September and October just got a lot more interesting. The Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers now have the same record, tied at 82-72. These last seven games will decide the season for the Sox. This is what playoff baseball looks like. Well, playoff baseball without being in the playoffs. While I still think that the Sox will win the division, it is now time to press the panic button if it wasn’t pressed already.
The Sox control their own playoff destiny, but it is difficult. While the Sox have the Cleveland Indians for three more games, they have to go through a very tough Tampa Bay Rays team. Take a look at who the Tigers have to play the rest of the season. I will give you a moment to let it sink in that the Tigers have a much easier route than the Sox do. The Tigers play the Kansas City Royals, the Minnesota Twins and the Royals again. I wouldn’t exactly call that running the gambit seeing as the Royals and Twins were knocked out of playoff contention months ago.
The panic button, if it wasn’t hit already, has to be hit now for the Sox. Their hitting has been terrible for the month of September. They have relied on the home run ball and those home runs have predominantly been solo home runs. I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time the Sox didn’t hit a home run to get a run in.
It also looks like certain players of the Sox are pressing and trying too hard. A perfect example of this happening was today’s game against the Indians. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Sox were down 4-3. There were back to back walks and Gordon Beckham was up to bat. Indians closer Chris Perez had to have had the screws turning in his head. All the Sox needed was a single to score the tying run with Jordan Danks and his speed on second base.
In the worst case, Beckham could draw a walk and extend the inning. Perez had already thrown 20 pitches in the inning and looked like he was laboring. Did Beckham actually take a pitch? No–typical of the Sox’s struggles lately, Beckham swung at the first pitch he saw and subsequently grounded out to end the game. This isn’t to place the loss at Beckham’s feet, since for the last month he has been a fairly consistent hitter, but it did look like he was trying too hard today the plate.
What are some solutions for the Sox so they can win the division? The Sox need to look at these last seven games as a playoff series and that starts tomorrow. The game against the Indians is a must win for the Sox since it won’t get any easier with the Rays coming to play the Sox in a four-game series. The Sox also cannot scoreboard watch and view what the Tigers are doing. Easier said than done I’m sure, but Robin Ventura and the rest of the coaching staff has to do everything they can to not have the players focus on that.
Worst case scenario: if the Sox and Tigers have the same record then they will play game 163 in Detroit to determine who wins the division. I know the Sox don’t want this to happen and for it not to happen, they have to win the rest of their remaining series. It is crunch time for the Sox and this is what baseball is all about. September and October just got a whole lot more interesting.