White Sox were full of good stories before break — so what’s in store for second half?

Stay tuned. The dog days of August are around the corner.

SHARE White Sox were full of good stories before break — so what’s in store for second half?
The second half of the season will present real tests for the White Sox.

The second half of the season will present real tests for the White Sox.

David Banks/AP

On its own merit, the story of the White Sox before the All-Star break was quite something.

They endured lengthy stays on the injured list for Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and Adam Engel and shorter ones for Tim Anderson, Yasmani Grandal, Michael Kopech, Lance Lynn, Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, Adam Eaton and more that space doesn’t permit.

They go into their game against the Astros on Friday with the best record (54-35) in the American League.

One pitcher who has avoided the IL, All-Star Carlos Rodon, is healthy for the first time in his career and throwing like a Cy Young candidate, an ace in the hole for a starting rotation that’s the backbone of this team. A 28-year-old career minor-league player, Yermin Mercedes, was the backbone of the lineup for the first month-and-a-half before being sent back to the minor leagues this month.

Minor-league free agents such as Brian Goodwin and fan favorite Billy Hamilton and Triple-A call-ups Gavin Sheets and Jake Burger are contributing.

Rookie Andrew Vaughn, a first baseman learning to play left field on the fly, has done it better than anyone expected while hitting 10 home runs and leading Sox regulars with a .452 slugging percentage.

Rodon, Lance Lynn, closer Liam Hendriks and Anderson had All-Star first halves.

And the hiring of 76-year-old manager Tony La Russa seems to be working.

“These guys refuse to give in and refuse to give up,” La Russa said.

And now comes the second half, which will test the rotation’s endurance, the bullpen’s depth and perhaps the front office’s wherewithal and determination to make a deal or two before the July 30 trade deadline.

Top targets are bullpen help and perhaps second base, where available players such as Adam Frazier, Eduardo Escobar, Trevor Story and Jonathan Schoop are out there for a price. Depending on confidence levels in Seby Zavala pairing with Zack Collins at catcher and faith in getting Grandal back healthy enough to catch and when that might be — he had surgery to repair a tendon tear in his left knee last week — catcher could be addressed, as well.

Jimenez (pectoral tear) is rehabbing at Triple-A Charlotte and might be back before the deadline, and Robert (hip flexor) could be close to starting a minor-league assignment soon. So the lineup will get better without a trade, and it needs to without Grandal’s on-base and slug abilities in the middle of it.

With an eight-game lead in an AL Central that hasn’t looked equipped to challenge, the second-place Indians’ 5-6 record against the Sox notwithstanding, it’s all about being locked and loaded for October. The Yankees swept three games from the Sox in May and the Astros, also a potential postseason opponent, gave the Sox a taste of what October could be like by sweeping them in four games in June at Houston.

Granted, the Sox caught the Astros in the middle of an 11-game winning streak, but it was an eye-opening beatdown at the least. The Sox’ just-completed 6-3 road trip that sent them into the break feeling very good about themselves was accomplished against the Tigers (40-51), Twins (39-50) and Orioles (28-61).

Stay tuned. The dog days of August are around the corner.

“We’re going to have to beat the good teams, that’s one of the big things,” said left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who won a World Series in 2017 with the Astros. “We’ve been doing our job beating the teams we’re supposed to beat. It’s going to be a big series to start up the second half. I’d like to see what we’re made of just to open the second half.”

August includes games against the Indians, Jays, Rays, Yankees and Cubs.

“Our August schedule is pretty daunting,” Keuchel said. “We’re going to play Houston a whole lot better — I would hope so — than we did in Houston. That’s going to be the first big test.”

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“It’s not the first half we wanted, but we just gotta keep showing up, playing hard,” left fielder Andrew Benintendi said.