AL Central title within reach after sweep of Tigers

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115575683212614.jpg’, ”, ‘“You feel better because this could have been ugly,” said White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen, following his team’s sweep of the Tigers. “If they come in town and this thing is a different way, we can be in a deep problem. I can’t say we’re back, but we’re closer.” ‘);

Chicago White Sox fans are wondering whether the World Series champions can repeat. The team moved a step closer this past weekend by sweeping the Detroit Tigers in a three-game series.

The Tigers swaggered into town with the best record in the Majors, 76-38. They had an 8.5-game lead over the Sox in the American League Central Division. After the weekend series, the swagger quickly turned to a limp. The 8.5-game lead was now down to 5.5. The Sox proved, once again, they are Tiger-tamers. In the 12 games played this season between the two, the Sox have won nine. They are the only team to have swept Detroit this year, not only this past weekend, but also spoiling Detroit’s home opening in April.

Most recent conversations about the Sox have included the words “wild card.” Now that the team has pulled to within 5.5 games of Detroit, and looking ahead to their four-game series against the worst team in the Majors, the Kansas City Royals, Sox fans are starting to forget about the wild card and are beginning to think they can overtake the Tigers and win the AL Central outright. They just may be on to something.

Last year, the Sox won the AL Central with a 99-63 record. They finished six games ahead of runner-up Cleveland. Let’s assume they will need the same record or better this year to take the division. As of Sunday, Aug. 13, they are 70-46. They will need to win at least 29 out of the 46 remaining games to match last season’s win total.

Of those 46 remaining games, almost one-third (14 games) are against the lowly Royals and the team Chicago has owned this season, the Tigers. If Chicago can continue its dominance over the big cats, and win at least five out of seven from the Royals, they stand a good chance of repeating. It could come down to a crucial three-game homestand against Detroit beginning Sept. 18. That series may very well determine this year’s AL Central champion.

The Sox will have 10 games left following the final series with Detroit. Seven of those 10 are against two sub-.500 teams, Seattle and Cleveland. Chicago then closes out the regular season on the road with three games against Minnesota.

It should be an interesting race to the finish in the AL Central. Based on the remaining schedule, I’d say Sox fans have a lot to look forward to.

From the Aug. 16-22, 2006, issue

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