Things aren't going well for the White Sox at the moment. But at least they're going to the playoffs.
They could be in an even less enviable position than their current skid has put them in. They're fighting to finish the season ahead of the Minnesota Twins and win the AL Central crown. But no matter what happens over their final four regular-season games, the franchise's first trip to the postseason in a dozen years is assured.
And in the playoffs, anything can happen.
"Any team is capable of winning it all," catcher Yasmani Grandal, one of the few members of the White Sox roster with extensive playoff experience, said last week. "It's not who's hot during the season, it's who gets hot in the postseason. We've seen cases like the Marlins, who came in as a wild card team and won it all, or we've seen cases like the Nationals last year, who got hot at the right time and end up cruising through and end up winning it all.
"So it doesn't matter how hot you get during the season, it's who gets hot at the right time. And that's pretty much what postseason baseball is: If you get hot during the postseason, you're going to make a run at it and go all the way through it."
Of course, there are two sides to that coin. The White Sox can take solace in the fact that their current status matters not at all compared to their status come Tuesday, when what starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel called "the real games" start. Or they can realize they've hit a nasty stretch at the worst possible time.
Unsurprisingly, they're doing the former.
Obviously, they are still trying to pull themselves out of the tail spin that's seen them lose four straight, five of their last six and six of their last eight. Obviously, they are still chasing after the AL Central crown, which will now rest on the outcome of their final series of the regular season, a three-game weekend set with the Crosstown-rival Cubs.
But they're in the playoffs regardless. And Tuesday can bring a reset, whether they solve their current issues in the next four days or not.
"The beautiful thing is that we are in the playoffs," relief pitcher Aaron Bummer said Thursday. "This isn’t a team that likes to dwell on things. We’re a big believer in it’s a new day and each day is a gift. We’re going to move forward with that.
"It has been a tough stretch, but this doesn’t mean anything in the postseason. As soon as you get to the postseason, you’re 0-0 and your stats don’t count. Whatever it is, your stats basically start over. As long as we get some good mojo going, win a couple of more games, hopefully we get a division.
"Everybody wants to be rolling into the postseason and everybody wants to be the hottest team going in, but at the end of the day, as long as we’re healthy, comfortable, guys are doing what they need to do, and I don’t think this skid is going to continue to last. The guys in our clubhouse are too good, the clubhouse energy is too good, the bats are too strong, the bullpen’s too good, the starting pitching’s too good to kind of keep living in this funk that we’re in."
Things could change as soon as Thursday night, as the White Sox attempt to avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians. They could change this weekend against the Cubs. Or they could change once those records and stats all reset.
The danger is, of course, that they might not change at all, at least not soon enough. The postseason's opening-round is a best-of-three series, and that doesn't leave much room for error. The White Sox have plenty going for them: a lineup capable of exploding at any moment, two MVP candidates in José Abreu and Tim Anderson, two top-of-the-line starting pitchers in Keuchel and Lucas Giolito and a dependable bullpen with a lot of options. But right now, they're not exactly firing on all cylinders. And if that continues for even just a week more, they'll find it very difficult to make it to the ALDS, let alone meet their re-calibrated playoff expectations of winning the World Series.
But don't expect the White Sox to get down in the dumps about it. They're looking forward to that refresh, whether they've got a winning streak, an AL Central championship or none of the above.
"At the end of the day, that’s the goal is to win each and every day," Bummer said. "And if we do that, not only are we going to be in a good spot moving into the postseason, chances are we’ll have a division title in our hands, too."