White Sox vs. Rays? Sure, a nice little ALCS preview sounds like a good time

This You Gotta See: Sox-Rays, Cubs-Mets, the Nets on injury watch and the Islanders partying like it’s 1983.

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The Rays walked one off against the Mets just as they began a stretch of torrid play that has lasted since mid-May.

The Rays walked one off against the Mets just as they began a stretch of torrid play that has lasted since mid-May.

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Rays looked nothing like a World Series team after back-to-back losses to the Yankees at home in mid-May left them at a dull, dry, disappointing 19-19.

The defending American League champs were looking up at the Blue Jays, Yankees and first-place Red Sox in the East division. The one-run victories they’d feasted on in 2020 were giving way to one-run losses. And no Blake Snell to lead the rotation? Charlie Morton gone, too?

The Rays — who hadn’t been a popular pick to get back to the playoffs to begin with — were total longshots.

But since then? A 23-5 blitz has vaulted them to the best record in the majors at 42-24. Right behind them with the second-best record? The 41-24 White Sox.

Shall we all agree, then, to look at the teams’ series beginning Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field as an ALCS preview? Great, let’s do it.

Gambling sites give the Sox the best odds of any team to win the AL pennant. Generally, the Yankees come next — which is a bit hilarious considering they’re now in fourth place and a whopping 8½ games behind the Rays. Clearly, the world has yet to fully buy into Austin Meadows, Randy Arozarena, Mike Zunino and the rest of a Rays roster that still makes a lot of people ask, “Who?”

The Sox have won four straight and eight of 10, but that’s the sort of thing that’s going to happen when seven games against the sad-sack Tigers are involved. Playing the Rays — perhaps in October, too? — is the real deal. Here’s what’s happening:

MON 14

Cubs at Mets (6:10 p.m., ESPN, Marquee)

The Cubs swept three games between the teams at Wrigley Field in April, but it’s the Mets who have the best home winning percentage (.739) in baseball. A tough four-game set starts tonight.

76ers at Hawks, Game 4 (6:30 p.m., TNT)

Not to tell Hawks coach Nate McMillan how to do his job, but concocting a game plan that involves preventing Joel Embiid from scoring every time down the court would be a good place to start.

Rays at White Sox (7:10 p.m., NBCSCH)

Too soon to give Lance Lynn, tonight’s starter, his first Cy Young award? Probably so. He goes against the Rays’ best, Tyler Glasnow.

Canadiens at Golden Knights, Game 1 (8 p.m., NBCSN)

The Habs have already upset the Maple Leafs and the Jets. Why not keep this crazy ride going awhile?

Jazz at Clippers, Game 4 (9 p.m., TNT)

Utah leads the series 2-1, but star Donovan Mitchell limped off the floor after a Game 3 loss. The never-been-to-the-conference-finals Clippers need any break they can get.

Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Three

How much backup will Durant have in Game 5?

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

TUE 15

Bucks at Nets, Game 5 (6:30 or 7:30 p.m., TNT)

As if it wasn’t enough for the Nets to be without James Harden (hamstring), now they might also be without Kyrie Irving (ankle). Lots of luck, Kevin Durant (alone).

Islanders at Lightning, Game 2 (7 p.m., NBCSN)

Is that a scent of early-’80s in the air? The Isles — big underdogs entering this series — outworked the host Bolts in the opener of this semifinal series.

Sky at Lynx (8 p.m., ESPN2)

Picking up a pair of much-needed “Ws” against last-place Indiana was nice, but it doesn’t mean the Sky are back in business. This is a much better barometer.

WED 16

Cubs at Mets (6:10 p.m., Marquee)

Just because he’s cruising to yet another Cy Young award and hasn’t given up more than one earned run in any start this season, is Jacob deGrom really that much better than the next guy?

USWNT vs. Nigeria (8 p.m., FS1)

The Nigerians might be overmatched in this Summer Series friendly in Austin, Texas, but the Super Falcons are second to none in the nickname department.

England v Croatia - UEFA Euro 2020: Group D

The soccer world is rooting for Denmark’s Eriksen.

Photo by Carl Recine - Pool/Getty Images

THU 17

Euros: Denmark vs. Belgium (11 a.m., ESPN)

The Danes take on the world’s No. 1-ranked team in Copenhagen in their first game without star Christian Eriksen, who collapsed on the field in cardiac arrest during the tournament opener against Finland before being resuscitated with a defibrillator.

White Sox at Astros (7:10 p.m., NBCSCH)

The Sox haven’t visited Minute Maid Park since May of 2019, back when men were men, the Astros were dizzyingly good and “trash can” wasn’t a punch line.

FRI 18

Marlins at Cubs (7:05 p.m., Marquee)

You’ve got to give the Marlins credit for continuing to pull off an amazing feat: contending for last place despite owning a positive run differential.

SAT 19

Sun at Sky (1 p.m., Ch. 2)

These teams haven’t met since Connecticut bounced the Sky out of the 2020 playoffs. Of course, that was back in the days when “C. Parker” meant Cheyenne, not Candace.

White Sox at Astros (6:15 p.m., Fox-32)

The Astros are no ordinary trash-can bangers. They captured their fourth straight series win Sunday to stay right on Oakland’s heels in the AL West race.

Fire at Crew (6:30 p.m., Ch. 9)

The 1-5-1 Fire haven’t scored more than one goal in a game since the season opener. In other words, the champs in Columbus won’t know what hit ’em.

SUN 20

U.S. Open final round (11 a.m., Ch. 5)

A Bryson DeChambeau repeat? A second U.S. Open title for Dustin Johnson or a third for Brooks Koepka? But forget about those guys. This one’s all about Phil Mickelson, who, at 51, is coming off a stunning win at the PGA Championship but remains — with an almost unbelievable six runner-up finishes in this event — one major shy of a career Grand Slam.

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