The Chicago White Sox have 30 calendar days, including Tuesday, to wrap up the Al Central. They have 30 days to finish what they started and prove the prognosticators wrong. A scant 30 days to hold off the Detroit Tigers and play postseason baseball.
While baseball is a team game, and the little things like hitting the cut-off man can win or lose a game, individual performances are often what set contenders and pretenders apart.
If the Sox intend on competing for a World Series title, five players need to step up and return to the form that has helped the White Sox get to where they are.
The countdown’s on, in more ways than one.
Follow me @SuggestSmith
Alex Rios checks in at No. 5 on the must step up list.
Formerly the most consistent hitter in the lineup, Rios has underperformed over the last month. In 27 games Rios is hitting .213. More alarming, his OPS, which can be the measure of the No. 5 hitter has dipped to .595 and he has the second fewest RBI out of the White Sox regulars over the last 27.
Rios needs to get his swing back quickly and provide team captain Paul Konerko with the type of protection he had been giving for the majority of the season.
Jesse Crain is the most important right-hander, no offence to Brett Myers or Addison Reed, in the bullpen.
Recently however, his pitching has been less than desirable. Other than Leyson Septimo, his 5.19 ERA over 11 appearances is the worst among relief pitchers.
His control has been at the root of the problem. Seven walks in 11 innings is not what the Sox need when they turn to him in the seventh or eighth inning trying to protect a lead, or keep the White Sox within striking distance.
Crain needs to return to form quickly.
Matt Thornton can be unhittable at times. He can also straighten out his fastball and look pedestrian.
With Hector Santiago’s recent start, the pressure is now, more than ever, on Thornton to be that unhittable guy. While he has been pitching fairly well lately, 3.52 ERA with only one walk over his last nine outings, he is allowing inherited runners to score far too often. Keeping base runners stranded is what, in essence, he gets paid to do.
With Donnie Veal learning how to pitch at the big league level and Septimo struggling with four-pitch walks, Thornton’s time is now.
Jake Peavy may well earn the AL Comeback Player of the Year following his return from a latissimus dorsi injury that required groundbreaking surgical repair. He will not win it based on his last five starts, however.
Over that span, Peavy is 0-3 with a 4.36 ERA and a .287 BAA. With Chris Sale’s recent struggles, Peavy needs to take the starting rotation by the horns and lead them into the postseason.
He has the toughness to deliver, and he deserved at least two victories in those five starts, but he cannot wait. With his next scheduled start Wednesday against the Twins, Peavy can help the club immediately.
Paul Konerko has played fairly well since being activated from the seven-day disabled list following a concussion he suffered against the Kansas City Royals. Over the course of 20 games, Konerko trails only Dewayne Wise in BA, hitting at a .276 clip.
Unfortunately, that number is well below what Konerko is capable of doing.
When Konerko is effective, Adam Dunn sees better pitches and Rios can hit with runners on base, increasing the opportunity for him to drive in big runs.
Konerko has been struggling with runners on recently. Leaving men stranded at second and third in the first inning Monday night is the latest example of him failing to get the job done in a crucial situation.
The order revolves around him, and Konerko had better come through, especially against the Tigers, for the Sox to compete for their first World Series trophy since 2005.