White Sox

White Sox 2020 schedule: 5 key series during 60-game race for AL Central crown

White Sox 2020 schedule: 5 key series during 60-game race for AL Central crown

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.

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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.

RELATED: White Sox rookie Luis Robert confident in 'pretty hot' start to his '20 season

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.

RELATED: Carlos Rodón has something to prove: 'It feels like I'm kind of brand new'

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.


White Sox end streak, stay confident: 'We are going to do the pushing around'

White Sox end streak, stay confident: 'We are going to do the pushing around'

The White Sox winning streak is over.

So why was Danny Mendick so chipper after a 1-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night?

His three hits might have had something to do with it. He was just about the only offense the White Sox mustered against Adrian Houser and a pair of relievers.

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But it seemed to stem more from the different feeling surrounding this year's White Sox team.

Mendick got a taste, however small, of the rebuilding years at the tail end of the 2019 season. After Yoán Moncada and Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito and Eloy Jiménez broke out the way they did during that campaign, Rick Hahn's front office complemented them with a host of impact veteran additions during the offseason. Throw it all together, and these White Sox have the look of a potential contender, something backed up by the way they played during their six-game win streak.

That's over now, though Wednesday's game had the same kind of playoff feel that the first two games against the Brewers did on Monday and Tuesday nights. The White Sox might not have played any games that felt like these in the last three years. Now there have been three in three nights.

So yeah, something's changed.

"I’ll tell you what, just the energy in the clubhouse," Mendick said Wednesday, asked about the difference between 2019 and 2020. "When we show up to the field, there’s more confidence.

"It’s not like we are going to get pushed around. It’s more like we are going to do the pushing around.

"Everyone is just prepared. Everyone shows up to the field ready. They know the opponent. We know what they are going to bring. I feel there’s just more, how do I say this, more education. We have more veterans. We have guys who are really focused on baseball, and it brings a lot to everybody."

RELATED: White Sox manager Rick Renteria finally has talent — and knows what to do with it

The six-game win streak turned the White Sox slow 1-4 start around in a hurry. In this shortened, 60-game season, every game means so much and even modest winning or losing streaks could tug the entire season in one direction or the other. The White Sox went from getting their brains beat in by the class of the AL Central to the third best record in the American League as of Wednesday morning.

They've showed what they're capable of, too. They blew out the Kansas City Royals, scoring a combined 20 runs and knocking out a total of 35 hits in back-to-back wins last weekend. Then they went to Milwaukee and won a pair of nail-biters, getting clutch hits from José Abreu and Jiménez to back strong efforts by the bullpen Monday and Giolito on Tuesday.

Wednesday, it was one of those newly arrived veterans, Dallas Keuchel, who shone. He logged seven one-run innings, the first White Sox starter to pitch in the seventh inning this season. If it weren't for the unusually cool conditions on the South Side, the outcome might have been different. Luis Robert and Moncada dialed up back-to-back deep fly balls in the eighth inning that both could have easily gone as go-ahead homers on a normal summer night.

The clutch hits could have kept on coming. And the knowledge of being competitive — the "belief," as Giolito keeps putting it — prevented the White Sox from feeling down after another fine effort Wednesday. It will likely do so every night for the remainder of this short season.

"The thing that probably has impressed me the most is the resiliency of the club," Hahn said Wednesday. "Obviously, those of us who have watched this team over the last several years, and certainly in the early phase of the rebuild, knew that feeling that you would get early or midway through games where you would feel the lead was perhaps insurmountable. I think looking at this club through the first 10 or 11 games so far, it feels like we're not out of any ballgame, regardless of what the deficit may be.

"I think that's a great testament to not just the veterans that have been brought in, but the growth of the young guys and the mentality I'm sure you've all picked up on going back to (spring training in) Glendale."

Part of the reason additions like Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnación looked so good during the winter was the playoff experience these guys have. While the White Sox core doesn't know what it's like to win at the big league level — not even Abreu does, who played for six losing White Sox teams before signing a new multi-year deal in the offseason — these guys do. They're all veterans of pennant races and playoff runs that go all the way to the end of October. Keuchel's got a World Series ring on his resume.

Experience with the highs and lows of a winning season might not be quite as valuable in this most unusual of seasons. But before the White Sox can be championship contenders, they actually need to do some winning. After a combined 284 losses in the last three seasons, even a six-game winning streak can mean a lot.

But whether they won or lost Wednesday, it didn't seem like the result was going to sway their belief. These White Sox are here to compete and live up to the high expectations they set for themselves dating all the way back to the end of an 89-loss season in 2019.

