CHICAGO -- The White Sox had just arrived home in Chicago on Sunday night by the time the Twins finished off their stunning doubleheader sweep of the Tigers at Comerica Park. But the South Siders didn't need to look at the Twins' results to know that Cleveland and its 90 losses could provide a tough challenge over the next three days at U.S. Cellular Field.
"September is tough because, again, when you are facing teams that aren't in it, they are going home and they know they are going home," White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn said. "They are playing teams that they have a chance to eliminate. That's their playoffs and also you are going to face pitchers late in the game when it matters that you haven't faced. You'll get these young guys who get called up and who are going to try to win the Cy Young in a month."
"That's part of the end of the year pennant race for them, is to be a spoiler," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "I was on a few teams, probably more than I wanted to, that were like that. You can play pretty free and loose, but everybody is dangerous at this point of the season."
Dunn says time for everyone to relax
CHICAGO -- With a stretch of five straight losses entering Monday's series-opening 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Indians, it's easy to forget that the White Sox remain atop the American League Central and actually hold a one-game lead over the Tigers with nine games to play.Designated hitter Adam Dunn issued a reminder to his teammates and anyone else who was listening before the last 2012 homestand began, and then backed up his words by bashing two homers and driving in four runs.
"You can't worry about what other teams are doing. We are in first place," Dunn said. "That's what people are still forgetting. We are in first place.
"If we win as many games as we can and we play well, we will make the playoffs. When you have a lead, you don't have to scoreboard watch. It's nice if we win and they lose, but if we win them all and they win them all, guess who goes?
"We just have to take a step back and relax," Dunn said. "We have to realize we are in first place and in a really, really good position."
Dunn was in the throes of a 2-for-21 slump over his last six games and said that he had trouble seeing the baseball over the weekend in Anaheim. He made some minor mechanical adjustments prior to Sunday's series finale and knocked out a double and walked in four plate appearances, before delivering the game-winning, three-run shot off Vinnie Pestano in the eighth inning Monday.
That slump certainly isn't the only one among White Sox hitters, as Paul Konerko is 5-for-29 in his last eight games and Kevin Youkilis is 5-for-30 in his last eight. Those funks are as much a function of trying to do too much to keep the White Sox in first as they are a matter of feeling the pressure of the pennant race.
"There's no pressure. What's going to happen is going to happen," Dunn said. "You start tensing up and I think that's what a lot of people are doing. A lot of people want to do so well and they are trying so hard, me included, that you stink. You can't try so hard in this game because if you start doing that, you are going to try to do stuff you are not capable of doing. It just doesn't work that way."
"Again, you have to win games no matter what," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "I don't think either team's going to lose all the rest of its games. For me, just continue to play, be ready, be prepared. You're not going to always play well. You hope to, but the effort when they show up, the work they put in, the way they play, that's really what you're looking for."
Energy level not a problem for struggling hitters
CHICAGO -- The recent slump plaguing White Sox hitters, who have hit .172 over their last 145 at-bats with runners in scoring position, has produced numerous questions for manager Robin Ventura concerning lineup changes. Ventura plans to go with the players who have brought the White Sox to this lofty perch, although still looking for the best matchups over the last nine games.
Those matchups could mean veteran left-handed hitter Dan Johnson getting a start against a tough right-hander pitcher.
A question that always seems to follow is whether the White Sox just might be tired. Ventura believes that feeling is not solely true for the White Sox.
"Everybody's tired. The other teams are tired," Ventura said. "It's understandable because it's a long season and that's part of what makes it difficult."
As far as the team being completely out of gas, White Sox captain Paul Konerko strongly disagrees.
"That's the last thing I feel actually," Konerko said. "We got a lot of young guys in here. I just don't sense that all. I feel like we're actually in a pretty good spot in terms of our energy and our energy level.
"It's just a matter of executing better on both sides of the ball and getting the job done. I don't feel like that's an issue at all."
Santiago to start Wednesday, pushing back Peavy
CHICAGO -- Hector Santiago will get the call as the starting pitcher for Wednesday's series finale against the Indians, meaning Jake Peavy will move back for one extra day of rest and start a four-game set against the Rays. On Monday, Santiago was on alert in the bullpen and actually warmed up twice.
"They kind of gave me a heads-up to be ready for anything," Santiago said.
Santiago has made two effective starts among his 40 appearances during this rookie season, but has only thrown two-thirds of an inning since Sept. 13. In order to stay sharp, he has thrown pregame bullpens to simulate game action.
"I'm just working on stuff in between, making sure I get work done," Santiago said. "I'll tell the catcher to put a righty up there or a lefty up there and call pitches like it's in a game.
"This is awesome, especially now. We are in the big part of the year, last 10 games, and we are one game up. Being able to go out there with this opportunity and them having trust in this situation right now, it's huge."
Third to first
If manager Robin Ventura has felt the need to address a player or get on an individual about a possible misstep, he has done that on a one-on-one basis and not through a team-wide speech.
"I don't want to make it a big [deal] ... put a sign on the door that we're having a session," Ventura said. "There are ways to talk with somebody without having to call them in the office all the time. We talk to them all the time, whether it's on the field, in the dugout, on the plane. There are ways to do it." The White Sox are 27-10 in their last 37 home games following Monday's 5-4 victory over the Indians. They have a 26-18 record in one-run games, and have won six straight against Cleveland for the first time since they won six straight in 2003.
Donnie Veal gave up his first hit to a left-handed batter in 27 at-bats with Shin-Soo Choo's ninth inning double.