CHICAGO -- If the White Sox were to pull off the seemingly implausible and find their way to the postseason, they could present themselves as a pretty serious playoff challenge.
Any team with Chris Sale at the top of the rotation, followed by Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana, becomes a tough group to face in a short series. But the White Sox also have had plenty of experience in close games, which become the norm rather than the exception when the best of the best compete toward a World Series title.
Entering Sunday's series finale against the Orioles, the White Sox had 43 of their 78 contests (55.1 percent) decided by two runs or fewer. They have a 17-14 record in one-run games and a 6-6 mark in games decided by two.
Those 17 one-run wins are tied with the Cardinals for second in the Majors behind the Cubs' 19.
"Part of that is you like playing close games because you get a chance to win," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "You figure out your team in close games, and I think the guys responded yesterday great. You end up losing a two-run lead and come right back to score."
Ventura was referring to Manny Machado's two-run homer off Zach Putnam in the eighth Saturday to erase a two-run advantage, only to have J.B. Shuck deliver a pinch-hit double in the bottom half of the frame to score the go-ahead run. Avisail Garcia's amazing catch to take a homer away from Chris Davis preserved the close win in the ninth.
Playing in so many close games becomes a function of the White Sox having strong pitching combined with an offense that has underachieved. Those close games also can wear down a bullpen early, leaving Ventura to make decisions such as staying away from Jake Petricka late on Saturday and not using David Robertson for more than one inning.
"In close games, you are always sitting there trying to use the same guys over again," Ventura said. "You have to be able to mix in Put and [Daniel Webb] and [Dan Jennings] and make sure you use those guys, but it's hard. Your starters are going deep into the game and then you basically have two innings left to get it done."
One-run contests also highlight the pass/fail nature of the bullpen situation. And it's not just a closer who deals with that sort of dynamic, as shown on Saturday.
"Being in the bullpen is a lonely place, especially if it doesn't go well," Ventura said. "If we have a five-run lead, it doesn't quite burn and feel the same. Close games will do that. There's not a lot of room for error when they come in."