Phil Rogers

White Sox are built to last in AL Central race

White Sox are built to last in AL Central race

Just consider this one of those cases where you have to hit rock bottom before you can start moving back toward the top.

It might take a little while for the White Sox to get over their weekend in Kansas City, after the Royals pulled off a series of escapes worthy of a Dean Gunnarson television special.

From the White Sox perspective, the Saturday loss was as ugly as it could get -- they couldn't protect a 7-1 lead in the ninth inning -- and the other two weren't much better. The relentless nature of the Major League Baseball schedule had them back on the job on Monday afternoon, this time in New York.

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Chicago lost to Matt Harvey and the Mets, 1-0, with Neil Walker's homer only the second one Jose Quintana has allowed this season. So it was just another flavor of bad medicine to swallow. The saving grace was the White Sox are now nine innings removed from the weekend in Kansas City.

There's no grind in professional sports like Major League Baseball, and for the South Siders that will ultimately prove to be a good thing. They've already experienced the two extremes a season can offer -- and we've got four months left to play.

Just as there was no way that they could continue to ride the highs of a 23-10 start forever, there's no way the 4-15 free fall will persist.

The White Sox are going to have some more good stretches -- and probably some more bad stretches -- because that's the way baseball works. In the end, 100 games from now, they're going to be coming down the stretch with a serious chance to win a balanced American League Central.

Book it. There's too much talent, too much experience, too many hard-headed players for the Sox to just disappear.

If they do bounce back from this to outlast the Indians, Royals and Tigers, they'll look back and laugh at everyone who wrote them off after they blew leads of 5-1 (in the sixth), 7-1 (in the ninth) and 4-2 (in the eighth) to the Royals.

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What were the odds of that?

According to Titus Bond, head of polling for the Remington Research Group, the White Sox had win percentages of 93.8 percent on Friday, 99.9 percent on Saturday and 88.4 percent on Sunday. The chance of losing all three games, Bond concluded, was .0007 percent.

That's seven in 10,000, if my math is correct.

The proverbial camel through the eye of a needle.

Sometimes you've just got to laugh.

Chris Sale got it right on Sunday, after the Royals' comeback kept him from becoming baseball's first 10-game winner. He told reporters in Kansas City that you're going to deal with some stuff during the course of a season, because that's what always happens. Winning is never easy. The key is fighting through the tough times to get back to the good ones.

There will be plenty of the latter ahead for the White Sox, both because of how the team is made up -- built around pitching and defense -- and the makeup of the players.

In trying to build a contender behind Sale and Quintana, Rick Hahn valued players with a history of winning. Jimmy Rollins and Todd Frazier fit that mold.

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Ditto David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Alex Avila and Austin Jackson. Carlos Rodon, the 23-year-old No. 3 starter, gave Team USA a victory over the Cuban national team in Cuba while he was at North Carolina State.

As disappointing as the last three weeks have been for the Sox, they remain ranked second in the AL in runs allowed, giving up only 3.7 per game. They are eighth in runs scored, which isn't bad considering their best hitter, Jose Abreu, is 67th among 90 AL qualifiers with a .702 OPS.

Sale and Quintana might be the best 1-2 combination of starters in the Majors, and the slumping bullpen remains ranked sixth in the AL in earned run average. Adam Eaton's move to right field and Frazier's play at third base have helped the Sox have the Majors' eighth-best defense, as ranked by Baseball Prospectus' defensive efficiency calculations.

There's more to like about this team than to dislike.

When the White Sox had a .697 winning percentage back on May 9, they knew they weren't going to win 100 games. The message from Hahn on down was that the AL is too balanced for any team to pile up wins, and that part is proving true.

It's possible that it might only take 85-plus wins to win the Central. Teams that hang around .500 into September will have a chance to play in October.

They'll all have interesting stories to tell when they get there. As always, draw your conclusions carefully.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.