The Chicago White Sox have a chance to be that team. The one that gets under the skin of the opposition as they watch a mediocre opponent sprawl sharpie all over their designs for October. White Sox fans likely remember the Kansas City Royals playing spoiler to Chicago’s postseason push in 2012 and this is a position the White Sox now find themselves in.
It’s a position they’re seldom in because over the last decade they’ve generally played competitive baseball and in the two years they were down (2007 and 2013) they were so awful that they couldn’t even be classified as a club that could play such a role.
While in 2013 they were a freshly wrapped Christmas gift to a contender, the under .500 White Sox in ’15 actually have a chance to be an under-the-radar roadblock.
Spoiler is a term us downtrodden baseball fans derive as a way to add value to an otherwise meaningless September schedule. It’s the loser’s version of the playoffs, and the catch is that it only applies when your opposition actually has a realistic shot at the Fall Classic.
In other words, the White Sox are set to play the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics quite a bit as the year winds down and these games likely won’t have any sort of postseason ramifications. There are still reasons to tune in of course. Watching September call-ups and Chris Sale‘s dominance to name a few, but you can forget about making popcorn.
In contrast, the White Sox are slated to play a couple of teams still in the race this month and these games should offer a little more intrigue, considering one set happens to be against a classic American League Central rival. No contender wants to face the likes of Sale, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Rodon, not to mention scalding bats such as Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu, so while their record may speak to the contrary, opposing managers aren’t about to write off the White Sox as a free win.
So here’s a breakdown of the games to tune into over the remainder of the season:
The first hopeful victim is the Minnesota Twins.
Starting tonight the White Sox will play a three game series at home against the division foe, who just happens to be only one game behind the Texas Rangers for the second AL Wild Card spot. Here are the pitching probables:
Saturday: LHP Tommy Milone (3.54 ERA) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (3.60 ERA)
Sunday: RHP Kyle Gibson (3.87 ERA) vs. LHP Chris Sale (3.31 ERA)
The first game should give the Twins some trouble as Johnson pitched a fine game against the Royals last week despite giving up three solo shots. If he can limit his mistakes, then Johnson, who posted a 2.37 ERA and a 9.2 SO/9 ratio over 22 starts at Triple-A this season, should be a tough arm for Minnesota to counter.
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Meanwhile, Santana doesn’t provide much confidence, so game one could very well go to the White Sox. Saturday’s game features the ever consistent Quintana squaring up against league ace Clayton Kershaw (I mean Milone and his 0.87 ERA against Chicago).
This one shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for the Twins, unless the White Sox suddenly figure out how to hit a ball out of the infield off of Milone, which the jury remains out on. Then again, facing Quintana isn’t the easiest blueprint to the postseason for Minnesota either.
Finally, there’s Gibson vs. Sale on Sunday. That might seem to favor the White Sox, but Sale has a 6.30 ERA over five starts against the Twins this season. Once again though, on paper he is a weapon another contender would special order to face the team chasing them, so positive regression might finally occur this weekend.
No contender wants to face the likes of Sale, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Rodon.
Overall, the White Sox have a chance to dampen Minnesota’s playoff hopes with a strong showing this weekend. And when the stakes are raised, even if it’s on the oppositions’ end, the games do sport a different atmosphere.
The next chance to play spoiler won’t come until the White Sox face the New York Yankees in the Bronx for a four-game set between September 27th-29th. Yankees games always have a different vibe to them and their home park should be electric as this series takes place toward the end of the season.
Watching Sale strike out Alex Rodriguez to send the Yankees to defeat? Count me in.
Watching Abreu make a joke out of Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field? Worth the price of admission.
Needless to say this should be an exciting series and with the Yankees just 1.5 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL East crown, this set could very well determine which of those two teams is forced to play in the coin flip Wild Card round.
At just four games out of the second Wild Card, the Cleveland Indians could make a final play for the postseason and they’ll face the White Sox in Cleveland from September 18th-20th. In saying that, the White Sox are 6.5 games behind the Texas Rangers so by that point the Indians could actually be the ones playing “spoiler” if the White Sox take advantage of their preceding series against the lowly Oakland Athletics.
Disclaimer: Neither team has a real shot, but I won’t say never because that’s the type of line that can come back to haunt you.
The point is that when the White Sox are hot, they’re one of the toughest teams in the league. This is a team that went on a 9-3 run before the All-Star break, won seven straight before the non-waiver trade deadline, and is currently in the midst of a 5-2 run. They also had legitimate preseason postseason expectations of their own, so unless Jeff Samardzija is on the mound, the White Sox have a chance to shake up the standings and impact the playoff race.