The next six days will consist of two interesting series for your Chicago White Sox.
They head out on the road to take on the Mariners and the Athletics in what will be a telling stretch as far as how the south siders can bounce back from a disappointing series in which they dropped three out of four at home to the Baltimore Orioles.
While the whooping this past week from the O’s reminded us that any team can win in any given matchup, that doesn’t mean we can’t expect an impressive showing during this road trip.
The White Sox, Mariners, and Athletics are all off to .500 starts through the first couple of weeks, which means they are all eager to make a surge here in the coming weeks to be near the top of their divisions.
Yet while the Sox are in the same situation currently as both ball clubs, I still would say that they have the upper hand over the AL West opponents in these head-to-head series.
In each game, we will have the upper hand on paper. When you look at both teams’ starting rotations, the only overwhelming matchup you see is Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, who the Sox are luckily missing in this weekend series. I’m not saying that none of the six pitchers we’ll face can shut us down, but if we come out swinging aggressively and get strong performances from our starters, we will definitely have a shot to win four or five of the next six games.
What are the keys to the White Sox having a successful road trip?
Key 1: In the Baltimore series, we lost the three games that were close battles. The more close games you win, the better of a team you are. Obvious? Yes. But it is what separates the mediocre teams from the great teams. The White Sox were around the top of the league in 1-run games in 2005, and it obviously paid off with 99 regular season wins.
If we can start to get Hector “Screwgie” Santiago in there for save opportunities more often, the wins will begin to pile up. The starters are doing a great job at keeping us in games, so now it’s the offense’s turn to step up and put leads in the hands of the bullpen.
Key 2: While we are getting more hits with RISP, that doesn’t mean our situational hitting is quite up to par.
For example, when we have a runner on first leading off an inning, we aren’t getting them over enough, and we’re seeing way too many strikeouts. While new hitting coach Jeff Manto is saying that he isn’t concerned about the early season Ks coming in bunches, it is a trend that needs to end quickly. We’re seeing guys like Morel, Viciedo, and Beckham get down in counts 0-2 way too often, and strike out soon after.
I don’t see the team continuing this pattern of one strikeout per inning for too long, but even if it does persist for another couple of weeks or so, we could dig ourselves into a hole in the AL Central standings. We need to start to put the bat on the ball more often and force the defenses to make plays on us.
Key 3: Adam Dunn has looked good in the last couple of games, driving in a few runs and drawing a handful of walks. When he has good at bats and forces the pitchers to throw several pitches, our offense benefits greatly.
When he gets on base, the offense thrives. Konerko, Pierzynski, and Rios are all picking up slack behind him in the order, so if Dunn can continue to make contact, draw walks, and drive in runs, the offense will be in business.