As season series with Detroit begins, White Sox can only play spoiler

USA TODAY Sports

Last year's dogfight seems even more distant as teams meet for the first time this year

Back on July 23, 2007, the worst White Sox team of the New Comiskey Era hosted the Detroit Tigers for the first of 14 second-half matchups between first place and last. It was a rare five-game series, thanks to a doubleheader needed to accommodate a postponed game from April.

The Tigers overcame an unfavorable pitching matchup to beat Mark Buehrle in the opener. Detroit gained a game on Cleveland, the White Sox lost their eighth game out of their last 11 ... basically, the outcome reflected their standing (and standings) at the end of the day:

W-L GB RS RA
Detroit 59-38 -- 566 460
Cleveland 58-41 2.0 528 472
Minnesota 51-48 9.0 478 438
Kansas City 43-55 16.5 455 487
Chicago 43-55 16.5 413 498

One day later, the Sox figured out how to flip the script. They took both games of the doubleheader, including a particularly devastating comeback in the nightcap. The Sox trailed 7-1 through five, but Jim Thome hit a three-run homer to close the gap, and the Sox benefited from a couple of bad hops during a two-run eighth off Zach Miner that capped off the scoring in an 8-7 victory.

The Tigers won a slugfest the next day, but the Sox stung Miner again for a loss in the finale, and in a crazier fashion -- Miner's attempt to throw out Josh Fields ended up in right-field foul territory, and Scott Podsednik scored all the way from first to end the game.

Detroit came to Chicago having won 11 of 15, allowing them to climb from two games behind Cleveland to two games ahead. But that series in Chicago marked the start of an awful stretch that doomed their season.

Starting with the doubleheader, the Tigers went 14-27 over their next 41 games, including seven losses to the White Sox over eight games (among them, a sweep at Comerica). By the time Jon Garland outdueled Jeremy Bonderman in a 3-1 victory on Sept. 3, the Tigers had fallen from two games ahead to seven games back. Despite a September resurgence, they never threatened for a postseason spot during the final month.

Like 2007, the White Sox and Tigers will get to know each other well over the second half. They'll meet for the first time tonight to start a three-game series, and the other 15 will take place after the break.

Like 2007, the White Sox aren't in a position to threaten Detroit. They can only get in the way.


AL Central Standings

W L PCT GB STRK
Detroit 49 39 .556 0 Won 1
Cleveland 46 43 .516 3.5 Lost 1
Kansas City 42 44 .488 6 Won 1
Minnesota 37 49 .430 11 Lost 2
Chicago 34 52 .395 14 Lost 4

(updated 7.9.2013 at 3:46 AM EDT)


That's not what this team had in mind. Originally, the Sox were supposed to use the first three months to whip themselves into fighting shape. Perhaps they might be outmanned on paper, but if they could maintain reasonable postseason odds into July, Rick Hahn would be in a position to add to the talent at the deadline.

Intsead, the 2013 White Sox are racing the '07 team to the bottom of recent franchise history. After losing 18 of their last 24 games, you could say they're approaching terminal velocity. The loss to the Cubs on Monday night puts them 18 games below .500, which is where the 2007 team finished the season (although they bottomed out at 23 games under on Sept. 11). The odds of breaking even the rest of the way look rather slim.

As lousy as they look, they can still make a nuisance of themselves. Hell, the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who fell short of historical ineptitude by losing 119 games, were one of a few reasons why Jerry Manuel lost his job.

The White Sox were just 11-8 against Detroit that year.

Minnesota went 15-4.

Minnesota won the AL Central by four games.

That we're talking about the 2007 White Sox and the 2003 Tigers goes a long way in describing just how unimaginably disastrous this season has become. The Sox figured tonight's game would begin to determine first place and runner-up. Now they can only hope they're a speed bump instead of a doormat.

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