Despite dropping four straight series, the White Sox entered Monday's BP Crosstown Cup matchup with the Cubs in first place, a game and a half ahead of Cleveland and three games ahead of Detroit. It's been a good-news-bad-news run in the last dozen games, plenty of which the Sox have dropped by only a run or two.
"We wasted games over the last week, week and a half," general manager Kenny Williams said prior to Monday's game. "And it's unfortunate because it came at a time we could have created distance between ourselves and the clubs behind us. It is what it is and it's part of the grind and you're going to have these stretches. But that's the bad news, that we had an opportunity to stretch out our lead. The good news is we've been in every game, we've been leading some of those games. We're still in position and still feel like we're a good club that can continue to grind it out and contend for the season."
Taking a step back, that the bad news is the White Sox didn't stretch their lead atop the AL Central isn't the worst news ever. Three months ago, no prognosticator expected the White Sox to be in first place, and many didn't even think they'd be in contention at this point. By the All-Star break, they'd look to sell.
Instead, the Sox are looking for ways to improve the club as late June approaches. And while Williams reiterated he does have restrictions on who he can add, the fact that the Sox are in a position to add players is probably shocking enough to those who pegged the Sox for dead last in the division.
"It's nice we're in it and we're competing. It's still kind of early, but it's starting to get to that midpoint," said first baseman Paul Konerko. "You just have to try to mentally prepare for that and don't kill yourself every night if we don't win, but at the same time you realize how important every game is, too. So balancing those things out is the hard part. We didn't play terrible on that road trip, but obviously it wasn't a good road trip wins and losses, but we just have shake that off and come out tonight strong."
The six-game road trip saw plenty of good pitching, be it from Jose Quintana, Jake Peavy or the bullpen. But the struggles of Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber continued, although Wiliams isn't planning on ditching either pitcher any time soon.
"We keep waiting and we see little things that are signs of progress," Williams explained. "Then you'll see the little blip on the radar here and there. We look at it optimistically. The great thing is we've been able to bring some of these young guys, whether it be in the bullpen, or in the case of Quintana, into the mix and he's performed great. We continue to allow ourselves the best opportunity by putting the quality starters out there."
Quintana's outstanding job filling in for John Danks hasn't gone unnoticed. Manager Robin Ventura said Monday the 23-year-old lefty "isn't going anywhere" and Williams sees Quintana's success keeping up long-term.
"Take a look at the teams he's pitched against," Williams said. "Maybe you could still guess about it if he hadn't pitched against some of the teams he has. But he's been on the stage, and he's had to produce, and he's come through. I don't see why there's any reason he can't keep this up."
The Sox don't quite know when they'll get Danks back, as the lefty underwent an MRI Monday, the results of which weren't known before the game. Williams expects Danks make an impact when he re-joins the rotation, but he also knows he and the coaching staff need to be calculated in their roster and role decisions when Danks comes back.
"No matter if they were here or not, we're still going to look at potential places where we can improve the club," Williams said, also referring to injured third baseman Brent Morel. "But you've got to be careful with that, because once guys start to believe in themselves as a unityou've got to be careful to disrupt that chemistry.
"Right now, it's pretty good."