CLEVELAND — The White Sox haven’t been playing very good baseball this season. In fact, they’ve been downright awful.
That’s why the team is hoping that a big series win against Cleveland — just the second series loss for the Indians at Jacobs Field this year — can be the starting point of something big in the second half.
“Every time we play a team in the AL Central, we have to play the best we can,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said after Wednesday’s 5-1 win over the Indians. “I was happy with the way we played. We almost swept them, and that’s not an easy thing to do here with the way they play. You can see it when you look at them — they are ready to have a good run. I’m just happy we were able to slow them down a bit and get a couple wins.”
The series victory didn’t come easy as the White Sox had to hold off a furious rally in the opener, seeing their 11-2 lead in the sixth inning whittled away before holding on for an 11-10 win. They blew a ninth-inning lead in Game 2 and lost in extra innings and found a way to battle through 11 Indians hits in the series finale.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries and we haven’t been able to get on a roll yet,” said designated hitter Jim Thome, who went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks Wednesday. “We haven’t had our team out of spring training, we haven’t had a full lineup for more than 10 games all year. Not as an excuse, but that’s a big thing when you’re missing all those guys.”
The White Sox have used 70 different lineups in 92 games, struggling to a 42-51 record and fourth place in the Central.
“It’s just one start but it’s important to finish the second half strong,” said Mark Buehrle, who picked up Wednesday’s win. “We still have to win series. We felt we should have won three of four from Baltimore, and we could have easily swept these guys. So, we’re playing good ball right now, we just have to finish teams off when we can.
“We’ve got five games coming up against the Central leaders (Detroit), so if we can go out there and play great against those guys, we can try and get back in this thing.”
The White Sox aren’t the only ones who think they can be difference-makers this season.
“Like everyone else in this division, they’re going to be a team to be reckoned with in the second half,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “They’re a good team. Their record is by no means indicative of the talent and ability they have over there.”
While that may be true, not everybody is ready to start calling the White Sox a wild-card contender or even a team that will make a strong run soon.
“We only won one series,” White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. “Winning a series is better than losing a series, but we haven’t made any significant dent in anything yet, either. Maybe it will be the start of something good but we’ll have to wait and see — it’s been a rough year.”
Konerko, who belted a two-run home run in the fourth inning, said the team has been showing signs of progress recently, even before the success appeared on the scoreboard.
“There was a period before we started scoring some runs that we were swinging the bats well, but it wasn’t showing yet,” Konerko said. “We knew we were doing some better things, but it wasn’t coming out yet, so we just stuck to it.
“You can only stink for so long, really. Sooner or later it’s going to come around.”
Konerko also offered the best reasoning for why the White Sox were able to find success at Jacobs Field and become the first team to beat the Indians in the third game of a three-game series in 11 attempts.
“Anyone who looked at this series beforehand I’m sure would have made (the Indians) heavy favorites, at home and everything considered — but that’s why you play the games,” Konerko said. “But you also have to understand that we didn’t face their top horses — their two guys that have been money all year — and that always helps. We know that (C.C.) Sabathia and (Fausto) Carmona are their big guys this year.”
Sabathia leads the Indians with a 12-4 record, and Carmona is right behind at 11-4. The White Sox faced Cliff Lee (5-6), Paul Byrd (7-4) and Jake Westbrook (1-5) — losing the game that Byrd pitched.
While the Indians’ dominance was put on hold over three days, Thome was booed every time he came up at Jacobs Field.
“I have a lot of respect for Cleveland,” he said. “I spent a lot of time here and there’s a special place for me here — that’ll never change.
“I was given an opportunity here, they treated me extremely well and I have the utmost respect for a lot of those people (who boo me).”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.