Before the first pitch of the regular season was thrown, I wrote an article stating that Kenny Williams had turned the Chicago White Sox from bad to worse ever since their championship run in 2005. I talked of bad moves, chasing names, trading the entire farm system and said this year's slogan should be "All Outs."
I thought that with the team Detroit had, there was no way that a Sox squad with has-been players way past their primes could compete. Detroit was going to run away with the AL Central.
My opinions were obviously entirely off base, and I offer my sincerest apologies for underestimating a team that just hasn't quit.
The resolve of this White Sox team has been impressive to say the least. The pitching has been great, the hitting has been (for the most part) timely, and there are two bona fide candidates for comeback player of the year in Adam Dunn and Alex Rios. This, combined with the calming influence of rookie manager Robin Ventura, has equated to a three-game division lead over Detroit going into September.
Jake Peavy takes the mound for the White Sox Friday evening against Doug Fister of the Tigers. This is followed by Francisco Liriano against Max Scherzer on Saturday and a battle between two Cy Young candidates on Sunday in Chris Sale and Justin Verlander.
The nice thing about this upcoming series with Detroit is that even if the Tigers sweep the White Sox again as they did earlier this summer, Chicago will have no worse than a tie for first place going into a 10-game homestand. Heck, if the Sox only take one game out of three, they will still have a two-game lead going into that homestand.
That's great news, right? Everything is coming up roses.
But that line of thinking is what losers say. And if there is one thing the 2012 Chicago White Sox have shown, it's that they are not losers.
The White Sox have a very real chance to squash Detroit's hopes of winning the AL Central title right here, right now.
Sweeping the Tigers would not literally win the division, but it would completely demoralize a team that has already disappointed this year. The psychological impact of a White Sox sweep over Detroit in Comerica Park would be devastating.
Think about it: Each team has 32 games left on their schedules. Both have a majority of games with the Twins, Indians and Royals (19 for the Tigers, 18 for the White Sox—and be careful with those Royals...apparently they aren't pushovers anymore).
So neither team really has an advantage as to who it plays.
However, the White Sox have that 10-game homestand coming up after this three-game tilt in Motown, currently have a three-game lead, and the last four games of that homestand are against Detroit.
A sweep in Comerica this weekend would crush the Tigers. There is no way they would be relishing going out on the road to play the Los Angeles Angels (who are also fighting for a playoff spot) and then going into Chicago with a six-game deficit or larger.
Detroit knows that this weekend's series is do-or-die. Anything less than a series win for the Tigers could mean their demise.
But if they get swept? It's over.
The White Sox have their shot to end things early and throw the knockout punch. If they don't do it, and the Tigers win the series or get a sweep over the White Sox themselves, it's going to be a long, tough road to the finish line with no guarantee of emerging victorious.
The White Sox need to treat this series like the playoffs and play like they are division winners even though that crown hasn't been awarded yet.
It starts tonight with Jake Peavy. Hopefully, he and the White Sox have the killer instinct they need.