Here come the Rays. Suffice it to say, the next 3 games at U.S. Cellular should have the proverbial "playoff atmosphere".
Game 1 - John Danks (10-5, 3.11 ERA) against Edwin Jackson (9-8, 3.97 ERA).
Danks is 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings pitched vs. the Rays. Jackson is 0-2 with a 8.71 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched vs. the Sox.
Game 2 - Javier Vazquez (10-10, 4.34 ERA) against Scott Kazmir (9-6, 3.21 ERA).
Vazquez is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched vs. the Rays. Kazmir is 1-0 with a 0.00 in 7 innings pitched vs. Sox.
Game 3 - Mark Buehrle (11-10, 3.91 ERA) against Andy Sonnanstine (13-6, 4.37).
Buehrle is 0-1 with 5.54 ERA in 13 innings pitched vs. the Rays. Sonnanstine is 1-0 with 1.84 ERA in 14.2 innings pitched vs. Sox.
The matchup that intrigues me is Vazquez vs. Kazmir. Let's see if Javy can continue the nice little roll he's on. Think the Mets wish they still had Kazmir?
The White Sox are 1-2 vs. Rays this year. Game 1 was W, 5-1. Game 2 L, 2-1 and Game 3 L, 4-3. The games were played May 29-31 at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay is 30-31 on the road. White Sox are 45-19 at home.
The Rays have out scored their opposition 50 to 31 while going 7-3 in their last 10 games.
White Sox have out scored their oppostion 75 to 23 while going 8-2 in their last 10 games.
So far this year.....
Jim Thome is 9 for 23 (.391) with 4 Doubles, 2 Home Runs and 7 RBI vs. Rays.
Alexei Ramirez is 7 for 19 (.368) with 2 Doubles, 1 Home Run and 3 RBI vs. Rays.
Jermaine Dye is 6 for 24 (.250) with 1 Double, 1 Triple and 3 RBI vs. Rays
Carlos Quentin 5 for 21 (.238) with 2 Doubles and 0 Home Runs vs. Rays
Paul Konerko is 4 for 22 (.182) with 2 Home Runs vs. Rays.
*Alexei Ramirez has reached base safely in 15 consecutive games.
According to Dayn Perry of Foxsports.com:
Remaining Opponents' Avg. Win%: .524
Home Games Left/Road Games Left: 17/19
Biggest Series: 9/23-9/25 @Twins
The schedule isn't easy for the South Siders, but considering how many road games Minnesota has in the coming weeks, it's still an edge for the Sox. The goal is to build upon their narrow division lead and make that late September series against the Twins a little less meaningful.
Fatal Flaw: Back of the rotation
Fifth starters aren't concerns in the postseason, but they're very much concerns when you're fighting to get to the postseason. Once the season-ending injury to Jose Contreras forced Clayton Richard into the mix, the White Sox had something to worry about. Richard has some potential going forward, but he's been bombed thus far in his brief major-league career. Locked in a tight race with the Twins, the Sox can't afford much of a learning curve. There's still time to make a trade, but a terribly thin minor-league system and the waiver process complicate matters for GM Ken Williams.
Remaining Opponents' Avg. Win%: .500
Home Games Left/Road Games Left: 12/24
Biggest Series: 9/23-9/25 White Sox
Thanks to the Republican National Convention's arrival in Minneapolis, the Twins are about to play 14 straight on the road. In 2008, they're just 26-31 away from home, so it's obviously a crucial stretch. Worse for the Twins' hopes is that, from this point forward, they play twice as many games on the road.
Fatal Flaw: Center field
Carlos Gomez has a decent ceiling, but this year he's been simply awful at the plate. Gomez is hitting .250 AVG/.286 OBP/.338 SLG, while the average major-league center fielder has a batting line of .267 AVG/.333OBP/.420 SLG. He's not doing his job in 2008, and the Twins are the worse for it.
*The Twins upcoming trip will take them an estimated 6,234 miles to Anaheim, Seattle, Oakland, Toronto and back to the Twin Cities.
According to WhiteSox.com:
At this point last season, the Rays were 47-76 (.382), the worst winning percentage in baseball. As of Wednesday, they were tied with the Cubs for the best winning percentage in baseball at .616, a difference of .234.
The White Sox, who just surpassed their win total from last season with Wednesday's win against Seattle, have improved from 54-69 (.439) to 73-53 (.579), a difference of .137.
White Sox first round pick SS Gordon Beckham has played 5 games for Class A Kannapolis Intimidators. He's currently 10 for 19 (.526) with 2 Doubles, 1 Home Run and 3 RBI.