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With comfy lead, White Sox can’t let up: ‘We want to peak in October, want to be better’

The White Sox are finding ways to maintain an edge.

“You take it day by day, and you understand what we’re trying to do — win a championship,” White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said. “You have fun, enjoy the moment and don’t think about no 10-game lead. We’re going to try to get a win every game.”
“You take it day by day, and you understand what we’re trying to do — win a championship,” White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said. “You have fun, enjoy the moment and don’t think about no 10-game lead. We’re going to try to get a win every game.”
Nam Y. Huh/AP

MINNEAPOLIS — Shortstop Tim Anderson says he can’t tell you what the White Sox’ record is. He knows they lead the Indians by “about 10 games” in the American League Central. But he can assure you they won’t let up.

“It would be easy to look at how many games we’re up and get lazy and think a game doesn’t matter when every game does matter,” Anderson told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday. “You take it day by day, and you understand what we’re trying to do — win a championship. You have fun, enjoy the moment and don’t think about no 10-game lead. We’re going to try to get a win every game.”

After finishing a three-game series Wednesday afternoon against the Twins (49-65), the Sox (67-47) had better not let up. Starting with the Field of Dreams game against the Yankees in Dyersville, Iowa, on Thursday, a stretch of 14 games against the Yankees, Athletics, Rays and Blue Jays awaits. All are contending teams, and the Sox’ record against teams with .500 records or better is 21-28. They are 46-19 against teams under .500.

Manager Tony La Russa managed a 2011 Cardinals team that was 10½ back in the wild-card race Aug. 24 and won the World Series, he pointed out Tuesday, so he knows firsthand that big leads can be had. He managed a Sox team in 1983 that won the AL West by 20 games and got quickly KO’d by the Orioles in the AL Championship Series, which was the only round before the World Series then.

Stuff happens.

“Human nature is always a concern,” La Russa said. “But there’s two ways we counteract it. No. 1 is we keep the goal of improving, so if we can play ourselves into October, we want to peak in October. We want to be better than we are today. The only way you can do that is to get better. The only way to get better is to understand what you’ve got to work on, work on it and execute it.”

Whether it’s Lucas Giolito finding ways to make himself mad to create an angry, competitive mindset as he did when he pitched a gem against the Twins on Monday or catcher Seby Zavala telling him to pitch as though the score was 1-0 after the Sox scored seven runs in the first two innings, it’s about maintaining an edge.

“I’m all for that edge,” La Russa said. “We just watched ‘The Last Dance’ with Michael [Jordan], and he would look for ways to put a chip on his shoulder. Anger, adrenaline, something to prove — that gives you that extra focus and strength. I embrace it. I love it when I see it. It’s a very good way to play this game. Get some adrenaline going.”

Things could not be falling into place better for the Sox. They recently got outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert back from injuries, added relievers Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Tepera and second baseman Cesar Hernandez in trades and catcher Yasmani Grandal (knee) is likely going on a minor-league rehab assignment soon.

The big lead allows the Sox to rest pitchers when necessary.

“We’re getting people back where we need them and at the right time of year,” said right-hander Lance Lynn, who starts in the series finale Wednesday. “We have Yas left to get back, and [right-hander Evan Marshall] is on his way back, too. We’re in a good spot, and you can look at our team and see everybody starting to get healthy and come together at the end of the year.”

In the meantime, La Russa said the “training room, our strength guys, the coaches and the players themselves are constantly repeating the message to themselves.”

“It’s not just talk,” La Russa said. “That’s the message that circulates our clubhouse, and that’s why, knock on wood, we continue to be consistent.”