1 and done for Sox: Beat Cleveland, clinch AL Central
Rained out in Detroit Wednesday, the White Sox packed up and headed for Cleveland.
There hasn't been much to celebrate lately, but the Sox brought some champagne along on their final road trip of the regular season and it'll be on ice when they play Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Indians Thursday at Progressive Field.
One win over Cleveland clinches first place for the White Sox, who last won the AL Central in 2008.
Reynaldo Lopez (3-3, 3.00 ERA) gets the start for the Sox in Game 1, with first pitch set for 12:10 p.m. Chicago time. He's scheduled to face the Indians' Aaron Civale (11-4, 3.04).
The White Sox are undecided for Game 2, which Zach Plesac (10-6, 4.59) is set to start for Cleveland at 5:10 p.m.
A lock to make the playoffs since early August, when they opened a 10-game lead in the division, the Sox haven't performed much like a first-place team since the all-star break and are 31-31 in the second half of the season.
Tuesday's 5-3 loss to the Tigers was the Sox's fifth in seven games, prompting manager Tony La Russa to say: "Our execution is not what it has to be, in all phases."
The White Sox still have some time to sharpen up before the postseason.
They'll play five games in four days at Cleveland before heading back to Detroit Monday to make up Thursday's rainout.
Next week, the Sox host Cincinnati Tuesday and Wednesday before closing it out with a weekend series vs. Detroit at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The White Sox will meet up before playing the Indians Thursday, just like they've done before the start of every series this season.
They'll discuss pitching and hitting strategy but won't be formally talking about their pedestrian play heading into October.
"If you look at us playing every day for six months you can have a meeting that ends up being meaningless, they just tune you out," La Russa said. "If you have too many meetings, you're not a very good club. Coaches follow this, managers too, you want to limit the meeting to something very specific and important.
"If you're addressing everything all the time anyway, whether it's something I want to see or the coaches want to see, you can have the conversation instead of sitting down and having a formal meeting."
All of the meetings in the world won't help starting pitcher Carlos Rodon get healthy. They won't help Craig Kimbrel pitch like he did with the Cubs before the Sox paid a steep price (Nick Madrigal, Codi Heuer) to land the reliever in a July 30 trade.
Meetings won't energize a White Sox offense that has been stranding runners in scoring position at an alarming rate.
Time will help, and there is enough left on the schedule for the Sox to gather some needed steam.
"Our goal is to compete with the guys who are playing, and if there's any drop-off, you say, 'Let's go get back on it,' " La Russa said. "If we compete like we've competed, the numbers will take care of themselves. Then your confidence is moving into the postseason, the goal is to be the best you can be and respect your opponent. And see who plays the best."