When the Chicago White Sox beat the Cleveland Indians 7-3 on April 10 in the first game of a four-game set, it was the first time the South Siders won a game against their division rival since April 24, 2013. The White Sox went on to take three of the four games from the Tribe, including yesterday’s walk-off win on a two-run home run by Alexei Ramirez in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Those three victories against Cleveland already exceed last year’s series win total. The Indians dominated the White Sox in 2013, winning 17 of the two teams’ 19 meetings and sweeping the South Siders in four consecutive series. Like last year, the White Sox and Indians will face each other 19 total times this season, with 10 of those games in Chicago and nine in Cleveland.
The value for a team to beat the other teams in the division is obvious. Both the Indians and the Detroit Tigers demonstrated this last season, finishing in second and first place in the division respectively. Each team posted a winning and at times laughably dominant record against three out of the other four teams in the division.
In the case of the White Sox, there’s another side to this argument: the difference between being a competitive team overall and competing on a game-by-game basis. Being competitive is having a legitimate chance at winning the division or making the playoffs; competing is a team’s players putting themselves within reach to win individual games against individual opponents regardless of each game’s overall implications.
The majority of preseason predictions slated the White Sox to finish fourth or fifth in the division, and it’s still far to early to tell if the White Sox will meet these expectations or exceed them.
However, through their 13 games so far this season, the White Sox have shown that they are a better team than last year both on paper and on the field. They can compete and win games that last year’s team wouldn’t have had any chance to win. They’ve shown that they can win in different ways, be it with overpowering offense and clean pitching like the 15-3 win over the Colorado Rockies on April 8, or by cleaning up the mess left behind by the bullpen, such as Ramirez’s walkoff against the Indians.
It can’t be said enough that it’s still only April, with 92 percent of the season to play. The White Sox will next face the Indians from May 2-4 in Cleveland. They’ve shown that they can beat them at home. It will be interesting to see if winning on the road is also in the cards for this year.