Twins vs. ChiSox: A series for separation
As believed herein and throughout baseball at the onset of the season, the Central has shaped-up to a two horse race between the Twins and ChiSox. Unless you've got a closet stuffed full of Cobb, Greenberg, Kaline and Whitaker jerseys, it's readily apparent that the Tigers-- now at 10.5 games back -- are declawed
Chicago arrives at Target Field in full Wet Sox fashion, having lost seven of 10 and now trailing the sizzling Boys by three games. The Twins have gone 22-8 since the Break, and have rolled off four straight while claiming wins in nine of their last 11. Simple math explains that a series sweep this week would give the Twins a gaudy six-game lead in the Central (with 41 games to play), while taking two-of-three from slumping Chicago would put the lead at four. Hell, as a small silver lining to just taking a lone game in the series, the Twins could still lay claim to owning a .500 or better record against the ChiSox for the fifth straight season.
Home confines have been especially advantageous to the Boys in this duel since Chicago won the Series back in '05. After splitting the Dome games 5-5 in '06, the Twins ripped off a stellar 19-7 home mark versus the White Sox from 2007-09. In the six games at Target Field this year, the local nine owns a 4-2 edge in the new digs.
Personally-- even should the Twins not sweep this series -- I don't see Chicago ultimately making this much of a race. Really, their sound seasonal mark of 63-53 is namely a result of two hot streaks when Ozzie & Co. rolled off 11 in-a-row from 6/15-6/26 and then won nine straight between 7/4-7/15. Since the latter streak, they've played .500 ball. Other than those two stretches, Chicago claims just three streaks of three-to-five straight wins all season. Moreover, it's worthy of note that the WetSox went 15-3 in Interleague play against the Nuthinal League this year, which comprised that fine June streak against the lowly likes of Pittsburgh, Washington and the Cubs. With eight streaks of three or more straight wins, the Twins have proven a far more consistent club.
As we'll see first-hand the next three days in the forms of Danks, Floyd and Buehrle: the White Sox have some fine starting arms. While I'm not a big Edwin Jackson guy, he's performed with aplomb since coming back to the Central earlier this month. Even with the loss of Jake Peavy, a solid Jackson gives Chicago one of baseball's strongest rotations.
But beyond that threat, I don't see much to fear. Despite their attempt to re-indentify themselves in the off-season, Chicago is still a power bunch, ranking 4th in the AL with 136 bombs. The addition of Juan Pierre atop the order has them 2nd in Steals, but beyond Pierre's league-leading 45 and Alex Rios' 24, nobody else swipes in double-digits. Otherwise, Chicago ranks 6th or lower in batting, On Base percentage, Slugging and Runs.
The Twins, meanwhile, have surged to the top of the AL in both On Base and batting, while
also ranking 3rd in runs and 4th in Slugging. The Boys can't quite run with Chicago (or anybody for that matter), but the club has made up for both that shortcoming and measured power (7th in the AL with 108 HR's) by excelling in other areas. Entering the week, the Twins claim the top defense (tied) in all of baseball, the top bullpen in the AL (3.14 ERA) and a staff that is finding cohesive heat at the ideal time.
In mid-May, I queried if the 13-19 Sox were "Left for Dead." Chicago obviously rebounded from that to take over first place two months later. But beyond a solid mid-summer to remember, I'm of the belief that the White Sox will hang their caps on no more than a second place rung in '10.
The separation isn't starting now; it's already begun. The Twins will take two of three this week and, series by series, the White Sox will fall further and further in the Central wake.
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