As badly as things have gone for the Chicago White Sox, they may be about to get worse.
Kicking off a brutal stretch of the schedule, the White Sox go to a stadium where only one visiting team has won a series all season as they face the Cleveland Indians on Monday.
Injuries and an underachieving offense made Chicago (40-50) one of the biggest disappointments through the first half of the season, and it got the second half off to a bad start by losing three of four at Baltimore. The White Sox are creeping closer to last place in the AL Central, having fallen 14 games behind division-leading Detroit and 13 1/2 back of Cleveland.
Chicago has 12 games in the next 11 days, and they come against three of the top four teams in the majors record-wise. Following this series, the White Sox play four games at AL East-leading Boston before returning home for five games— including a doubleheader—against the Tigers.
“It’s going to be tougher and tougher every day,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I think it’s obvious we have to play better if we’re going to keep this team like it is. Every time we start playing good, something happens and we go backwards.”
The White Sox have lost seven of eight series with the Indians (54-37) since the start of last season, including an 0-3-1 mark at Jacobs Field.
Cleveland has not lost any of its 11 series there against AL foes while compiling a major league-best 33-13 home record. The team’s only series defeat at Jacobs Field came against Atlanta from June 15-17.
Including a victory in the finale of that three-game set, the Indians have won 12 of 15 at home. They have scored an average of 6.2 runs in that span while batting .296 with 19 homers.
Trying to cool off those bats will be Chicago’s John Danks (5-6, 4.62 ERA), making his first start since July 5. He got the win in an 11-6 victory over Baltimore despite allowing five runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings.
Danks is unbeaten in his last five starts, and the White Sox have won the last three.
The rookie left-hander lost his only start against Cleveland on April 14 despite a decent outing, giving up two runs—both on solo homers—in 5 1-3 innings of a 4-0 defeat.
Ryan Garko had one of those home runs and is batting .438 (7-for-16) against the White Sox this season.
Garko helped Cleveland open the second half by winning two of three against Kansas City, going 6-for-10 with two homers and three RBIs. He’s hit safely in nine straight games, batting .400 (14-for-35) with eight extra-base hits.
His counterpart at first base also has been hot. Paul Konerko did have a 10-game hitting streak snapped Sunday, but is batting .400 (18-for-45) this month with four homers, eight doubles and 10 RBIs in 13 games.
Konerko is a career .371 hitter (13-for-35) with four homers against Cliff Lee (5-5, 5.23), who last pitched on July 6 at Toronto and endured one of his worst outings of the season. He was pulled after four innings, giving up six runs and six hits with three walks in an 8-6 defeat.
“It’s not acceptable for me to pitch that way,” said Lee, who was 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA over his previous four starts.
The left-hander is facing the White Sox for the first time this season after beating them twice in September, surrendering two runs in 13 innings. He was 2-4 with a 7.04 ERA in his previous 12 starts versus Chicago.
These clubs have not met since April, when the Indians won two of three games in both series despite star Travis Hafner hitting .136 (3-for-22) without a home run. Hafner had a two-run homer among his three hits on Sunday in a 5-3 win over the Royals.
“I felt my swing coming on a couple weeks before the (All-Star) break,” Hafner said. “I’m feeling more comfortable.”
The White Sox got two solo homers from Jermaine Dye on Sunday but lost 5-3 to the Orioles. Dye went into the All-Star break in a 1-for-25 slump, but was 7-for-17 (.412) with three homers and five RBIs in the four-game set at Baltimore.