Simply put, the situation facing the Chicago White Sox as they enter their matchup with the Cleveland Guardians is do or die. Either sweep the Guardians to keep playoff hopes alive or watch the season come to an end.
The Guardians come to Guaranteed Rate Field on Tuesday for a critical three-game series. Following their 11-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday, the Guardians own a four-game lead over the White Sox in the American League Central division. Their magic number to win the division is 12.
If the White Sox can pull off a sweep that would put them one game behind the Guardians with 12 games left on both teams’ schedules.
Neither plays each other the rest of the way after that but the White Sox will close out with Detroit, San Diego, and Minnesota. The Guardians will finish up with Texas, Tampa Bay, and Kansas City.
The necessity to sweep the Guardians cannot be overstated as it would give the White Sox the tiebreaker over the Guardians should the two teams finish the regular season with the same record.
There is no game 163 this year to determine a playoff spot as the first tiebreaker is head-to-head matchups. Going into the series, the Guardians have the edge of nine games to seven.
Should the White Sox take two of three games, the lead would drop down to three games, still leaving them with a mathematical chance of getting into the playoffs.
But the White Sox would need not only to win as many as they can down the stretch but would need some help along the way.
The Chicago White Sox must beat the Cleveland Guardians in this series.
Cleveland is 2-1 for the year against the Rangers and Rays and 8-5 versus the Royals. The White Sox have owned the Tigers with a 12-4 mark but have yet to play the Padres this season and are 6-7 against the Twins.
What may be of help to the White Sox is the Rays are the only team remaining on either schedule that is fighting for playoff position. Tampa is currently the number two wild card team, just a half-game behind the Toronto Blue Jays and one game up on the Seattle Mariners.
While the Guardians have had the White Sox number so far this year, the Southsiders have been playing much better under interim manager Miguel Cairo and are 6-5 in their last 11 games with Cleveland, including their 8-2 victory back on September 15th.
Coming into Tuesday’s game, the White Sox are 13-6 since Cairo took over for Tony La Russa on August 30th.
The White Sox have set up their pitching rotation for the series with Cy Young candidate Dylan Cease leading off followed by Lance Lynn and Johnny Cueto. The Guardians will go with Aaron Civale in game one with Triston McKenzie in game two and Shane Bieber in the series finale.
McKenzie has been very tough on the White Sox in three games with a 2.12 earned run average and 22 strikeouts in 17 innings. Bieber has been just as tough as he has also recorded 22 K’s over 27.1 innings while posting a .202 batting average. Civale has only pitched one inning against the White Sox giving up two hits but allowing no runs.
The Guardians have been mostly consistent this season and don’t make many mistakes in the field or on the base paths, both of which have been areas of concern for the White Sox.
In addition to having to play clean baseball, the White Sox can ill afford to not take advantage when runners are in scoring position. That was a problem for the White Sox in the first two games against Detroit last weekend when they went an embarrassing 5-24 with RISP.
Despite how poorly the team has performed this season, the White Sox still has a chance to make the playoffs. However, the team will need to play its best baseball over the next three days if they hope to keep their season alive.