MLB Betting: Crucial Three-Week Stretch for White Sox
by Matt Severance - 7/20/2009
The Chicago White Sox are far from a perfect team, but they also play in a far-from-perfect division, so the 47-44 Pale Hose are just a game-and-a-half behind the first-place Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, with the Twins a half-game behind Chicago.
The Central certainly is shaping up as a three-team race for the rest of the season, but Chicago's chances of winning the division probably will be determined in the next three weeks. That's because the club begins a brutal 18-game stretch in the schedule - not to mention it brings us past the trade deadline, and the White Sox have been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Roy Halladay (neither Detroit nor Minnesota have).
On Monday, the White Sox began a four-game home series against the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, Tampa Bay beat Chicago in last year's ALDS but did lose three of four earlier this season to the White Sox in St. Petersburg. Then Chicago goes to Detroit for four games, including a Friday doubleheader, followed by three games in Minnesota. The Metrodome has long been a house of horrors for the White Sox, and they lost two of three there just before the all-star break and have won just twice in the past 12 games in the Twin Cities.
Chicago returns home on July 30, the day before the trade deadline, with four games against the Yankees followed by a three-game set against the Angels.
Certainly if the White Sox can play .500 over those next 18 games, that would bode well for a run at the division. It also helps that Detroit just lost valuable reliever Joel Zumaya, who could be done for the season with shoulder issues having returned.
In any playoff series the White Sox, who are +1800 on BetUS to win the AL pennant, could be dangerous because they have three excellent starters in Mark Buerhle, Gavin Floyd and John Danks. But they have huge questions at the back end of the rotation. No. 4 starter Jose Contreras has been much better since returning to the minors but allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings on Sunday in a loss to Baltimore. The team still crosses its fingers every time Contreras goes to the mound.
No. 5 starter Clayton Richard, who pitches Tuesday night against the Rays, has won only once in his last eight starts. In that stretch, Richard has lasted six innings only once and his ERA is 7.91. Manager Ozzie Guillen has put Richard on notice that he's about to lose his spot.
"I don't [want to] see another outing like the last few because we need to win," Guillen said. "This ballclub is built to win and that's why he has to step it up a notch and do better."
Bartolo Colon is down in the minors doing rehab, but he wasn't very good while up with the big club earlier this year (he may pitch in the doubleheader this week). Freddy Garcia, who was a key part of Chicago's 2005 World Series team, will throw a bullpen session Monday and then head out to a minor-league rehab stint of his own. But Garcia hasn't done much in the majors since 2006, so it's probably unrealistic to count on him.
Don't look for Chicago to get Halladay, either, as the Jays will want Gordon Beckham in any package, and GM Kenny Williams has basically called him untouchable. Plus, finances will certainly play a role, as a few weeks ago Williams admitted the team overestimated what its attendance would be this year (the team is averaging a little more than 26,000, 18th in MLB). He basically called out the fans, saying that if they didn't start showing up then his hands would be tied.
The good news is that the White Sox will be getting Carlos Quentin back any day. The 2008 AL MVP candidate hasn't played for the Sox since May 25, when he tore a tendon in his left foot. He is batting .378 in the minors and his 20-day assignment ends Thursday.
If Chicago, +275 on BetUS to win the AL Central, can play well over the next week or so, it might force Williams to make a deal for the present. But if the White Sox struggle against Tampa Bay, Detroit and Minnesota before the trade deadline, the GM probably won't want to give up any prospects for a rental.
No matter what, we should know in early August if this team is for real.
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