After a brief opening week stumble, the defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox are looking the part again.
The White Sox, owners of the best record in baseball, look for their 13th win in 15 games when they head to Jacobs Field to take on the Cleveland Indians.
The White Sox (17-7) began the season losing four of their first five games, including two of three in a season-opening series against the Indians, but recovered to tie the franchise record for wins in April.
“All in all, it was a good month,” first baseman Paul Konerko said. “I mean, you can’t win anything early in the season, so you just try not to shoot yourself in the foot and get off to a real bad start that can cost you. For most of the month we weren’t hitting on all cylinders, but we still picked up some wins when we needed to.”
The White Sox swept a three-game series on the road against the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend, concluding with Sunday’s 6-5 victory. With the scored tied at five in the top of the ninth inning, Angels reliever Scot Shields threw a wild pitch allowing Pablo Ozuna to score.
Chicago finished the month fifth in the majors with 5.83 runs per game, an improvement from last season’s 4.57 which ranked 13th in baseball.
Jim Thome has helped spur the offense’s rise. Thome set a club record with 10 home runs in April while batting .307 with a team-leading 22 RBIs. He appeared in only 59 games in an injury-shortened 2005 season with the Philadelphia Phillies, batting just .207.
Javier Vazquez (2-1, 3.67) gets the start in Monday’s series opener for Chicago. Over 27 innings the right-hander has given up 11 runs, five of which came in one inning on April 14 in a 13-7 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I’m trying to work hard and trying to have a better year and be more consistent, which is the main thing for me,” Vazquez said. “I had that one bad inning, but that inning meant it was a bad game, also. I’m really just trying to win some games for my team.”
Vazquez is 1-1 lifetime against the Indians with a 6.06 ERA.
Cleveland (13-12) finished April with a winning record for the first time since Eric Wedge took over as manager in 2003.
After opening the season 6-1, though, the Indians have been inconsistent. The team is 3-5 over its last eight games, including two straight losses against the Texas Rangers to end the weekend.
In Sunday’s 8-4 defeat, Cleveland led 4-1 before the Rangers had a six-run seventh inning to take the lead.
Victor Martinez had three doubles, extending his streak of successfully reaching base to a major league-best 40 games, dating back to Sept. 17.
Cliff Lee (2-1, 2.97 ERA) faces the White Sox for the second time this season on Monday. The left-hander is 2-2 lifetime with a 6.65 ERA versus Chicago.
When he faced them on April 5, Lee pitched 5 1-3 innings, giving up three runs and four hits and earning no decision in a 4-3 Indians victory.
Lee won his start on Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox, throwing six innings and limiting Boston to one run and four hits with seven strikeouts.