The White Sox won the first game of their four-game series against the Twins on Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field to go up two games on them in the American League Central.
They own the best record in the AL.
All very nice and well, especially for a team that finished 72-89 a year ago.
Which is exactly why that 31-16 mark is only worth the paper it was written on.
“Yeah, we have the best record, but that ain’t putting no trophies in our pocket,” shortstop Tim Anderson said before the game. “That ain’t doing anything for us.”
And overtaking the defending division champion Twins to pocket a trophy would be a substantial feat. The Sox are 3-4 against them this season, and 23-41 against them since the start of 2017. The Twins’ 41 wins are their most victories against any opponent during that span.
“Every game’s a new game,” Anderson said. “Every day’s a new day. And today is one of those nights where it’s a new night. So we’ve got to go out and compete, from the beginning to the end. Every pitch, every out and every inning. And I think the guys are ready. They know what we’re facing; they know what’s on the line. There’s no secret what we’re trying to do here. So it’s all about coming together and keep competing at a high level.”
The Twins had slugged 11 homers in a three-game weekend sweep of the Indians, and the Sox had won four in a row and 20 of 25. The Sox are feeling it, owning the best record outright in the AL 40 games or deeper into a season for the first time since they were 99-63 and World Series champions in 2005.
“Tonight,” Anderson said, “is playoff ball.”
Anderson, who was 3-for-5 including an RBI double for an insurance run in a 3-1 victory, is relishing the moment of playing in big games, finally, after four losing seasons with the Sox. First baseman Jose Abreu, like Anderson a strong MVP candidate, has played on nothing but losing teams his first six years in the majors, all on the South Side.
Monday’s matchup against the Twins (30-19) marked the first time the teams have met in September when tied in the standings or separated by one game since Game 163 of the 2008 season, known as the Blackout Game in these parts, also the last time the Sox have played in the postseason.
Along the way, there will be individual awards to decide, and Anderson has graciously said Abreu should be the MVP front-runner in a field that also includes Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz.
All well and good, Anderson said, and if Abreu gets it, the team will share it.
“We’re all on the same team; it’s a win for both of us,” he said.
That said, for a pair of team-trophy-starved stars, winning is the thing.
“You don’t get much from personal goals,” Anderson said. “You try to get something you can share with the squad. Championships we remember way more than batting titles or whatever else comes with individual awards.
“Forget those individual stats, I want a championship.”
The Sox beat up the Royals and Tigers from the division nine times out of 10 games each, a noteworthy accomplishment no matter the opponent.
Beating the Twins is a tougher challenge, and doing so would be noteworthy, as well — and an important step toward that championship goal.
“We are trying to do it with everybody we play,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I know we still have some big games ahead of us, and we are going to try to continue to do the same thing.”