homestand against two opponents who are intent on establishing themselves as credible American League threats, and in suboptimal weather to boot. That's a pleasant development, because with the variables this season presents, it might be a little more important to get ahead when the opportunity presents itself.

It's easy to calibrate expectations against familiar teams like the Royals and Mariners, but now the schedule gets weird. After an off day on Monday, the Sox head to Washington for a three-game series against the Nationals, followed by three in Cleveland and four in Toronto. After the 10-game road trip, they head back to Chicago for 10 more games. Add it all up, and it's 20 straight games, and only three against a presumptive doormat, making for the toughest stretch of the first half.

The number of supposed contenders presents its own problems for measuring this year. Take Cleveland and Toronto, both of which made significant investments in 2013. They're not alone in that respect, because the Royals and Angels did, too. None of those five teams made the postseason, and the playoff teams from 2012 all have designs on returning. That's two-thirds of the league, and that doesn't count the Rays and White Sox (strong teams that stood pat), and the Red Sox, who can't be any worse than year. Even the Mariners made moves with 2013 in mind, so that leaves the Twins and Astros as the only teams that are punting the season.

(Of course, the Twins are tied with the Sox atop the AL Central at 4-2. Old friend Pedro Hernandez started the sixth game of the season ... and Minnesota won.)

Unless the Astros go 1-161, all these teams can't get the wins they thought they added in the offseason, so it's possible some early-season stumbles could make some managers and front offices sweat more than normal.

The White Sox are pretty well insulated from any year-to-year turmoil, since neither Rick Hahn nor Robin Ventura will be going anywhere soon. But how much is that worth? The stability and the lack of "buttholes" (Hawk Harrelson's word, not mine) probably don't hurt, but continuity isn't doing anything to keep Sox players from running into each other on pop-ups.

Then you throw in an April visit to a National League park, and it all gets stranger (although godblessit, Jake Peavy is ready to #makeanimpact on the offense). It's going to be difficult to make confident reads on what any team should be doing, so going 4-2 against two so-so teams while winning all three Chris Sale/Peavy starts is a good way to establish the first semblance of normalcy.

While the White Sox were normal:

*The Orioles are 0-3 in one-run games after going 29-9 the year before.

*R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle started their Blue Jays careers by allowing 16 runs in 16 innings, all with two Dickey losses. The headline of his second at Bluebird Banter: "That was awful."

*Josh Hamilton struck out 10 times over his first 25 plate appearances with the Angels, and had an awkward return to Texas.

*The Royals allowed seven runs over their last two ninth innings, resulting in a blown save and a close call.

*Justin Verlander allowed a home run to Jayson Nix during a 7-0 loss to the Yankees, only New York's second win of the season.

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