The "musts" I posted on Friday and reviewed on Saturday were things that I felt the White Sox needed to do to win this weekend's crucial series against the Tigers in Detroit. That's all moot now as the Sox have to just find a way, any way, to salvage one game and break their streak of six consecutive losses and 17 of 20 in their new-found house of horrors. If not, the Sox will lose their advantage and will be in a dead heat with the Tigers on top of the division as we head down the stretch.
Oh, I should mention the White Sox have to do it against last year's MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, who has not matched 2011's magical season, but is still 12-7 with a 2.80 ERA. And they'll have to do it on the Sunday Night Baseball telecast in front of a packed house in Detroit and a nationally-televised audience.
The Sox hopes are in the hands of Chris Sale, who despite a rough outing in Baltimore last week, has performed at a Cy Young-candidate level all season. His 15-5 record and 2.81 ERA attest to that. To beat the Tigers, he has to rebound from his O's outing and avoid the pitching staff's recent problem of walking batters, who inevitably come around to score. Francisco Liriano made it an art form last night in the 5-1 loss by walking seven in only four innings on an even 100 pitches.
The key here is to keep the Sox in the game to where they don't have to score a whole lot to win. Because based on the last six games, in which the South Siders have lost five, the offense has been stagnant except for the eight runs they scored in their lone victory last Wednesday since the unblemished 6-0 homestand against the Yankees and Mariners.
The offense is simply not rising to the occasion--the occasion being the battle for the A.L. Central title. And what makes it worse is that more, not less, runs are needed because of several pitchers tiring after having pitched more innings than they ever have.
A victory tonight will go along way from keeping Sox fans off of the proverbial ledge. It will put them two games ahead of the Tigers in the division race, overcome the recent skid at Comerica, and give the Good Guys some confidence as they head home to face the Twins, hard-to-beat Royals and Tigers again, September 10-13, for four huge games.
Can they do it?