Sox sweep away Twins, show who's boss in AL Central originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Three games, three wins, three statements about who runs the American League Central these days.
The White Sox headed out on the road last week a second-place team. After a 4-1 swing through Cincinnati and Kansas City, they returned a first-place club. And after sweeping away the Minnesota Twins, they're the undoubted bosses of the division.
No, this isn't the Twins team we expected, the back-to-back Central champs who figured to be the biggest hurdle the White Sox would have to clear on their path to chasing their championship-level goals. They're struggling to pitch, hit and field, a nasty combination that has them among baseball's worst.
But the White Sox did what good teams do and took advantage, a couple of offensive explosions — nine runs in Tuesday night's win followed by 13 on Wednesday — followed by a lower-scoring affair Thursday, a 4-2 victory that completed the sweep.
It's true that three games in the first half of May aren't likely to tell the story of how the division race will play out this summer. Just remember what White Sox manager Tony La Russa said a couple days ago.
"It's way too early," he said Tuesday. "I mean, whatever the results, there's so much time to make up for it.
"Right now, we are both trying to accumulate wins. The way you accumulate is to concentrate on the series you are playing. Whichever way this series goes, it doesn't say anything about what's going to happen in the second half of the season.
"Just right now, we have something going, and the Twins are in our way."
But the White Sox didn't experience much trouble moving the Twins out of their way this week, playing like the team with the best winning percentage in baseball.
They scored a ton of runs, getting offensive contributions from just about everyone, to the point that Billy Hamilton starred with a four-hit effort Wednesday night and Jake Lamb added a home run Thursday.
They pitched well, Dylan Cease impressing once more Tuesday night and Liam Hendriks doing what a $54 million closer is supposed to do and grabbing a five-out save Thursday.
They played good defense, Hamilton making a pair of game-saving catches in center field Thursday after José Abreu filled a highlight reel's worth of web gems and earned Gold Glove praise Wednesday night.
In other words, they did to the Twins what Tim Anderson forecasted they would when he said during the offseason that they had "a pretty good shot of whooping on them."
"Anytime you can get a sweep, no matter who it is, it's huge. When it's them, it's even bigger," starting pitcher Lance Lynn said. "We're playing good baseball right now, we're just trying to keep that rolling. We're winning games in multiple ways, and that's what it's all about."
Anderson hit the first pitch he saw out for a home run Thursday afternoon, a long ball that set the tone and made a statement that the White Sox pummeling of their division rivals wasn't a one- or two-day thing. It's a new normal, at least for now, with the balance of power flipped between the two teams.
Just like Anderson's homer zipped out over the fence, that happened fast.
"They had their shots at whooping on us," Anderson said of what the Twins did to the White Sox in years past. "So you know it feels good for the tables to turn a little bit and for us to finally be in the position to be able to whoop on these guys."
Maybe the Twins will correct their course and provide the challenge we all expected. Or maybe the White Sox will spend the summer battling a different team. Heck, the Cleveland Indians are hot on their heels, racking up wins at their own prodigious pace.
But right now, the White Sox are the bosses of the Central, exactly where they wanted to be, elbowing out their place as World Series contenders.
"It's where we wanted to be coming through spring training," Hendriks said. "The first couple weeks, we didn't show who we were. Once we relaxed a little bit and started getting everyone in the clubhouse involved and not trying to do too much, we kind of ran with it a little bit.
"We know what we've got in this clubhouse, we know the talent level we've got. We don't have to go the extra mile, we don't have to push that little extra bit to make sure we try to do too much. It's just going out there and letting our abilities play.
"This is what we expected to do, go out there and go on some lengthy winning streaks. And hopefully we can do something special and keep this going for the rest of the season."