The Chicago White Sox have played better at U.S. Cellular Field as the 2012 season has unfolded. That trend needs to continue in a pair of crucial series that close out their current homestand.
Chicago has reversed their home fortunes from early in the season, and currently are playing nearly .600 baseball on the South Side. They need a series win against the Kansas City Royals, who are in town this weekend. In this four-game series with the Detroit Tigers, the White Sox must garner a split at the very least.
It would be easy to focus on the upcoming showdown with Detroit, which is crucial to the AL Central race. However, Chicago has been nearly as bad against the Royals as they have when facing the Tigers.
An 8-18 record against their next two opponents says it all. The White Sox can not afford to be on the losing end of the next seven games.
The Tigers are in Los Angeles for what figures to be a tough three-game set with the Angels. Detroit has to be thinking about pulling into Chicago with a chance to wrest control of the division. It's hard to rule that out seeing as how both the Tigers and Royals have swept the White Sox in the last meetings.
Chicago has to break out the lumber against some arms that have been effective against them in the past, starting with Luis Mendoza. Bruce Chen, another guy that has given the White Sox fits, also pitches this weekend.
Jeremy Guthrie, who has a 4-0 record and a 2.12 ERA over his last six starts, faces the White Sox Sunday. He did not allow an earned run in 7.2 innings in Kansas City back on August 19. He wasn't the pitcher of record, though, as the Royals won that game 5-2 to complete the sweep.
Chicago still has not officially named a starter to face Guthrie, but it looks to be Hector Santiago. Francisco Liriano and Chris Sale will toss the first two games with Kansas City.
This could well be a season-defining stretch for the White Sox, who bounced back from last weekend's three losses to Detroit by taking two of three from the Twins. Five or six wins over the next week could put them in the driver's seat in terms of the AL Central. With a one-game lead over the Tigers, Chicago could also put themselves in a tough spot with a poor showing.
Following the run at home, there will still be almost three weeks of action before the close of the regular season. In a tight race, that's still enough time for things to turn one way or the other. However, the next seven games are likely to have a big say in how those final games unfold.