Boy, that Twins series really cured some ills.
Not only did the Sox snap a five-game losing streak, wipe away their deficit to Detroit in the AL Central standings, and rejuvenate their offense with a 26-run, eight-homer outburst, but even the injuries they suffered seem to be of the carefree variety.
Kevin Youkilis said the ankle sprain that took him out of Wednesday's finale is the kind of "stuff" he could play through "all year", and A.J. Pierzynski is set to return Friday as well. On top of that, Dayan Viciedo even managed to not snap his wrist in half while clumsily plummeting into the Earth Wednesday afternoon.
Attendance soared during the three-game set. Monday night's game saw the biggest crowd of the season save for Opening Day at 37,788 with half-price tickets available, but the very next night saw the Sox post their third biggest haul of the year, and they even broke 30,000 again for a getaway day game to eclipse 100,000 for the weekend. Here's guessing most of these tickets were purchased a few weeks ago, and not in the middle of the Detroit weekend.
Anything that expands the White Sox conception of what their budget is--since cash is probably their main trade asset--can only help.
The traditional rivalry might have inspired Sox fans to pack the house for a pick-me-up series against the worst team in the AL, but perhaps they were looking to push the Sox past their traditional stuggles against the chaff of their own division. They went 7-11 against the Royals in 2011, and needed a furious late run against the 99-loss Twins just to split the season series.
The Royals are still nasty little ankle-biters, but making hay against the Twins has been a strength of the season. The Sox are now 7-2 agains the Twinkies, and the two losses were the day of the Kevin Hickey funeral, and domination at the hands of Francisco Liriano. The latter feels a bit better now that it was avenged by tagging Liriano for three home runs Monday, and even with it the Sox have more than done their job.
A team that generally wins 54% of their games taking seven of nine against a team that wins 41% of theirs isn't a given. In fact, the Sox have taken one more game than the pythagorean projection for their 23-run differential against the Twins this season would indicate.
A specific ability to take it to the Twins will be useful, since there are nine games left against them--with another Nick Blackburn start scheduled, no less!--and because it provides such a re-focusing effect. JJ Stankevitz's recap of the series was chocked full of quotes belying a deep sense of satisfaction:
"The boys really came home and swung the bats well these three games and we just played good team baseball," starter Jake Peavy said. "It was nice to come back after the road trip we had, albeit for a short home stand, but we played well."
Youkilis: ""But to come back here after struggling on the road the last road trip, it’s good to come home and win a three-game series. It’s just a week home, but we have to go back on the road and play some good ball, still. We have to go out to Texas and play a good team and try to stay in first place.”
"You almost wish you didn't have an off day just to keep playing," Ventura said.
The Sox can't win the division by crushing the bottom-feeders, but they've doomed past campaigns by failing to do so. For a team that wasn't perceived to have the talent to compete this season, it's amazing how much extra reserves they've revealed by getting out of their own way.