Sox Drawer: Will White Sox see YOU at U.S. Cellular Field?

660044.png

Sox Drawer: Will White Sox see YOU at U.S. Cellular Field?

The White Sox just swept the Cubs at Wrigley Field for the first time in 13 years. Theyre back to .500 for the season. Despite the dire predictions of just about everyone with a baseball column, radio show or Twitter account, theyre actually in the A.L. Central race (2.5 games behind Cleveland, a half game ahead of Detroit).

Adam Dunn is back. So is Jake Peavy and Alex Rios. A.J. Pierzynski is having a career-season. Gordon Beckham has started to hit. Dayan Viciedo is crushing the ball, and did so in the pressure-packed clean-up spot over the weekend. Alejandro De Aza has been the perfect lead-off hitter to open a game. Addison Reed looks like the right guy to close them.

And Tuesday night when the White Sox return to the South Side, Paul Konerko is expected back in the lineup after taking a baseball to the face. The Captain can see, but when he takes the field, the next question is this:

Will he see you?

Something has been missing from home White Sox games this season.

The fans.

Where have you been?

Definitely not at U.S. Cellular Field. It's been a ghost town for the first quarter of the season, with an average attendance of just 20,295, fourth lowest in the majors; ahead of only Seattle, Oakland, and Cleveland.

The White Sox have had a show-me fan base for years, and theres nothing wrong with that. If youre willing to pay the money to watch the team play, you deserve a good product on the field. The failure of 2011 created a ton of wounds to the moral of White Sox fans, and it hit the front office right between the eyes to the tune of 32 million being slashed from the payroll.

Throw in the putrid weather this spring, and the Sox 7-12 record at home (worst in the American League), and you probably made the right decision to stay away.

This summer might be a different story.

Things are happening with this White Sox team. Little things like stealing bases, throwing out runners, hitting cut-off men. And big things too -- Philip Humber throwing a perfect game, Peavy pitching like a Cy Young candidate, Dunn hitting baseballs to Mars.

And the best part: they havent even gotten hot yet. This could be the start.

We havent really clicked on all cylinders by any means, said Peavy, whos now 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA. We are starting to pitch well, watching Johnny (Danks) get back to doing what hes doing, Phil (Humber) bouncing back and having some good starts here. If they can keep going on the right track with the guys swinging the bats the way they have the last few days, we should be able to play a little more consistently.

Playing inside a noisy ballpark like Wrigley Field seemed to help. The White Sox fed off that energy and put on a show.

Its always fun to beat the Cubs, Peavy said. It was a great atmosphere. We had a good showing over here at Wrigley with the Sox fans wearing black. It was a lot of fun.

Tuesday the last-place Twins come to town. Why not kick them when theyre down? Then its the first-place Indians for a three-game series this weekend. Ive checked the weather forecast. High are expected in the 70s and 80s all week with little or no rain.

The White Sox seem poised to make a move.

Will you?

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks tangle with Coyotes, Bulls ready for trade deadline

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks tangle with Coyotes, Bulls ready for trade deadline

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks return home to face Coyotes tonight on CSN

Fred Hoiberg's message to Bulls at trade deadline: Control what you can control

Kris Bryant: Major League Baseball could be going down 'slippery slope' with rules changes

By the bye: Blackhawks keep rolling following break

Lighter Avisail Garcia wants to show White Sox his best

Woj: Bulls still pushing for Jahlil Okafor trade with Philadelphia 76ers

Could a late-season surge miraculously get Illini into NCAA tournament?

After winter of taking heat, Cubs still have Joe Maddon's back

Todd Frazier out with left oblique strain

Fire Talk Podcast Episode 1: Recapping the Fire's offseason and looking ahead to 2017

After getting another signature win at Maryland, does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

nate-mason-0222.jpg
USA TODAY

After getting another signature win at Maryland, does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

Does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

The Golden Gophers went on the road and defeated a ranked group of Maryland Terrapins on Wednesday night, and they did so in impressive fashion, scoring an 89-75 victory in College Park.

Team this win with the win at Purdue back on New Year's Day, and there's no better pair of league victories to be found.

More importantly though, the Gophers, at 9-6, are now the No. 4 team in the Big Ten standings.

It's all a part of a quality NCAA tournament resume for the Gophers, who are closer to lock status after Wednesday's win than they are to being on any sort of bubble. With mediocrity running rampant through the Big Ten this season, Richard Pitino's 21-win squad should be well on its way to an appearance in next month's Madness, which would be the program's first since he took over as head coach.

The resume looks pretty strong at this point, especially after Wednesday. Minnesota can now claim wins over Purdue, Maryland and Northwestern — all three of those conference victories coming on the road. In the non-conference portion of the schedule, the Gophers beat Arkansas, the Razorbacks seemingly heading to the tournament themselves. The only loss from the non-conference portion came on the road at Florida State, one of the highest-ranked teams in the country.

So it's safe to say Minnesota will go dancing.

Wednesday's 14-point beatdown of the Terps saw the Gophers shoot 50 percent from the field on the night and 54.5 percent from the field in the second half. Five players scored in double figures: Dupree McBrayer with 18, Nate Mason with 17, Akeem Springs with 16, Jordan Murphy with 15 and Amir Coffey with 13. Minnesota didn't win the rebounding battle but scored 15 points off 10 Maryland turnovers and marched to the free-throw line, going 17-for-20 from the charity stripe while Maryland was just 8-for-13 there.

The second half was a rout, the Gophers outscoring the Terps 55-40 over the final 20 minutes and rattling off two separate 9-0 runs to burst away from the No. 24 team in the country.

The overtime win at Purdue on the first day of 2017 might go down as a bigger win considering the Boilermakers are closing in on the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That win, too, came by an impressive-enough margin, 91-82. But Minnesota dominated Maryland over the final nine minutes or so and turned in a double-digit victory on the road against a team that lost to that same Purdue team on that same court by just a point two and a half weeks ago.

The Gophers are now on a six-game winning streak and are piling up wins in a fashion that's making them look like one of the Big Ten's finest. A 3-1 start to conference play that extended its overall record to 15-2 was dampened by Minnesota's five-game losing streak that featured losses to higher-echelon teams like Michigan State, Wisconsin and Maryland, plus road losses at Penn State and Ohio State. But since have come six straight wins. While the caliber of opponent hadn't been terribly impressive until Wednesday, the Gophers can now boast nine conference wins. Only three teams have more.

It's now worth watching how high Minnesota can climb in the Big Ten standings before the conference tournament just two weeks from now. If the season ended today, the Gophers would already be in possession of one of those highly coveted two-day byes. But Minnesota is just a game back of Maryland and just two games back of Wisconsin, who the Gophers play in the regular-season finale.

Like Pitino told his team after Wednesday's win: "No more talk about (just making) the NCAA tournament. We're talking about seeds in the NCAA tournament."