Baseball being a zero-sum game, somebody was going to be benefit from the White Sox following up a 23-10 start with a 10-26 stretch.
That team is the Cleveland Indians. At the same time the Sox were winning 23 of 33, the Indians were in the process of losing two of three to the Twins to fall to .500. Now, with an 8-3 stomping of the Braves, they’re winners of 10 in a row, propelling them to 45-30 and five games up in the American League Central. The White Sox sit seven games back.
There’s really no way to knock Cleveland’s streak. They haven’t beat any playoff-bound teams, but they’ve swept the White Sox and they’ve run their record to 9-0 against a team the White Sox can’t beat (the Tigers). Three games against the Rays and one against Atlanta are less impressive, but considering the Indians lost four of six to the Twins earlier this season, it’s not like records dictate the score. The Indians have outscored their opponents 68-22 over this stretch.
Besides, the White Sox have a similar soft spot to seize between now and the All-Star break, boosted by a sorely needed off day. It starts with three games against the Twins, a team against which the White Sox are undefeated this year. That series is followed by three-game series against the Astros, the Yankees and the Braves. If you extend it past the break, the second half starts with a West Coast trip to Anaheim and Seattle. The Astros are legit, erasing a 7-17 April by going 33-20 since. All of the other teams on this stretch are in equal-to-worse positions than the Sox.
This is one of those telling moments during this period of parity. We’ve started the last two seasons asking, "Where will the American League losses come from?" It hasn’t been a question posed from a position of power. It’s closer to the idea that if you’re at a table and can’t identify the sucker, you’re the sucker.
The Yankees serve as a cautionary tale. They fought their way to .500 and had a chance to gain ground in the AL East with 11 games alternating series with the Rockies and Twins. Hay was not made. The Yankees finished with a winning record (6-5), but after losing the finale to the Twins on Sunday, they ended up dropping two games further back of Baltimore by the end of it. They look at it as a squandered opportunity:
"We really struggled with Colorado, we were 1-3 against them, and you win five of seven against Minnesota, you can live with that, but the 1-3 against Colorado we did not play well against them and we were fortunate to win one game,’’ manager Joe Girardi said. "We need to make up ground. No matter who we are playing we need to win series. We won a series here [two of three], but it’s frustrating. We had a situation where we won three in a row there and we weren’t able to win the fourth. We won two in a row and not able to win the third. Like I said the teams in front of us are playing well.’’
Now they’re in Texas, and they’ll head to San Diego, Chicago and Cleveland to close out their first half.
By the time the Yankees and the White Sox meet, it could be rather telling. White Sox fans could look at a team like the Yankees and say, "At least the difficult series are behind us for a while." If the Sox can’t keep winning series through Houston, Yankees fans could look at the White Sox and say, "Good, a breather before Cleveland."