Firing on all cylinders, Sox take 1st place

With only a few days left in May, the Chicago White Sox are in first place in the American League Central.

There are only few people outside of White Sox general manager Ken Williams who can say, “I told you so.” And you can’t even be sure they truly believed the White Sox would be where they are.

Even a month ago, this didn’t seem like it could be a reality.

While no one thought this year’s team was going to slide into the abyss the 2011 team did, the White Sox had lacked a cohesiveness in their abilities. The offense, starting pitching and relief pitching shined at various moments, but they couldn’t seem to shine together often.

The White Sox hovered around .500 for much of the first month and a half because of that. They got to four games over .500 and they also fell to four games below it.

And then, something clicked the past few weeks.

After losing to the Los Angeles Angles on May 16, the White Sox dropped to 17-21 on the season. A day later, Chris Sale pitched a gem, and five White Sox’s players each had multiple hits in a 6-1 win over the Angels.

It was just the start.

The White Sox flew back to Chicago and swept the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field for the first time since 1999. They pulled out a one-run game in the series opener and won the next two by a combined nine runs.

A lopsided 9-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins came on an emotionally draining day due to the funeral of former instructor Kevin Hickey , but the White Sox bounced back with two wins to take the series. The two victories brought them to over .500.

The momentum carried on when the first-place Indians came to town. In three games, the White Sox left no doubt who was playing the better baseball, outscoring the Indians 35-16 in the three-game sweep.

Now back on the road, the White Sox have continued their success. Their offense slowed down Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays, but Sale struck out 15 hitters, and the White Sox won 2-1. On Tuesday, starter Philip Humber and the offense combined for a 7-2 win over the Rays.

The White Sox have now won 11 of their last 12 games and are riding a seven-game winning streak. With the Indians’ loss to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, the White Sox, who are six games over .500 for the first time this season, have a ½ game lead in the Central.

Although a lot has seemed to change in the past two weeks, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski believes differently.

“Nothing changed since Day 1,” Pierzynski told reporters after Tuesday’s win. “Nothing’s really changed. People think you get high or you get low, but nothing has changed to be honest with you from (manager) Robin (Ventura) to the 25th guy.

“Everyone is the same. Everybody comes here and wants to play and wants to have fun and try to win. Whatever they can do that day to help us win is kind of what guys have latched on to. It’s a fun atmosphere to come into every day. I’ve enjoyed it. Hopefully, we can continue that a couple more months.”

Of course, none of this means the White Sox are going to definitely win the division. Just ask the Cleveland Indians about that. On May 29, 2011, the Indians led the Detroit Tigers by six games. By the end of the season, the Tigers won the Central by 15 games.

But whether the White Sox do make a run at the division title come September and October or the Tigers rise up again, it’s certainly been a memorable May on the South Side of Chicago.