The White Sox have turned a corner.
Where exactly the road is taking them remains to be seen. Probably to a fork somewhere, which, based on where they’ve been before, leads to someplace good and someplace bad.
For these Sox, one of the best teams in baseball for one stretch this season and one of the worst for another, there’s no place in between.
Two series victories in a row against quality opponents have them on the right track, though, if for no other reason than being in a better state of mind.
“I like the way we’re playing,’’ manager Robin Ventura said before his team, with five wins in seven games against the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays in its pocket, enjoyed an off day Monday. “Offensively we’re swinging it a little bit, doing some things, and playing defense along with it. That’s a good sign for us. Pitchers are getting back to being healthy and getting after it. I like the way this is headed. I like the fire that these guys have shown and bouncing back in some tough situations.’’
Tough? How about six weeks of punishing toil in vain, losing 26 of 36 games after that giddy 23-10 start. Adam Eaton called the skid the toughest month of his career from a team standpoint.
Emotions ran hot at times, as they will with any team that cares or has pride. During bad stretch, Jose Abreu spoke out not once but twice about the importance of staying unified through thick and thin.
It was an old-school all for one, one for all message from one who was struggling with his own hitting problems at the time.
“We’re a very emotional team,” Adam Eaton said. “One through nine in our lineup and our pitching staff. We’re invested emotionally in games so when we’re losing it kind of builds on each other and in the loss column. I don’t think there was ever a low point. We just hate losing. We had to stop it.’’
It stopped, mercifully, after a three-game sweep in Cleveland that started the Indians on their current hot streak, the type of run the Sox say they are capable of and need to be serious contenders again. The Sox took three of four in Boston, and then – beginning a stretch of 12 games of 15 at home — two of three from the Jays. The last-place Minnesota Twins (24-51) begin a three-game series Tuesday night. The Sox go to Houston to play the red-hot Astros (39-37) this weekend, then return home for three against the Yankees (37-37) and Atlanta Braves (26-49) before the All-Star break.
It’s not the roughest stretch of their schedule.
“There is still a lot of season left,’’ Eaton said. “As terrible as it was, we’re still in a good position.’’
The Sox trail the surging first-place Indians by seven games in the AL Central. They trail four teams in the wild card mix and are even with two others. Believing they’re good enough to hang with the contenders is probably not even half the battle, but it’s a start to actually hanging with them. The Sox are, after all, 12-18 in their division and, worse yet, 6-18 against everyone not named the Twins.
And they haven’t quit, so that’s a good thing, and something not lost on general manager Rick Hahn, who before the Jays series praised players, Ventura and his coaching staff for their effort, preparation and “fight” through the slide.
“You’re going to struggle but how you persevere and come out of it is what they’re going to write about at the end of the season,’’ Eaton said.
NOTE: Tuesday starter Jose Quintana (5-7, 3.04) is 0-6 with a 4.50 ERA over his last eight starts after going 5-1, 1.38 in his first seven. Quintana allowed a season-high six runs on eight hits and a career-high six walks against the Red Sox in his last start.