If ever a team begged to take it easy, pace themselves, slow it down, it's the White Sox.
In fact, they could adopt defrocked Cubs president-turned-Orioles pooh-bah Andrew Bowen MacPhail's mantra of "slow, steady, unspectacular" and actually make it work for the first time since the baseball blueblood uttered the phrase in the first Clinton Administration.
The Sox have astounded themselves with their skyrocketing comeback from... nothing... in the last two weeks. On Thursday, after his homer and Gavin Floyd's shutdown pitching had crafted their ninth win in a row and 13th out of their last 14, Paul Konerko admitted the team "came out of nowhere." They've gone from an afterthought, 9 1/2 games out, to 2 1/2 out behind the slightly-waffling Minnesota Twins in the AL Central in just over two weeks.
But from here, they've got to put the brakes on. The season, as you know, is a marathon. The Sox do not want to burn themselves out too early. They have their first Moment of Truth via four games against the Twins at Target Field starting July 15. Then, over the first two-plus weeks of August, they play 13 of 17 games against the Twins and Detroit Tigers, punctuated by a quartet of contests against MacPhail's cannon-fodder Baltimore Orioles.
Konerko put it best the other night, before the Sox derailed the Braves, on their own 29-10 run, hottest in baseball overall, coming into The Cell. He suggested the Sox must "creep" up further on the Twins and Tigers.
Given inevitable pratfalls after such a hot streak, the Sox -- now 37-34 -- would be well-served to be, say six or seven above .500 once they play the Twins. That way, a split in the four-game series is palatable. They should steadily build to between 10 and 15 above break even for the early-August Gauntlet, minus Clint Eastwood. That way, a 6-7 mark against the Twins and Tigers would not be fatal.
Konerko predicts the AL Central will go down to the last week. Once again, he's not team captain for nothing. He makes too much sense. The Sox' early 24-33 hole was so deep the entire season will be required to fully recover.
And why not? That will stoke the gate in the final homestand with four games against the Boston Red Sox and three against the Cleveland Indians, a main reason for Sox misery so far. They'll need the pennant-race draw with Hawks-a-mania revving up for the Stanley Cup defense and the steady media drumbeat of Bears, Bears and more Bears at that juncture.
The Sox are certainly not good enough to keep zooming up past the Twins at mid-season. They need another bat with weak production from the middle infield and third base in question. But they've wiped out the negativity created by their bad start.
Best of all, they're making G. Castle not appear to look like a complete fool. I predicted the Sox would win the AL Central based on a stellar rotation counterbalancing a power-laden Twins lineup. The forecast is still alive. But, fellas, not so fast. Hot streaks are followed by at least mini-slumps. Just look what happened to the team you just beat.