Hot Sox can be better within division
The White Sox enter the second half of the season with a one-half game lead and an eight-game winning streak, but there’s room for improvement in the American League Central as far as Gordon Beckham is concerned.
“Our record against the Central in the first half is not good enough to win the Central in the second half,” Beckham said before the Sox open a four-game series tonight visiting the division rival Twins. “So we have to play better against the Central, and record-wise, we’re playing better teams more often in the second half.
“We have to play better against teams in our division, hands down.”
The series at Target Field is just the start of a daunting second half for the Sox, who are 16-17 against division foes.
In addition to 13 games left against the Twins, the Sox play second-place Detroit 14 times, starting with an Aug. 3 doubleheader at Comerica Park.
The Sox’s 25-5 run to the All-Star break prevented a breakup of their roster. It also put more scrutiny on their performance as general manager Ken Williams searches for ways to fortify a pitching staff without Jake Peavy.
“Obviously, games early in the year aren’t as important, per se, as you make the stretch run,” Mark Kotsay said. “Every game is important, but at the time and moment, you don’t realize it.
“So the second half gets more attention. Baseball seems to be better and teams seem to play to higher levels. We’re playing at that level now.”
The players also realize the Twins’ series isn’t a make-or-break showdown. The Sox opened the second half of 2005 with a four-game sweep of the Indians to stretch their lead to 12 games that was expanded two weeks later to 15, only to see their lead shrink to 1˝ games with 11 games left before the held on.
“We have a long tough trip to places that always have been tough on us, so the first 10 games after the break will be important,” said A.J. Pierzynski, referring to stops in Seattle and Oakland after the Twins’ series.
“Hopefully we can do well in Minnesota, and it will carry over and we’ll see what happens.”
Although much of the pre-season attention surrounded the quality of the Sox’s rotation and the Twins’ free-agent signings of Jim Thome and Orlando Hudson and acquisition of J.J. Hardy, the Tigers have remained a strong factor with rookies Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch.
“They have been overlooked for a while,” All-Star reliever Matt Thornton said. “But what they’ve gotten off to is impressive. Their lineup is pretty good. Whenever you have two rookies in Boesch and Jackson surrounding (Miguel) Cabrera, (Magglio) Ordonez and (Carlos) Guillen, that’s a good lineup. (Johnny) Damon is one of the most consistent professionals in the game.
“All you have to do is pitch, and they’re going to win games. And we have a lot of games left.”