They’re pretty darn accomplished and they’re finally off.
As they relax and unwind Monday, their first day off since April 12 and only second scheduled one since the season began, the White Sox have to feel a sense of satisfaction.
Not only do they boast a major-league best 18 wins and they’ve already spent spent 22 days in first place in the American League Central, but the team also conducted itself extremely well during one of its most grueling stretches of the season.
Courtesy of a 7-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, the White Sox finished off a run of 19 games in 19 days, including a dozen on the road, with a 13-6 mark. Given the rash of injuries suffered late in the span, manager Robin Ventura might describe Monday’s brief respite as well earned.
“Everybody’s ready for the off day,” Ventura said. “We knew it was there all along, and I thought the guys have handled it great, just taking care of each day as it comes, and we’ve got some guys who are banged up a little bit, some guys who are going on the (disabled list), and it’s been a pretty active stretch as far as playing games, winning games, losing guys to the DL, guys stepping it up for those guys, and so far it’s been pretty good.”
The schedule has been unrelenting for the White Sox (but more on that in a bit).
What has raised the degree of difficulty is the way players began to drop like flies toward the end of April.
It began April 24 with the hamstring strain that landed catcher Alex Avila on the 15-day DL.
His replacement, Kevan Smith, joined the team and suffered back spasms in pregame stretch on April 26, which not only removed him from making his major league debut, it also put him on the DL.
Closer David Robertson returned to the club Sunday after he missed three of four games in Baltimore to attend the funeral of his father-in-law. The White Sox promoted Daniel Webb to pick up the slack in Robertson’s absence and the right-hander struck out the side in a scoreless inning on Thursday before he went on the DL with right elbow flexor inflammation.
Then on Friday, designated hitter Avisail Garcia tweaked his hamstring running to first on the final play of the game. As of Sunday morning, Ventura said Garcia’s availability for Tuesday might still be in question as Garcia wasn’t going to test the hamstring on Sunday. Garcia briefly tested it Saturday afternoon and said it’s not a serious enough injury to go on the DL, but also ruled himself out of action until at least Tuesday.
And on Sunday, Todd Frazier appeared to be in pain for several minutes after an Ubaldo Jimenez pitch hit him on his hand, though the third baseman wound up staying in the game.
Yet the White Sox endured through all of these speed bumps and closed out a seven-game road trip through Toronto and Baltimore with a win and a 5-2 record.
“We come here (Sunday), we do a job and we’re able to go back home with a lot of positivity and have a nice off day and relax,” second baseman Brett Lawrie said.
The schedule has been anything but kind to the White Sox.
Had it not been for an April 10 rainout, the White Sox would be tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the most games played in the majors. To boot, 17 of their first 26 games have taken place on the road, where the White Sox are off to a 12-5 start, having won three of five series and splitting another.
Their strength of schedule also increased as the month wore on. So far, the White Sox played six teams that finished the 2015 season with a winning record, including two division-winners.
Over their last 10 games, the White Sox played 2015 AL West champs Texas and AL East champs Toronto. They finished off the run with four in Baltimore, a place that has never been friendly, and went 8-2 in the process.
So perhaps the White Sox will give themselves a pat on the back on Monday, or order a hot fudge sundae, or maybe even upgrade from a compact to a mid-size rental.
They’ve handled themselves well through their first real test. And starting pitcher Chris Sale, baseball’s first six-game winner, said Sunday they’ll be ready for the next one, too.
“We’re playing great baseball against good teams,” Sale said. “We had some tough teams to face early on and the way we’ve handled it and the way we’ve played has been great. We go back to Chicago, enjoy the off day and keep it rolling.”