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What Goodwin's walk-off homer says about Sox title pursuits

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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What makes these Chicago White Sox so special?

"We just got dogs," outfielder Brian Goodwin said after smashing a walk-off homer to beat the division-rival Cleveland Indians on Sunday. "We wanted it as bad as any game we've had this season."

Dates with Cleveland don't seem as huge as they did a couple months ago, as the White Sox are in the process of running away and hiding with the American League Central crown. This weekend's series on the South Side was a battle between the White Sox and their closest competition, but with the biggest division lead in baseball — nine games after Sunday's walk-off winner — it's OK to not have considered these among the biggest games of the year.

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But the White Sox themselves don't see things that way, where they are thanks in part to turning sports' oldest cliche of taking things one game at a time into an incredibly effective daily mindset. And it paid off with this series win, a three-game set full of wild games and crazy moments. The standings might have said otherwise, but these were three days' worth of drama on the South Side.

As White Sox fans have been glued to health updates about the team's recovering stars — Eloy Jiménez returning at the beginning of the week, Luis Robert currently on a rehab assignment and not far behind, and Yasmani Grandal working his way back from July knee surgery at a rapid rate — the guys playing fill-in roles have done more than just keep the World Series hopes afloat. They've powered them.

 

That's going to make for some difficult decisions when the White Sox full complement of players returns from various injured-list stays.

Right now, though, it's another defining characteristic of this team, that no matter who is in the lineup on a given day, there seems to be no shortage of heroes.

While all the focus has been on when Jiménez, Robert and Grandal will be back, Goodwin and Gavin Sheets have hit the team's only two walk-off homers of the season. Seby Zavala hit three homers on Saturday night alone.

"We know everybody out there is battling their ass off, they're doing everything they can to get the job done. That's what we take pride in," Goodwin said. "We're just thankful for our guys going up there and fighting. We have anybody up there, any type of situation, we've got confidence that the next guy is going to get it done, like they have been doing. And when it happens, we're grateful, and when it doesn't, we just look for the next opportunity. But we never stop fighting.

"We got a bunch of dudes that come out and give you everything you want and then some. And no backing down."

It can be easy to nitpick, to see cracks in the foundation. And it's been a wonder for months now how far this team can go relying so heavily on bench players. They haven't come down from their perch atop the AL Central, though, even considering that there hasn't been much impeding their dominance of the division. They are finally getting those reinforcements, be they back from long injury recoveries or from the deadline deals of the last several days.

The White Sox are World Series contenders, in part, not because they have a team without a single hole, but because they have such a strong rudder.

Taking their cue from leaders like Tim Anderson and José Abreu, as well as manager Tony La Russa, these White Sox are driven, doing it with an attitude, too. Goodwin's bat launch after smoking the game-winning homer showed that, how much fun this team is having while winning.

The clear focus on the final destination remains. And while spring training is a time when every team talks about championships, by August, only the actual contenders can do that. And the White Sox have not once wavered in their approach to this season.

"We know where we're trying to go, and that's all the way through October," Goodwin said. "Not to get ahead of ourselves, we all know that we've got to take care of business, we've got to take care of the little things, the details, and make sure we handle our stuff the right way.

 

"But everybody's on the same page. We've got the same agenda. We know where we're trying to go and where we want to be when this season ends up.

"We just approach every game like it's our last and play our hearts out, leave it all on the field."

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