White Sox’ series win in division no small feat

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Jose Quintana of the White Sox delivers the ball against the Detroit Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field Wednesday. The Sox won 7-4. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The White Sox’ series win over the Detroit Tigers – they took two of three after losing Chris Sale’s start in the series opener Monday despite an excellent start by their ace – was no ordinary achievement.

It marked the fifth time they’ve won in 19 series against American League Central teams, and three of them were against the last-place Minnesota Twins. The other two were against the Tigers.

This is nothing new for the Sox, who are 250-325 in the division since 2009. Their only winning record during that time was a 37-35 mark in 2012. Here’s how rough it’s been on them since then — team by team, year by year.

Indians: 2-17 in 2013, 9-10 in 2014, 10-9 in 2015, 3-9 in 2016.

Tigers: 7-12 in 2013, 7-12 in 2014, 9-10 in 2015, 7-12 in 2016.

Royals: 9-10 in 2013, 6-13 in 2014, 7-12 in 2015, 3-9 in 2016.

Twins: 8-11 in 2013, 9-10 in 2014, 6-13 in 2015, 11-5 in 2016.

The Tigers failed to make the postseason last year for first time after four straight times in the playoffs, and now they are back in it, in large part because of their success within the division.

“When I was over there, one of the things I always harped about is you have to beat the teams in your division,’’ Sox catcher and former Tiger Alex Avila said this week. “It’s something we always tried to do exclusively, more than anything else. We’ve struggled with that this year, and that’s the main reason why we’re in the position [fourth place] we’re in.’’

The Sox are 5-11-3 in division series this season. They are in the middle of a 21-game stretch of games against division teams, including a series against the Royals this weekend following Thursday’s off day.

Jones changing it up

On June 17, eighth-inning specialist Nate Jones’ ERA was at 3.07. Jones has pitched to a 1.98 ERA with 51 strikeouts over 36 1/3 innings since then, and part of his most recent success, Avila said, is due to a changeup Jones dusted off from his minor league days when he was a starter.

“His 98-mph fastball-slider combination is wicked,’’ Avila said, “and he doesn’t have trouble getting lefties out but to have something else to go the opposite direction to a left-handed hitter would be big.’’

At 90 mph, Avila said, Jones’ changeup acts like a two-seam fastball.

“He’s had a great season but it could propel him to another level,’’ Avila said.

A no-rain delay

The game was delayed 40 minutes because a fast-moving storm was anticipated. It never did rain, and the sun was out for most of the wait. First pitch was at 1:50.

This and that

The Sox are 37-30 at home, including 8-3 over their last 11 games.

*Melky Cabrera is batting .349 with a homer, four doubles and a triple plus nine RBI over his last 10 games. Cabrera went 2-for-4 Wednesday to raise his average to .296.

*Second baseman Tyler Saladino tied a career high with three hits. Saladino, who has taken over for the injured Brett Lawrie, is batting .308 with two homers, five doubles and 12 RBI over his last 20 games.

*Chris Beck (2-1) recorded four outs to get the win in relief.

This weekend

Probables vs. Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field

Friday: Yordano Ventura (10-9, 4.22) vs. Carlos Rodon (6-8, 3.90), 7:10 p.m, CSN, 890-AM, 1200-AM

Saturday: Edinson Volquez (10-10, 5.02) vs. James Shields (5-17, 6.07), 6:10 p.m., CSN, 890-AM, 1200-AM

Sunday: Ian Kennedy (10-9, 3.76) vs. Chris Sale (15-7, 3.07), 1:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 890-AM, 1200-AM

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