Gonzales: White Sox learning to live with a target on their back
The White Sox witnessed a World Series-esque celebration in an opening day loss at Detroit, watched the rain in Cleveland for two days before getting swept in a three-game series, and scored five runs in the ninth inning but fell short in a one-run loss to the Angels.
The lesson learned during the first 3½ weeks? Get used to unpleasant conditions.
A current six-game winning streak illustrates the Sox can overcome dank elements and long odds, as evidence by their two-game sweep at soggy Wrigley Field and Saturday's comeback win at Boston despite being blanked for eight innings.
Reynaldo Lopez, Matt Foster and Dallas Keuchel provided clutch pitching performances that helped avert a recurrence of the soggy setbacks in April and lift the team above the .500 mark.
The weather is expected to be more comfortable, but the target won't shrink as the Sox open a seven-game series this week against the pesky Guardians and the Yankees.
It's the way the Sox should want it, especially after hearing last fall and winter about how they struggled in 2021 against the American League's elite teams.
Heck, the Twins thought the Sox were vulnerable to repeat as AL Central champions. Why else would they sign All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa to a three-year, $105 million contract with opt-out clauses after each season?
Or pitcher Sonny Gray to a three-year, $30.5 million contract?
Even the Tigers took the plunge, signing shortstop Javier Baez to a six-year, $140 million contract and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to a five-year, $77 million contract. Those signings were designed to help accelerate the rebuilding process with young power pitchers Casey Mize and Matt Manning, and rookie slugger Spencer Torkelson.
There's a time for fun, and a time to be focused.
Former Sox manager Ozzie Guillen playfully gave the choke sign to the Cleveland mascot who had waved a finger at him during the last game of the 2005 season. The Sox clinched the division title three days earlier, so Guillen could joke around.
But it wasn't a laughing matter when Sox shortstop Tim Anderson flashed an obscene gesture to a Guardians fan in the midst of an 11-1 loss April 20.
Anderson made three of the Sox's four errors, and he got caught in the moment by a heckler. Anderson apologized for his gesture, but there was no need for Anderson to punch down a heckler with one finger.
The Sox travel to Yankee Stadium and Toronto later this month, so Anderson's best behavior likely will be put to the test at those venues well before the Sox return to Cleveland July 11.
Several players identified a one-run loss to the Angels on May 1 as a turning point, primarily because they nearly wiped out all of a six-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The two tight wins over the Cubs reinforced their belief, especially since the narrative swayed toward the future and not lamenting an array of injuries, from Garrett Crochet's season-ending left elbow surgery to Lance Lynn's right knee injury that likely will delay his 2022 debut until later this month, and Eloy Jimenez's hamstring tear that will likely sideline him until at least late June.
They started a winning trend without Andrew Vaughn, whose hand injury might sideline him through the Yankees' series. Center fielder Luis Roberts' game-saving catch at Wrigley briefly doused discussions about the shoddy defense.
And the return of third baseman Yoan Moncada will allow Josh Harrison to play second base on a regular basis.
As a youngster who grew up in Southern California and felt the temperature of the Dodgers-Giants battles, Lucas Giolito knows all about rivalries and pitched with poise in his last start against the Cubs.
That's why Giolito, who will face the Guardians on Tuesday night, didn't make any bold declarations about needing to beat specific teams.
"If we just keep playing like we have the last few days, then we don't have to worry about the record every day," Giolito said last week.
"It's early in the season. If we continue to take care of business like we have, the record will reflect that. We'll get our wins."