'United' White Sox seeing better days ahead in second half
On May 17, the White Sox beat the Royals in Game 1 of a doubleheader and improved their record to 18-17.
That's the last time the Sox have been above .500, a shocking stat for a team that went 93-69 last season and was expected to be as good or better this year.
The highlights were sparse during the first half and fans were frequently flustered by the sloppy defensive play, bad baserunning, inconsistent offense and manager Tony La Russa's decision making.
On the plus side, the White Sox played their best baseball of the season last week. They split a four-game series at second-place Cleveland after losing the first two and moved on to first-place Minnesota, winning three of four to close out the first half.
All of the sudden, the Sox are only 3 games behind the Twins in the AL Central and they're back at .500 with a 46-46 record.
"We all know the kind of team that we have and the kind of team that we are," first baseman Jose Abreu said after Sunday's 11-0 win over Minnesota. "It's not easy when things aren't going your way or when injuries are affecting you. But everybody pushed and gave their best effort and we got to this point. It wasn't easy.
"The most important thing when you are passing through bad patches is to stay united, and we did. We're united."
As the White Sox prepare to open the second half of the season Friday night against the Guardians at Guaranteed Rate Field, here are five things to watch:
In or out?
Center fielder Luis Robert and left fielder Eloy Jimenez are two potent bats the Sox are going to need if they hope to make a third straight trip to the playoffs.
Robert had to leave last Friday's game against the Twins after feeling lightheaded and he didn't play Saturday or Sunday.
He was scheduled to be checked out Monday.
"Fingers crossed, eyes crossed, legs crossed," La Russa said. "Let the experts look at him. It's important and hope for the best."
Jimenez left last Wednesday's game at Cleveland with right leg tightness and sat out the final four games before the all-star break.
The Sox are hoping Jimenez is just experiencing scar tissue issues following late April surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right hamstring.
When he feels good, he plays good.
Unfortunately for Yasmani Grandal -- and the White Sox -- the switch-hitting catcher had a knee injury last year and was limited to 93 games.
Grandal has only played 50 games this season due to a back injury that also affected his left leg.
On a rehab assignment with Class AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte since July 7, Grandal has hit .360/.579/.600 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI in 9 games.
He could be back in the Sox's lineup Friday night, which would give the offense a nice boost.
"Hopefully, when I come back in the second half we can make a strong run out of this thing and go from there," Grandal said the day before reporting to Birmingham.
After having knee surgery in early April and missing the first two months of the season, Lynn returned and was expected to be one of the White Sox's top starting pitchers like he was last year.
Through 7 starts, the 35-year-old righty has been a liability with a 1-3 record and 7.50 ERA.
"It's been pushing pretty hard since surgery to try to get back, try to be on the field and be productive," Lynn said after giving up 6 run in 5 innings at Minnesota last Saturday. "Got back, pushing hard there and now it's take a deep breath and get ready for the second half and be the pitcher you have been before. Trying to play catch-up when you're recovering, it's not fun, but I have the stuff to do it."
They're done playing the Yankees (7 games).
Done with the Rays (6 games) and Dodgers (3 games).
The Sox have a much easier go in the second half of the season, at least on paper.
Beginning July 26, they play 19 straight games against the Rockies (43-50), Athletics (32-61), Royals (36-56) and Tigers (37-55).
At some point during that easy stretch of schedule, look for the White Sox to move into first place in the AL Central, assuming they figure out how to start winning at home.
The Sox's bullpen was a strength over the last three weeks of the first half, and Lopez really stepped up.
A former starter, then spot starter and long reliever, Lopez has allowed only 2 earned runs over his last 20 innings and he's thriving after being moved into higher leverage situations late in games.