The White Sox recognize they’re in a race against time to make a playoff push. But, as they’ve done all year, this is a group of players that's staying level-headed through both the good and the bad.
On Sunday, it was more of the bad side of the White Sox as Jeff Samardzija was torched for nine runs in a 12-3 loss to the New York Yankees in front of a sellout crowd of 38,840 at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox weren’t able to take a series from the American League East leaders and remain three and a half games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second wild card spot.
“We are going to put this one behind us,” manager Robin Ventura said. “They beat us and we’ve got to get ready for tomorrow. I’ll take my chances with Shark anytime he goes out there.”
The White Sox decided to hang on to Samardzija and stand pat at the trade deadline after winning seven straight games last month, which vaulted them from the periphery to the center of the American League wild card race. Even though they’re three games under .500, the White Sox are in contention for a postseason berth with its competition a rickety Twins club, a Tigers team that sold David Price, Joakim Soria and Yoenis Cespedes last week, a middling Rangers side needing a boost from Cole Hamels and an AL East that could cannibalize its wild card contenders.
Still, a sub-optimal first half put the White Sox in an unenviable position in which they can’t afford to let three losses in their last four games grow into something more damaging.
“We know our backs are up against the wall and we need to win as many as possible as soon as possible,” Samardzija said. “The same thing applies for me that applies to everybody. Show up and turn the page and go get them tomorrow. We have a new series and another chance to win a series.”
Samardzija was tagged for nine runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings, with the Yankees plating eight of those runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Despite beating New York, 8-2, Saturday night, the White Sox were outscored by 16 runs in their last four games.
Things don’t get any easier for the White Sox after the Yankees leave town. A three-game home series against the fellow wild card contending Tampa Bay Rays begins Monday, and after that the White Sox play 13 consecutive games against teams currently over .500 (three at the Kansas City Royals, three vs. the Los Angeles Angels, three vs. the Cubs, four at the Angels).
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
We’ll have a good idea by the middle of August if the team’s seven-game winning streak was the product of playing last-place teams in Cleveland and Boston or if it really was a sign of things turning around on 35th and Shields.
“I feel that these guys have been playing great baseball,” catcher Geovany Soto said. “We have a first-place team (the Yankees) over there and they have a great lineup. We lost two out of three but we’re going to keep battling, keep trying to win series and see where we are in September.”
But at some point, the White Sox won’t be able to shrug off blowout losses. The White Sox have 59 games left and would have to go 38-21 to win 88 games, the total Oakland had to clinch the second AL wild card spot in 2014. Even if it takes fewer wins to get into the one-game wild card playoff this year, the White Sox still likely will need about a .600 winning percentage down the stretch to have a shot at playing deep into October.
There's a confidence in the White Sox clubhouse, though, that this team has the players necessary to negotiate the day-to-day grind of a playoff race in August and September.
“We have a great team and we can compete against anybody,” Soto said. “I feel like a lot of these guys in this clubhouse were determined to compete and we have to go play. I feel that against anybody we match up well.”