White Sox look to shake inconsistent stretch

White Sox look to shake inconsistent stretch

CHICAGO -- If the White Sox fall short of 2015 playoff contention, it probably won't be because the other teams ahead of them were that much more talented.

They stand just 6 1/2 games out of first place in the American League Central and four games out of a Wild Card spot even after a 7-1 loss to the Tigers on Saturday and even after an overall start well below the lofty expectations set up from an amazing offseason of improvement. No teams really appear uncatchable with nearly one-third of the season gone.

In the long run, the White Sox could fall short of playing past the regular season simply because they weren't good enough as a group to reach elite status. Take their last 10 games as an example, dating back to the May 28th doubleheader in Baltimore.

The White Sox have alternated wins and losses, leaving them at 5-5 for that stretch and the continued definition of an average to slightly below average. They are just good enough to not be great, standing as a team seeking a true identity with a 25-29 record after 54 games.

Their biggest focus now centers on winning series, as they fight simply to get to the break-even point.

"Where we're at, we need to win series, and eventually, you'll catch that streak where you get it," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It's important to win a series and that's the focus right now. You lose this one, they outplayed you, and you come back tomorrow ready to go."

"Come in focused and confident every night that we will go out there and win," said White Sox starter John Danks, who suffered Saturday's defeat after allowing five runs on seven hits in the fifth inning. "Every series win puts you where you want to be, but I think it goes a step further than that. We want to win every game."

Losing to Detroit ace David Price certainly wouldn't be considered a smudge on the White Sox season's resume. The left-hander is one of the best in the game, and reinforced that point with seven straight strikeouts from the last out in the fourth through the sixth. But there certainly are other factors that continue to rank in the subpar category for this team, regardless of facing the talented southpaw.

They are 4-25 when scoring three runs or fewer, but also have scored one run or fewer in 12 of their 54 games. They have a 13-20 record within the division and have won just two of their last eight games at home.

Some of these critiques seem like a familiar refrain for those who have followed the White Sox from Day 1. They certainly haven't been buried and winning Sunday gives them that series victory with AL West leaders Houston arriving Monday. The question is whether series victories will be enough to get them into contention and if they continue playing .500 ball over 10-game increments, will changes be made that take the team in a different direction?

"We're playing hard, we're focused, we've got the guys in the room to do it," Danks said. "We just have to go out there and do it."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.