Hottest Team in MLB? Your Chicago White Sox

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On June 8th, the Chicago White Sox were 24-33, a season low 9 games under .500 and 9.5 out of first place in the AL Central division. Few experts could have anticipated where the Sox would be on July 10th:

47-38, a half game back of the division leading Detroit Tigers, and certifiably the hottest team in Major League Baseball.

Fresh off an 8-2 win over division rival Kansas City, the Southsiders’ sizzling streak reads like this:

Six straight wins, 19-4 in their last 23, 23-5 in their last 28, 12-1 in their last 13 at U.S. Cellular Field.

And it all starts with the starting rotation. Pun intended.

“We’re pitching well, all five guys go out there and do a tremendous job giving us an opportunity and a chance to win,” Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen said.

By Paul M. Banks

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“Early in the season that’s what we were looking for, we didn’t have that and the team struggled. You look at the five starters and what they’re doing right now. When it rolls the right way and when you have pitching and good defense, you’re always going to have a chance to win the games,” Guillen continued.

Sox starters are 17-5 with a 2.35 ERA (49 ER/187.1 IP) and 25 quality starts in the last 28 games, lowering their season ERA by more than a full run from 5.28 to 4.23. In that span, the rotation has worked at least 7 innings on 16 occasions, and allowing two runs or less 16 times.

“I think early in the year we were pitching decent, but not like we have been the last month,” said Sox Hitting Coach Greg Walker.

“And a lot of the games we’ve won since then, the Strasburg start (June 18th win over the Washington Nationals’ rookie phenom) we won 2-1, and a lot of people say: you did a great job, you were tough.

If we lose that game 4-2, everybody says: your offense is terrible, everyone comes to the ballpark the next day feeling bad about himself. We’re winning more close games now because we can pitch through it,” Walker said while explaining the mental aspect of the team’s improvement this past month.

“We’re putting up a lot of zeroes early in games which doesn’t put pressure on the offense to score. You feel like if you put up a run or two early, they (opposing hitters) are going to put zeros up, and you just keep building off it with no pressure because you got the lead,” he said.

And that dominance by the starting rotation is led by the ace of the Sox staff, Mark Buerhle. The four time All-Star and all-time co-leader (with Jamie Moyer) in interleague wins has won more games at U.S. Cellular Field (81) than any pitcher in the ballpark’s 19 year history.

He got his eight win of the 2010 season Friday night, throwing seven innings of shut out ball. He’s 5-1 with a 2.23 ERA over his last six starts. After the game he talked about the recent hot streak.

“If we said that we would win that quick and be back in it as quickly as we did, I don’t think anybody would have believed us. But we’re playing good, we just need to keep on going,” Buerhle said.

One pivotal factor to maintain the current run of dominant starting pitching, and therefore the hot streak, is how the club reacts to the loss of starting pitcher Jake Peavy for the season.

“I think (Sox super prospect and current minor-leaguer Daniel) Hudson is going to be in his spot and hopefully we can get some good starts from him and see what happens. We’ve been pitching really well and that’s been the key to our success,” said White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham.

Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

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