COMMENTARY | The Chicago White Sox are headed back to Chicago with a 19-23 record, where they will play 10 straight games and 17 out of their next 23. The White Sox had played 14 out of their 17 May games away from home before returning home to play the Boston Red Sox. Already 6 games out of first place, the White Sox are at a critical juncture early in the season.
Away from home, where they have played 25 games as opposed to 17 at home, the White Sox are 11-14. While fans would rightly hope for better, home games are where good records are made. The White Sox need to improve their 8-9 home record over the coming home stand and take advantage of the temporary imbalance in their schedule.
The first task, beating the Boston Red Sox, will not be an easy one. Scheduled to pitch for Boston are Jon Lester, Felix Doubront, and Clay Bucholz, who have combined for a 15-1 record to this point in the season. Doubront's ERA tells a different story than his record, but Bucholz and Lester have been brilliant. Monday, May 20's matchup may well be the toughest to win for the White Sox, since Dylan Axelrod will be facing off against Boston's potent offense while Jon Lester throws for the Red Sox.
A year ago, the struggling White Sox got kick started during a home stand in which they beat up on their cross-town rival Chicago Cubs. While that matchup is only a week away, the White Sox need to get started sooner. Winning the coming series against the Red Sox is critical.
The White Sox are already 6 games out and can consider themselves lucky that the Detroit Tigers have not yet begun to pull away. Furthermore, the White Sox need to play better against good teams. If they consider themselves playoff contenders, they must make a statement that they will win at home, regardless of the caliber of the opponent.
Attendance is yet another issue that is cropping up early in the season. The White Sox rank 23 in MLB in average home attendance, with 20,880. So far, weather and school being in session are plausible explanations for the poor early season figures. With many schools closing and the weather getting very warm, the excuses are disappearing. It will now be up to the White Sox to win and give their fans a team worth seeing at the ballpark.
After the Boston series, the White Sox will play 3 against Miami and 4 against the Cubs before taking a brief trip to the West Coast to play Oakland and Seattle. Oakland will come to Chicago afterwards, followed by Toronto, before a trip to Houston and Minnesota. In other words, not only is the coming schedule imbalanced in favor of home games, the competition is less than elite to say the least.
If the White Sox continue to play sub-.500 baseball in the next few weeks, it may well be time to consider the season a lost cause because the schedule gets significantly more difficult from there. To get into contention, they need to start winning right away. This home stand is the perfect time to both salvage their standing in the division and encourage fans to come out to the ballpark.
The recent surge from the offense needs to continue as must the dependability of the starting rotation. The White Sox have used up much of their slack for struggling already.
The time to win is now.
Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and has contributed to sports blogs such as The Flapship. Follow him on Twitter @jlongrc.
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