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Detroit and September a toxic combination for White Sox

Heads down.
Heads down.

More than a month ago, my brother asked me if I thought the White Sox could hold off the Tigers. I didn't have a definitive answer, but I said that I didn't think the Sox could absorb another sweep. Six head-to-head games is a lot to give up for a team that won't have talent reserves in the tank.

Well, the White Sox just got swept, erasing a three-game lead and leaving both teams with identical 72-61 records with 29 games remaining.

So, do I still hold that position? In a word, "kinda."

If I knew nothing about the nature of Detroit's season, I'd be more willing to write off the Sox. In the last two September, we've seen the Sox get swept, then roll over. Fool me thrice, etc.

But many said the same thing about the AL Central race the last time the White Sox went 1-7 on a road trip capped off by a sweep in Detroit. The Tigers took a 1½ game lead on July 22, and that's when they were supposed to leave the Sox in the dust as the prognosticators predicted. Instead, they yakked up the lead as quickly as they could, and today is the first time they've had even a share of first place since.

Amazingly, the immediate post-sweep opponents are exactly the same for both teams. The Tigers play the Indians (they lost two of three), while the White Sox limp home to take on the Twins (a Sox sweep). We could look even further and talk about the Sox's amazingly friendly schedule, but given the unknowns with four-fifths of the rotation, it's really a series-to-series trek from here on out.

With regards to the Tigers for the rest of the season, the good news: The Sox face the Tigers four more times, and all four games are at home.

The bad news: All games are in September.

The headline I used for Monday's recap -- "Another September sweep" -- was the same one I used for the last late-season series between the two teams, and that one took place at U.S. Cellular Field. The recap for the finale contained this nugget:

It turned to be a thriller, but the latter party won, as the Tigers scored three runs in the ninth, then tacked on one in the 10th for the second sweep of the Sox in one fortnight. Going back to last year, the the Tigers have swept three September series in a row, and have won 12 straight against the White Sox in this particular month.

Let's update that. Since the first game of this past series took place on Aug. 31, we can only say the White Sox are now 0-14 against the Tigers in September since Sept. 6, 2010. It could have been 15 so easily! This is what passes for consolation these days.

I never pinned the root cause on Ozzie Guillen, because the sources of these no-shows are multifold. However, I did want to see if the mere change of a manager would able to influence the other tumblers, and so far, the answer is a solid "nope."

While looking through the rest of the games, I also took note of Paul Konerko's stat lines. It would be too simplistic to place the blame on one guy out of nine, but my thoughts turned to Konerko out of association, for the Sox looked sad, and nobody looks sadder than Konerko when struggling.

The numbers may surprise you, or they may not.

  • September: .196/.275/.283 over 51 PA
  • Rest of year: .329/.393/.630 over 84 PA

Justin Verlander surely plays a part, because the Sox can't avoid him in September, and Konerko would very much like to (8-for-55 with 16 strikeouts lifetime). After that, it comes down to sample size vagaries, health and emotions (Guillen's lame duck period comes to mind), and there's too much noise to officially pin anything on anybody. It sure would be nice for Konerko to homer in one of these games, just to see if it alters the energy any.

It's not just Konerko, though -- it's the offense, period. The Sox have averaged under three runs a game in these 15 losses in question, and that's not a recipe for success regardless of how the pitchers perform.