Rongey: What a whirlwind lately for Chicago White Sox
What a complicated and confounding week-and-a-half it has been for the White Sox.
First, they enter a road trip eight games under .500, 7 games out of the second wild card and seemingly on the verge of dealing their most tradable asset in Jeff Samardzija. Each of his previous 2 outings were his potential "last start with the Sox."
Then the White Sox proceeded to dominate tough Cleveland pitching and a weak Boston rotation. Suddenly, the trade conversation shifted from, "can they get enough for Shark and who else could they trade?" to, "wait a minute, what's going on here?" to, "the Sox aren't buyers, are they?"
Then Chris Sale had a cruddy start against the Red Sox with his team on the verge of reaching .500 for the first time since they were 18-18. He hardly ever has cruddy starts.
Then Carlos Rodon got clobbered, and fans worried the early-season Sox were coming back and the seven-game winning streak was a fluke.
Then John Danks said he had the best stuff he has had in years in beating the Yankees, hitting 93 mph regularly with the fastball, something he hasn't done in very long time.
And while all of this happened, the Sox lost a great ambassador and one of the best pitchers in their history, Billy Pierce, who died Friday. (More on him in a moment.)
As I often say, baseball is weird, and you have to respect its unpredictability. Also, with the nature of the season as it is and the amount of games played, things can change in a hurry, and they certainly have since July 23.
While the Sox suffered the worst American League offense before the all-star break, they're third best since, arguably second best (only the Yankees and Astros have a better OPS, and the Sox' OBP is second to New York). Their collective average is the highest.
What does it mean? It's impossible to say whether they've finally become the team we expected they were out of spring training, but it's encouraging. They won't keep up the current 10-game pace of offense, which has been astounding, but if they can stay closer to this than what they were in April, they will really have something here.
The Sox are 3½ games out of the final wild-card spot with four teams between them and Minnesota and 59 games to play.
There's no guarantee this recent play will continue, but as it stands now the Sox have done what many thought unthinkable: They've played themselves back into contention.
It will be difficult to hang close as the schedule is laced with good teams the rest of the way, but it's surely not impossible. I don't suspect the White Sox' pitching will fall apart, and as long is it doesn't the Sox will have a chance, but the climb is rather steep.
I'm just happy they're playing meaningful baseball in August, when it looked like they wouldn't have that chance. The additional wild card sure makes it interesting.
As for Billy, it has been a sad time for the White Sox family with losing Minnie Minoso early in the year and now Mr. Pierce. I regret I wasn't able to spend more time talking to him, but he was every bit as gracious as you've heard. Just a genuinely happy person. And it was evident, even if the interaction with him was limited.
It's difficult to find people as friendly as he was without the suspicion they might be putting on airs, but there wasn't any of that with Pierce.
As they say, he was one of the good ones.
• Chris Rongey is the host of the White Sox pregame and postgame shows on WSCR 670-AM The Score. Follow him on Twitter@ChrisRongey and at chrisrongey.com.