"We've been hot, and eventually it's going to come to an end. But man, we were right in the ballgame. That's all we can ask for," Keuchel said. "Game in, game out, we know that we're going to be in those contests.

"If we can win series, that's a playoff recipe."


Dane Dunning won't fill Carlos Rodón's spot in White Sox rotation vs. Indians

Dane Dunning won't fill Carlos Rodón's spot in White Sox rotation vs. Indians

We're running out of guys who could potentially start in Carlos Rodón's place Saturday against the Cleveland Indians.

A day after White Sox manager Rick Renteria said it likely wouldn't be red-hot reliever Ross Detwiler who slides into the rotation as a fill-in for Rodón, who's currently on the injured list with shoulder inflammation, general manager Rick Hahn said the task won't fall to Dane Dunning, either.

Dunning, the highly touted pitching prospect acquired in the same 2016 trade that brought Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López to the White Sox, has shown some great promise during his minor league career, and that includes during "Summer Camp" last month at Guaranteed Rate Field. But still coming back from the Tommy John surgery he had last year, the White Sox aren't ready to put him on the big league starting staff quite yet.

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"I can say right now, Dane Dunning's not going to be the guy we go to on Saturday when Carlos' first vacated spot comes up," Hahn said Wednesday. "He's continuing to build up his endurance and essentially is a guy who is coming back as a starter post-TJ without the ability to go on rehab assignments.

"We have a very strict program he's following, and it doesn't quite include making his major league debut come this Saturday. But at some point we're going to let him in."

Certain White Sox fans have been calling on the team to include Dunning as part of the major league starting-pitching mix since before the season started, and injuries that sent not only Rodón but also López to the injured list have only produced more of those calls. And it's not like the White Sox haven't been close to doing it in the past. Hahn said before the start of the 2019 season that if it hadn't been for Dunning's arm injury, he might have been part of the rotation as early as last year's Opening Day.

But unlike Rodón, who made the Opening Day rotation after his own recovery from Tommy John surgery, Dunning is not yet far enough along in his recovery to be deemed ready for big league action as a starter. And with the news Hahn provided on the status of both Rodón and López on Wednesday relatively good — Hahn said both injured pitchers could be back with the team in just a few weeks — there might not be that many starts to make in their place.

And so the White Sox might not go the traditional route in plugging the hole in the rotation behind Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Dylan Cease and Gio González.

"It's not going to be, knock on wood, long-term issues for either of them," Hahn said. "You've heard me say time and again about the timing of promotions of prospects. We want to make it about the individual player, not about the need in Chicago or a hole somewhere on the roster in Chicago. Certainly when it comes to Dane, he's no exception. It would be conceivably easy for us to say, 'All right, we're going to bring him Saturday because there's a need. We'll just keep (him) at three (innings) and 45 (pitches) or something like that in terms of that outing.' But we don't feel like that's in his best interest long term.

"If we need to go and get creative or deal with some spot-start-like situations a couple of times through, we'll make the most of it.

"Let's get through today. We know who's available today, we have a general idea of what we want to do tomorrow. Once we get to Saturday, we'll probably start piecing that thing together once we get through tomorrow night's game and head into Friday to figure out what's our best alternative."

RELATED: White Sox sending Nick Madrigal to IL, but team's injuries might not last long

What that could lead to is simply a bullpen day or the use of an opener. The White Sox bullpen was among the most frequently called upon relief corps in baseball coming into Wednesday night's game, but it's been darn good, too. Detwiler might not be jumping into the rotation, but there's nothing to say he couldn't throw a couple innings at the start of Saturday's game. Major league rosters shrink from 30 players to 28 on Thursday, but that means the White Sox will still have some extra room to work with. A bigger bullpen could mean a parade of relievers against the Indians on Saturday.

And if that works, maybe every fifth day just becomes the bullpen's day to soak up a few more innings until Rodón or López come back.

Hahn said it was unlikely the White Sox were to look outside the organization for rotation help at the moment. If you think it's difficult to try to figure out whether to give up long-term pieces for short-term help in a normal season, imagine how hard it is when the trade deadline comes a month after Opening Day and there are no minor league games going on. But the team did just add a free agent on a minor league deal, bringing the 36-year-old Clayton Richard back to the organization that drafted him.

There's no doubt that the pitching depth that seemed like such a plus for the White Sox before the season started has been used up in a hurry. Forty percent of the starting rotation is on the injured list, as is Jimmy Lambert, and Michael Kopech elected not to play due to personal reasons. Things have changed rapidly.

Given how day to day just about everything involving the 2020 season is at the moment, don't expect the White Sox to settle on a plan for Saturday for a bit still.