Even though the Chicago White Sox have created a bit of breathing room in the AL Central, manager Ozzie Guillen knows that they’ll need to keep their momentum going if they are going to make the playoffs.
Guillen’s club aims to win its fourth straight on Sunday, while trying to sweep the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels for the first time in over two years in the conclusion of a three-game set at U.S. Cellular Field.
Chicago (80-61) completed a 4-5 road trip on Wednesday, but headed into its current series with a slim 1 1/2-game lead because second-place Minnesota completed a 5-9 road swing Thursday.
A return home appears to have re-energized the White Sox, who pushed their advantage to 2 1/2 games with a 7-6, 15-inning victory over Los Angeles (85-56) on Saturday night. They have won nine of the last 11 as hosts, improving to 48-22 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Jim Thome hit his 537th homer in the 15th inning to move ahead of Mickey Mantle on the all-time list, while Nick Swisher and Paul Konerko also went deep for Chicago, which used a second straight 15-hit attack to create its biggest Central lead since holding a three-game cushion on July 26.
Minnesota lost to visiting Detroit on Saturday.
“It’s a little more room to fight with,” Guillen told the White Sox’s official Web site. “But no matter what the Twins do, we should worry about what we do. If they lose and we lose, it doesn’t mean anything. The important thing for us is to win as many games as we can.”
The White Sox have won three straight overall, and three straight against the Angels.
A victory Sunday would give them their first sweep in the series since taking three contests in Los Angeles from April 28-30, 2006, and would be their first against the Angels at home since Aug. 18-20, 2003.
Chicago hopes to match both marks behind struggling John Danks (10-8, 3.44 ERA), who has compiled a 6.91 ERA in losing his last three starts.
The left-hander gave up four runs and eight hits in four innings of a 9-3 defeat at Cleveland on Tuesday. He had gone 7-1 with a 3.18 ERA in his previous 15 starts.
Danks is 0-1 with a 1.59 ERA in two career starts—both this season— versus the Angels, allowing two runs and five hits in five innings of a 2-0 loss on May 24 at U.S. Cellular Field, where he is 4-5 with a 3.72 ERA in 14 overall outings this season.
The Angels had 11 hits and a season high-tying four homers on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to keep them from losing for the third time in five contests. Their magic number to clinch the West remained at five.
Los Angeles hands the ball to Joe Saunders (14-7, 3.69), who is 0-2 with a 6.39 ERA over his last six starts as he vies for a spot in the postseason rotation.
The left-hander came away without a decision in the Angels’ 5-4 road win over Detroit on Tuesday. He gave up three runs and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings, faring better than he did in losing his previous two outings—a stretch in which he conceded 12 runs and 17 hits over 6 2-3 innings.
Saunders has pitched well on the road, going 8-3 with a 2.76 ERA in 13 outings. One of those victories came against the White Sox on May 23, when he held them to a run and three hits over 8 1-3 innings of a 3-1 win. He is 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA in three career starts versus Chicago.