Widely regarded a winner at the trade deadline by many baseball pundits, the Chicago White Sox are defying the odds so far this season.
First-year manager Robin Ventura was counting on left-hander John Danks to replace fellow lefty Mark Buehrle‘s presence in the rotation when Buehrle signed with Miami in the off-season. Instead, Danks has spent much of the season on the DL and will have season-ending exploratory surgery on his left shoulder next week. He was 3-4 with a 5.70 ERA in 53.2 innings this year.
Still, entering Wednesday night, the White Sox sat atop the American League Central with a 57-47 record and a three-game lead over second place Detroit, the team that was heavily favored to win the division.
The White Sox are in first place partly because of the surprising performances of 23-year-old left-hander Chris Sale (12-3, 2.61 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and .214 batting average against in 18 starts) and 23-year-old rookie left-hander Jose Quintana (who is 4-1 with a 2.80 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP in 14 games and 12 starts). Sale will be shut down with a “dead arm” and given a 10-day rest between starts.
The 28-year-old Liriano, who was once one of the top starters in baseball before he was derailed by injuries over the last few seasons, is 3-10 with a 5.18 ERA this season, but he allowed two runs and four hits with eight strikeouts and four walks in his first start for Chicago on Tuesday night against his former team.
Liriano has allowed just 93 hits in 106 innings this season, and opposing hitters have a .236 average against him, but walks have been a problem as he owns a 1.43 WHIP.
The Twins hope a change of scenery turns around Liriano’s season for the better just as it did Kevin Youkilis, who Chicago acquired earlier this season. In 146 at-bats for Boston, the 33-year-old Youkilis had four home runs, 14 RBI, a .233 average and a .692 OPS. Over 116 at-bats for the White Sox, he is hitting just .246 but has slugged six home runs and has a .799 OPS.
Though Youkilis has not replicated the numbers he produced just a few years ago when he was healthier, his output at third is an upgrade from what the White Sox saw there before. A lineup that features Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Dayan Viciedo, Alex Rios and A.J. Pierzynski along with Youkilis is good enough to score an ample amount of runs.
For the White Sox to either hold off the Tigers or secure a wild card berth, they will need ace Jake Peavy and other key arms like Floyd, Humber and Liriano to remain healthy. Sale and Quintana are young and not accustomed to the innings they have registered this year, so Ventura hopes that giving them added rest will keep them delivering positive results.