And here we go again. For the fourth time this season, the Cleveland Indians are getting ready to square off against the Chicago White Sox.
It’s an important series for both teams. The White Sox (23-22) sit in second place in the AL Central, trailing the Indians by 3.5 games. The Indians, meanwhile, come into tonight’s game red hot having won 8 of their last 10 games, including a three-game sweep of the Detriot Tigers. Despite all of the attention that series got for it’s metaphorical significance, it’s this series against the current second place team in the division that could have the Indians sitting pretty come Memorial Day.
However, success won’t come easy for either team in this series. They’ve already faced off nine times in the first month-and-a-half of the season. This isn’t a case where there are months in between meetings and both teams have drastically changed. Quite the contrary, actually. Both of these teams know each other pretty well at this point. They know each other’s strengths and they know each other’s weaknesses. The bottom line: expect some close, hard-fought baseball games over the coming days.
The White Sox come into tonight’s game on a pretty good tear. They’ve won 7 of their last 10 games and are playing inspired baseball. This isn’t a team many felt could compete for the Central division crown, but thanks to bounceback seasons from Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy, a career year from A.J. Pierzynski, and the ever-consistent Paul Konerko, the White Sox find themselves squarely in the thick of things after almost two months.
It hasn’t been all good, though. Despite the great years by their key cogs, the White Sox still have a lot of questions left to be answered. They have a great number of young players who are just now learning the ropes at the big league level—Alejandro De Aza, Brent Morel, Dayan Viciedo, Chris Sale. For some (De Aza and Sale), the results have been great thus far. For others, it’s been anything but. Morel looks lost at the plate and Viciedo has yet to live up to his billing as one of the top young hitters in the White Sox organization.
Will all of the inexperience be their downfall? It’s possible, so much so that the White Sox have attempted to address it. Thanks in part to Morel hitting the DL, the White Sox went out and signed recently released veteran infielder Orlando Hudson to man the hot corner. It’s an interesting move for two reasons. First, what does it say about their confidence in Morel once he returns from the DL? It seems likely he’s looking at a reduced role or even a trip back to the minors. Second, it shows that this team isn’t interested in rebuilding. By signing Hudson, it tells everyone that the White Sox are all in.
Meanwhile, the Indians need to keep the positive momentum going from their sweep of the Tigers. The past three games served as a statement of their legitimacy in 2012. You could feel it each and every inning as their confidence grew and it was a huge step in their development as contenders. Anything less than winning two of the next three would feel like a disappointment. They have the lead in the division and the goal from here on out should be winning series and continue to widen the gap between themselves and the next best team.