The Chicago White Sox’ current roster, much of which was assembled over this past offseason, has largely underperformed as a group in 2015. Additions Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche have failed to hit as expected. Avisail Garcia has not taken the leap forward many expected. Jeff Samardzija had a 4.56 ERA at the end of June, and Jose Abreu has regressed as has Adam Eaton. The offense’s struggles were setting up for another lost year of Chris Sale‘s dominance. The lefty ace, who just missed his first Cy Young Award last year, has yet again put together an incredible year, including a ridiculous stretch spanning eight starts that saw Sale strike out 10+ batters, joining new Hall of Fame inductee Pedro Martinez as the only pitcher ever to do so. The White Sox were looking good heading into the All-Star break, however, winning eight of 11 games to round out the first half and leave both the team and fans alike with hope of a playoff push.
The Southsiders fell flat on their faces after the break, as they dropped three of four to the division-leading Royals and were swept by the MLB-best Cardinals in a two game set. The White Sox were quickly fading from all playoff pictures, including the wide open second Wild Card spot in the American League. Analysts and writers alike were predicting that GM Rick Hahn would sell at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. However, immediately after the St. Louis series, the White Sox started a four-game series against the Cleveland Indians and it seems a switch was flipped. The White Sox have reeled off six straight wins; sweeping the Indians and having already taken their first two from the woeful Red Sox.
During their win streak the White Sox have scored an average of 7.5 runs per game while allowing only 2.8. This offensive outburst is thanks large in part to the turnarounds of Carlos Sanchez, Cabrera, and Samardzija, as well as the emergence of third baseman Tyler Saladino. Of course, Abreu is still a force despite having a down year. Saladino, who made his debut on July 10, has been something of a spark for the White Sox, as he is slashing .286/.317/.464 this month, with two home runs, two triples, and six RBI already to his name. Following Saladino’s offensive surge are Cabrera and Sanchez. Cabrera has been on a tear all month, slashing .349/.372/.605 in July and raising his batting average from .251 to a healthy .281. Cabrera also has a multi-hit game in each of the last six contests, which has led the team’s win streak.
Rookie second baseman Sanchez has also found his groove at the plate, slashing .325/.380/.468 in July, and has homered in two of the last three games. On the mound, Samardzija and rookie Carlos Rodon have led the charge behind Sale. Samardzija has dominated in July, going 3-1 with a 1.71 ERA and allowing more than two runs only once. Meanwhile Rodon has continued to impress, having most recently shut down the Indians over 6 2/3 innings while striking out nine. Rodon has given up more than three earned runs only once this month, which was a tough outing against the Cardinals. He rebounded nicely against the Indians, spinning six strong innings in the start before matching up against a potent Cubs lineup. All of these factors have the White Sox surging and sitting just 3.5 games back of the Minnesota Twins for the second Wild Card spot.
This surge has erased the White Sox potential “seller” status at the deadline, and Hahn may now be looking to buy instead. Looking ahead, the White Sox do not have any particularly fierce competition coming up, as they have two more games against the Red Sox, followed by a three-game set with the Yankees and a three-game series against the Rays. Look for the White Sox to continue their surge on this East Coast trip and put even more pressure on the Twins, who have lost six of nine as well as three straight.
Official Prediciton: The White Sox take hold of the second Wild Card in early August and never look back.