The Chicago White Sox have their final game against an American League Central opponent this season when they face the Minnesota Twins in Sunday’s series finale at Guaranteed Rate Field.
For the second straight season, the Sox will have a losing record in division games.
After going 37-39 in 2022, they entered Saturday’s game against the Twins 22-28 against the AL Central this season, including losing 17 of their last 24. During that stretch, they’ve been outscored 127-84.
During the consecutive playoff appearances in 2020 and 2021, the Sox went a combined 69-47 in division games.
There’s been a change to the MLB schedule this year, with at least three games against every other major-league team. The number of division games went from 76 to 52.
Much has been made of the AL Central having just one team over .500 — the Twins. Sox manager Pedro Grifol sees it as cyclical.
“I don’t know why this division has played close to .500,” Grifol said before Saturday’s game against the Twins. “Obviously we haven’t played good baseball and Kansas City hasn’t played good baseball. But Minnesota’s got a good team. Cleveland’s got a good team. And Detroit’s coming and they’re going to have a good team.
“Everybody talks about this is a winnable division, yeah, this year it was. But moving forward, I don’t see it that way. This comes in cycles.”
Grifol said of the Tigers: “Detroit’s got really good pitching. They’re building something pretty nice over there.”
He said Cleveland “is always going to be competitive” and that the Twins “hit for power, they pitch, they’ve got good starting pitching. They play pretty good defense. It doesn’t look like they’re going to be going away any time soon.”
Grifol doesn’t think the Royals’ record “speaks for their talent, either. They’ve got a ton of position players who can really play.”
“This thing comes and goes when it comes to divisions,” Grifol said. “This division is going to be good here pretty soon in the next couple, two-three years.”
As for this season, here’s a closer look at how the Sox fared against division foes.
Season series: Sox won 8-5.
Memorable game: Everyone will remember the Aug. 5 brawl at Progressive Field which led to six suspensions, including five games for Sox shortstop Tim Anderson and two for Guardians third baseman José Ramírez.
Following the 14-minute delay due to the melee, the Sox went on to a 7-4 victory in a game Grifol said the next day “a much-needed win.”
“Could it have been the best win of the year? Possibly,” Grifol said on Aug. 6. “They’re all really good, no matter what. But there were a lot of emotions.”
The Sox also beat the Guardians on Aug. 6, 5-3, to take two of three in the series. They then won two of three against the New York Yankees Aug. 7-9 at Guaranteed Rate Field. They have not won a series since.
Season series: Tigers won 8-5.
Memorable game: The Sox couldn’t hold on to a seventh-inning lead on May 27 at Comerica Park, falling 7-3.
Another late lead slipped away the next day in a 6-5 loss in 10 innings.
The Sox scored four in the seventh to take a one-run lead, but the Tigers tied it in the ninth and won on a sacrifice fly in the 10th.
The games highlighted some of the inconsistencies in the bullpen. With the back-to-back losses, the Sox dropped three of four in the series.
“We did a great job hanging in there the last two games,” Grifol said after the May 28 loss. “We felt we had the right matchups out there and we did some good things, just didn’t happen.”
Kansas City Royals
Season series: Royals won 7-6.
Memorable game: One of the more unique losses occurred Sept. 5 at Kauffman Stadium when the Royals scored twice in the ninth to beat the Sox 7-6.
The game-ending run scored when reliever Gregory Santos was called for a balk with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth.
“I didn’t handle it well,” Santos said through an interpreter after the game. “The batter was taking a long time to get in the batter’s box and I rushed it. I didn’t step off the rubber.”
Season series: Twins lead 8-3
Memorable game: The Sox made three errors, yet found a way to win 4-3 on April 10 at Target Field.
But Anderson suffered a knee injury during a botched rundown. He was out until early May.
With the victory, the Sox record improved to 5-6. It’s the last time they were that close to .500 the rest of the season. The Twins won the final two games of the series, as the teams started heading in separate directions.