The White Sox schedule is here.
Get ready for 60 games of South Side baseball in a mad dash to the postseason. The White Sox have high expectations that they've carried with them from January into spring training and all the way through the months-long layoff due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With the season squeezed down from the typical six-month marathon to the two-month sprint to October, every game holds twice or thrice as much weight as usual, and some of the players are already predicting a playoff-style atmosphere from Day 1.
While that situation makes all 60 games important, here are five key series on the White Sox schedule, games against common foes — and one less frequent opponent — that could determine just how close the South Siders are from making their leap out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode.
vs. Twins: July 24, 25 and 26
The most anticipated season of South Side baseball in years will finally begin at the end of the month, and what better opponent than the reigning AL Central champs? The Twins shot to the top of baseball's record books last season, slugging a total of 307 home runs, the most in baseball history. And then they beefed up that lineup even more, adding perennial MVP candidate Josh Donaldson on a free-agent contract. But while the Twins swing some menacing sticks, it will be interesting to see if their starting rotation past ace José Berríos can inspire similar fear in opposing hitters.
The White Sox, should everything go right, could find themselves with a more balanced group. But the highlight of any meeting between the two clubs will be whether the White Sox can match the offensive firepower with their own rebuilt lineup. The additions of Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnación, Nomar Mazara and highly touted prospect Luis Robert combined with an impressive core group of José Abreu, Yoán Moncada, Tim Anderson and Eloy Jiménez could make for an opening-weekend slugfest on the South Side.
If the White Sox are going to make a play for the division title, they'll need to go through the Twins. Fortunately for them, seven of the 10 games they play against the Land of 10,000 Lakers will come at Guaranteed Rate Field. And considering how much everyone's been talking about the importance of a good start in this 60-game sprint to the postseason, the first series of the year will be a big one, indeed.
vs. Cardinals: Aug. 13, 15 and 16
The showcase event of the White Sox season was always scheduled to be the Field of Dreams game in Iowa. And though Major League Baseball had to cancel the London series and the All-Star Game, the game to be played in the middle of a cornfield is still on the docket. Instead of the Yankees, though, the White Sox will square off against the Cardinals in Dyersville, Iowa. It should make for an interesting watch on TV, considering the setting, celebrating the baseball movie "Field of Dreams," which came out in 1989 and featured White Sox legend Shoeless Joe Jackson among its characters. And it will provide the White Sox with a chance to show off their rebuilt squad to a national audience.
As for the series itself, the White Sox will play host to the Cardinals on the South Side, after an off day, for two more games. The Redbirds are the reigning NL Central champs and a perennial playoff contender, meaning they should provide the White Sox with a solid measuring stick when it comes to their own playoff aspirations. Plus, whether in the cornfield or back at The Rate, we could see a matchup between two of the best young pitchers in the game: Lucas Giolito and Jack Flaherty, who also happen to be former high school teammates.
vs. Royals: Aug. 28, 29 and 30
While it's difficult to exactly pinpoint any "benefits" certain teams might have over others during this season of unknowns, the White Sox playing a third of their games against the Royals and Tigers seems to be an opportunity for a big one. Obviously, the Twins and the Indians could reap the same rewards. But a combined 20 games against two teams that lost more than 100 games apiece last season is a nice scheduling bonus.
Against the Royals, in particular, the White Sox have a weapon that could prove very effective: Giolito. He's thrived against the Royals during his big league career. In a dozen starts, he owns a 2.75 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 75.1 innings. Last year, when Giolito transformed himself from the pitcher with the worst stats in baseball to an All Star, he made a half dozen starts against the division foes and posted a 3.16 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 37 innings. Who knows how "normal" Rick Renteria's management of his pitching staff will be this season, but if he gets really creative, we could see Giolito deployed against the Royals a bunch. Feasting on the Royals, as well as the rebuilding Tigers, will be essential to the White Sox meeting their high expectations for 2020.
at Indians: Sept. 21, 22, 23 and 24
While the road to the AL Central crown goes through the Twin Cities, this figures to be more than just a two-team race. The White Sox also have to leap over the Indians if they want access to the top of the division standings. And that won't be an easy feat, considering how stacked the Indians' starting rotation is. It might be the best in baseball, with Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Zach Plesac and other imposing arms behind them. Plus, though the Indians' lineup is undoubtedly top heavy, they still boast a pair of MVP types in Francisco Lindor and José Ramírez on the left side of the infield.
And then there's the White Sox sobering trend of results in Cleveland in recent seasons. Though rebuilding years that ended with 95, 100 and 89 losses featured defeats everywhere, things were particularly tough at Progressive Field, where they lost 18 times the last three seasons. The White Sox have a lot of things to accomplish to get out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. Winning in Cleveland is among them, and with four games there in the penultimate series of the season, there could be a lot on the line.
vs. Cubs: Sept. 25, 26 and 27
The White Sox will see their Crosstown rivals in two separate series this season, the first coming in late August on the North Side. But this one to close out the regular season at The Rate will be, as the kids say, lit. (Do the kids still say that?) Both Chicago teams enter the season with realistic expectations of continuing to play into October, and with 10 percent of their games against each other, it's not outlandish to suggest that this season's Crosstown get togethers could mean more than ever before, the 1906 World Series excluded.
While any White Sox series against the Cubs is enough to get fans excited, the two teams look pretty evenly matched this season, should the starting pitching pan out on both sides of town. Jose Quintana's season is in jeopardy after he sustained an injury while washing dishes, so a rematch with their old mate might not end up in the cards. But certainly White Sox fans will be looking for another "thanks, Cubs" moment from Jiménez. And Dylan Cease could be on the bump in a critical game against the organization that traded him away. All with the playoffs potentially on the line.
So that typical level of excitement that usually accompanies Crosstown matchups? Crank it up to 11 for this season-closing series on the South Side.