ANAHEIM, Calif. — The White Sox open the second half of the season Friday have a fighting chance to make the postseason.
During that horrendous 10-26 run that came on the heels of an oh-so encouraging 23-10 start that some say was only fool’s gold, the Sox seemed to have no chance of playing more than 162 games in 2016. But their 12-7 spurt going into the All-Star break which produced five consecutive series wins before their disappointing series loss to the Atlanta Braves at U.S. Cellular Field last weekend served as a successful CPR effort.
At two games over .500, the Sox now see themselves in position to at least talk postseason, which All-Star Game starting pitcher Chris Sale felt free to do on the national stage this week.
“We’re in it,’’ Sale said. “We’re right where we want to be, we’re over .500. We have a chance.”
Had the Sox taken two of three from the lowly Braves, or even swept them as they had designs on doing with Sale, fellow All-Star Jose Quintana and James Shields going to the mound, perhaps Sale could have said as much with his chest sticking out.
But the Sox, at 45-43, may have simply demonstrated who they really are by losing that series: A .500 team with the ability to look like a slightly better outfit when things fall into place.
Sale and company know they have to keep on winning series, starting with the Angels this weekend, wild card contender Seattle next week on the road and the Tigers in a four game series when the Sox return home for four games next Thursday.
After that they play the Cubs for four games, and when those are completed on July 28, four days before the non-waiver trade deadline, the front office might be in a better place to size up the enormity of the tough task at hand — which is either catching the Cleveland Indians, who lead them by seven games in the AL Central, or be one of two teams among themselves and seven others at .500 or above that must separate from the pack and claim a wild card berth.
If it looks like too daunting a task, some assets may be traded off, although indications are general manager Rick Hahn has enough confidence in his contract-controlled starting rotation to keep the guts of the current roster in place for another season with Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera and Tim Anderson under contract control through at least 2017. Frazier, Lawrie and Cabrera have one more year left of team control, the others multiple years.
Designated hitter Justin Morneau and right-hander Carson Fulmer, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 draft, were called up Friday to strengthen two needs – left-handed hitting and the bullpen. Austin Jackson (knee surgery) doesn’t appear to be close to coming back to strengthen the outfield, which is where Hahn is known to be looking for upgrades via the trade market, particularly in center field.
Sale knows Hahn and executive vice president Ken Williams historically have been apt to go for it rather than back down and retool. Players like Sale, always about the here and now, certainly hope that’s the case this year.
“The main thing is get to the playoffs,’’ Sale said after starting in the Midsummer Classic in San Diego. “Have a good second half and let’s get there.
NOTES: Twenty of the next 29 games are on the road, including three each in August against AL Central nemeses Detroit, Kansas City and Cleveland, against whom the Sox are a combined 6-18.
*The Sox outrighted AAA right-hander Scott Carroll off the 40-man roster Thursday.
WHITE SOX AT ANGELS
Friday: Miguel Gonzalez (2-4, 4.39) vs. Hector Santiago (6-4, 4.58), 9:05 p.m. (CST), CSN, 890-AM
Saturday: James Shields (4-10, 5.42) vs. Matt Shoemaker (4-9, 4.45) 8:05 p.m., CSN, 890-AM
Sunday: TBA vs. Jered Weaver (7-7, 5.27), 2:35 p.m., Ch. 9, 890-AM