Guardians pull Sox out of Central race, hopes for playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
At best, the White Sox would have beaten the Guardians this week to come within a first place match in the AL Central and set up a thrilling race to finish the regular season.
The worst case scenario was – you guessed it – what happened over the past three days at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Cleveland closed out a three-game sweep on Thursday that not only buried the White Sox in the AL Central race, but almost knocked them out of the playoff picture with 12 games left in the season.
“It’s hard,” said Gavin Sheets after the 4-2 loss, in which his solo home run made up half of the Sox charge.
“Obviously 162 doesn’t amount to three games, but we knew what we had to do this series and weren’t able to do it.”
Cleveland could get the AL Central as soon as Sunday. Their magic number is five, which is good for securing the tiebreak (head-to-head record) over the Sox this week.
Meanwhile, the White Sox’s elimination number in the AL Wild Card race is seven. They are 6 1/2 games behind the Mariners for last place. They are also 2 1/2 games behind the Orioles, the first team behind Seattle.
LAKE: Tracking the White Sox Standings, Playoff Odds
“It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing,” Sheets added about the sweep to Cleveland. “But it’s not just this series. We had to play better all season.
“Obviously this was a huge run, and we weren’t able to get through. They play great baseball, but it certainly wasn’t just the series.”
Sheets’ moment of honesty echoed that of teammate Lance Lynn the day before, after Lynn was asked if it’s surprising the Sox’s are so far back when they are so late in the season.
“Nothing surprises you. Lynn said Wednesday. “Especially if you play like this all year round. We’ve been out six games all year, it seems.
“We still have some time left, but we pushed ourselves into a hole, that’s for sure.”
Thursday’s loss dropped the Sox to seven games in first place – their biggest deficit this season. It’s no secret that they’ve been wildly if not maddeningly inconsistent over the past five months.
The AL Central preseason favorite that my many picked to take a deep run after the season has taken a share of first place in the division for eight days this season. The Sox have led the Central by no more than two games, and that was in the second week of the season.
One of their best times of the year has been the past three weeks, to the credit of acting manager Miguel Cairo, who led the team to a 13-9 record in the absence of Tony La Russa.
“Since August 31, they decide to play, they decide to fight,” Cairo said after Thursday’s loss. “They went and did everything and I am proud.
“I am proud of what they have done. Just because we lost this series, if you look back from August 31, we won, what six series, and they fought. They give everything. We just came up short by a very good team. That team is really good.”
To their credit, the Guardians are in complete control of the division with a strong September (15-7). The Sox are mathematically alive, but it would take a miraculous finish from their last 12 games, and a lot of help, to secure a third consecutive berth after the season.
As solid as the Sox have played under Cairo, it’s been too little, too late.
“We’ve had our spurts playing really good baseball, but it just wasn’t consistent enough,” Sheets said. “That’s why I said it’s definitely not about these three games.
“I think we can all agree that we should have played better baseball. It’s frustrating.”
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