With back-to-back series against two division leaders, the Chicago White Sox knew this stretch would help them gauge their likelihood of making the postseason.
So far, they’re looking like a playoff team.
The White Sox seek their sixth victory in seven games with a sweep of the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels in the finale of a three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday.
After winning once on a seven-game road trip last week, Chicago (56-52) dropped from first place to third in the AL Central, three games back of division-leading Detroit.
Although the White Sox were returning home for 10 straight games, falling further out of the Central race was a realistic possibility. They had consecutive series against AL East-leading New York and the Angels (63-42) and knew they had to win to be considered a legitimate contender.
The White Sox have been able to get it done, taking the first two games of this series after winning three of four against the Yankees to pull within one game of the Tigers. Chicago has plated 43 runs while batting .308 through the first six games of the homestand after scoring 20 runs and hitting .211 on the recent road trip.
“We got a lot of guys picking each other up and when one guy gets hot, hopefully you can ride that for a while,” said Thome, who has seven home runs and 23 RBIs in his last 18 games.
While Chicago is heating up, the Angels are in danger of being swept for the first time since May 15-17 against Texas. Los Angeles, which entered this series winner of 17 of 20, has not been swept in Chicago since Aug. 18-20, 2003.
Since coming off the disabled list with right triceps inflammation July 3, Santana hasn’t looked like the pitcher that won 16 games a year ago, going 2-3 with a 7.16 ERA in six starts, yielding at least five runs in five of those outings.
The right-hander had another tough time in Friday’s 11-5, 11-inning win over Minnesota, allowing five runs and eight hits in six innings.
Despite his subpar line, manager Mike Scioscia liked some of what he saw.
“He definitely pitched better,” Scioscia told the Angels’ official Web site. “His command was better and he had good life on his ball, a good breaking pitch. It was a step forward, for sure.”
In his only start against the White Sox on May 25, Santana was tagged for seven runs and nine hits in a season-low one inning of a 17-3 loss.
Danks is 2-1 in his last four starts, even though he has a 4.94 ERA and has walked 14 in 23 2-3 innings in that span. In his previous five starts, the left-hander posted a 1.51 ERA and eight walks over 35 2-3 innings with a 3-2 record.
In Saturday’s 14-4 win over the Yankees, Danks allowed four runs, seven hits and four walks in six innings.
Danks opposed Santana back in May, and gave up three runs, four hits and six walks in six innings to earn the win. He is 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA in four starts against the Angels.