The Chicago White Sox survived one of the toughest weeks they’ll face all season, winning five of eight games in a seven-day stretch, punctuated by a resilient Sunday doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees.
This week, the White Sox will get a pair of well-deserved off-days: one coming on Monday and another on Friday. In-between, the White Sox will play five winnable games — three against the Boston Red Sox and two against the Chicago Cubs, with both series at home.
The Red Sox are arguably the hottest team in baseball, riding into town on a five-game winning streak, winning 8 of their last 10 games. However, the White Sox swept Boston on the road last month, and although the Red Sox have been much better as of late, their weak rotation will provide Chicago’s offense an opportunity to heat up.
Speaking of heating up, certain White Sox hitters could use the warm weather and weakened competition to find rhythms at the plate. José Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, and Luis Robert haven’t looked like themselves for most of the season — and yet the White Sox find themselves just 4 1⁄2 games back of the first-place Minnesota Twins.
Other than this week’s competition, why else are the White Sox well-positioned for a run?
- The White Sox are finally seeing production from their non-star hitters. AJ Pollock had a sizzling road trip, at .429 (9-for-21) with a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. Josh Harrison and Leury García are no longer given outs, as both have become somewhat productive hitters in the past week or so. Even Reese McGuire seems to have found something, going 3-for-4 on Sunday night.
- The rotation looks really, really good and will only look better once Lance Lynn returns in the coming weeks. The White Sox seem to have found a diamond in the rough in Johnny Cueto, who has yet to allow a run in his first two starts, each spanning six innings. Dallas Keuchel has been passable, but once Lynn is back, Keuchel seems the obvious boot from the rotation. Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Michael Kopech have been as good as any three-headed monster heading a major league rotation, with the latter two of the three angling for their first All-Star nods.
- The White Sox are doing the little things — aka the things that they kept doing wrong in the first month-plus of the season — in order to win games. One major area of improvement in the past week has been the base-running. The White Sox have been able to maintain aggressiveness on the base paths without running into the outs they did earlier this season. Additionally, the defense has been much better, thanks to the return of Yoán Moncada at third base and the improvement of Tim Anderson after a disastrous first month in the field.
- Lastly, the bullpen is good, and for the first time all year, fully healthy. Liam Hendriks still hasn’t looked as sharp as he did in 2021, but everyone the closer to find his form in short order. Kendall Graveman has played a big role in the back of the bullpen, and with the arrival of Joe Kelly, La Russa will be able to split the high-leverage load between the two experienced set-up men. Aaron Bummer is back from the injured list, Matt Foster looks a whole lot like 2020 Matt Foster, José Ruiz has maintained last season’s form, and the Reynaldo López bullpen conversion that we had all been calling for is officially a success.
The White Sox still have a lot of work to do. Sunday’s games completed one-fourth of the MLB season, which should see a shift in the team’s mentality in coming games: Fewer Sunday lineups, conservative pitching decisions, and less strategy that doesn’t prioritize winning games.
The White Sox look good — and they very well could be looking great if they win at least four of the five games they’ll play this week — but now is the time for the team to finally step on the gas pedal.