Even if nearly everyone else has, the Chicago White Sox haven’t counted themselves out of the playoff race.
They’ll try for their longest winning streak of the season Tuesday when they open a three-game series with the slumping Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
The White Sox (52-59) are coming off a three-game weekend sweep of the Detroit Tigers and have won four straight for the fourth time this season. They are 10 1/2 games back of division-leading Cleveland (63-49), but a sweep against the second-place Tigers - who trail the Indians by a half-game - has them feeling like they might still have a shot at a playoff berth.
“If we keep playing like that, obviously we do,” manager Ozzie Guillen told the White Sox’s official team Web site. “But we are facing another good ballclub, who has played good all year long.”
Chicago beat Detroit 3-1 on Sunday to send the Tigers to their ninth loss in 10 games. The Indians are also slumping, having dropped six of nine.
“It’s good timing for us right now, because we are playing well,” outfielder Jerry Owens told Chicago’s site. “Cleveland is another good team in our division, but we have to take advantage of this momentum and keep it rolling against them.”
The Indians split a four-game series in Minnesota, winning Monday’s finale 4-0. Paul Byrd threw a four-hitter and Travis Hafner homered for Cleveland, which is averaging just 2.9 runs and batting .235 over its last nine.
“We may drive ourselves crazy checking the standings all the time,” third baseman Casey Blake said. “But, can’t help it. We really can’t worry about what other teams do. We just need to put our head down and go.”
Cleveland is 5-4 against Chicago this season, and first baseman Ryan Garko is hitting .520 (13-for-25) against the White Sox this year. Garko is batting .367 (33-for-90) since the start of July.
Chicago starter John Danks (6-8, 5.06 ERA) will look to keep Garko and the rest of Cleveland’s offense in check.
Danks fell to 0-2 with a 6.28 ERA over his last three starts on Wednesday, when he gave up six runs and three homers in an 8-1 loss to New York at Yankee Stadium. The rookie left-hander has allowed at least four runs in six of his last eight starts.
He has made two starts against the Indians this season, both in Cleveland, going 1-1 with a 5.73 ERA.
The Indians will hand the ball to Jake Westbrook (2-6, 5.40), who is coming off his first win in more than three months. Westbrook, who had gone 0-4 in eight starts since his last victory on April 27 against Baltimore, threw six innings in Thursday’s 5-0 win over Texas.
He was coming off a strong seven-inning performance on July 28 against Minnesota in which he allowed just two runs but didn’t get a decision.
“That’s the way I expect myself to pitch,” said Westbrook, who spent nearly six weeks on the disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle during the winless stretch. “I felt strong in my previous starts, but things just didn’t work out.”
Westbrook, who signed a $33 million, three-year contract extension in April, will be trying to win for the first time away from home. In five road starts this season, he is 0-3 with an 8.78 ERA.
The right-hander is 7-8 with a 5.28 ERA in 22 career appearances, including 16 starts, against the White Sox. He has had a rough time against them this season, going 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts after he went 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA in three outings against Chicago in 2006.