The Metrodome jinx is dead. The Sox can win in Target Field without weird stuff happening.
Now they need to go into a specific mindset. They ain't gonna play 26-5 ball the rest of the season -- not even close. The heavy lifting has been done, the rivals jumped over. Now all the Sox need to do is split the rest of their games against the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins, and I think the result will be an AL Central title.
Desperation is retired. The Sox atoned for all their early-season sins in one fell swoop, amid one of the greatest surges in team history. Now they're sniffing 90-victory territory or better. All they need is to hold serve and avoid pratfalls against their rivals. Just play .500 ball against the Tigers and Twins, avoid being swept in series, and then take care of ground-gaining against weaker opponents.
It really is that clear-cut. One more win in the weekend series against the Twins keeps them in their place. The true test starts August 3. The Sox play four games in Detroit (including a day-night doubleheader, then come home after a supposed respite in Baltimore to duel the Twins three times between August 10 and 12. Then the Tigers burst onto the South Side scene with three from August 13 to 15. Then it's off to Minnesota again for a trio of contest August 17 to 19.
If the Sox are lacking an experienced fifth starter, well, Minnesota doesn't have a No. 1 or even a No. 2 starter. The Tigers dumped former rookie flash Rick Porcello and is relying on rookie outfielders for a lot of their oomph. All three teams have flaws, but the Sox possess fewer.
The Sox get a break in August with seven games against the Orioles and three against the Royals. The Yankees come to town August 27 to 29 with lots of bread and circuses as part of the bargain -- a Blackhawks night with the Stanley Cup on Friday, then Frank Thomas Day on Sunday. Promotionally, that's a waste, using the automatic-draw Bronx Bombers for those special events. At least the Sox should be jacked up by the entertainment.
More moments of truth await the South Siders in September. If Sox fans don't buy tickets to the September 14 to 19 homestand with six straight against the Twins and Tigers, they should have their fan cards revoked and be forced to root for the Cubs. Again, if the Sox are even or ahead of their rivals at this juncture, a split does them a world of good.
Another attractive four-game series, this time with the Boston Red Sox, starts the final homestand September 27, and then the Sox close the regular season hosting the Cleveland Indians. If the Sox don't have motivation to take revenge on early-season humiliations by the Tribe, they should be dispatched to the four corners of baseball by GM Kenny Williams.
Amid all the Williams-Ozzie Guillen sideshows, this is a likeable team with good character guys led by Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle. They've earned the right to try to go down the same path as their 2005 forebears.