So tonight begins the mad dash between the White Sox and Tigers in an 8 game (9 if the teams end the year tied) sprint to the division title and this Sox fan is… surprisingly not nervous. In fact, I would have to say I am quite EXCITED to have such a close race down to the wire.
For example, back in 2008 the Sox had to do something no team had ever needed to do to make the playoffs. They beat 3 different teams, on 3 consecutive days.
Game 1: Sox 5 – Indians 1: The Twins having already won, the Sox had to win this game to be able to make up a rained out game against Detroit or the season was over. Mark Buehrle stepped up after two heartbreaking losses and pitched the Sox to victory.
Game 2: Sox 8 – Tigers 2: In the game matching up against World Series member and former teammate Freddy Garcia, it was an Alexei Ramirez Grand Slam in the 5th that put the Sox in the lead for good and set up Game 163 against the Twins to settle the division title.
Game 3: Sox 1 – Twins 0: In what will forever be known by Sox fans as the “Blackout Game“, the Sox played to a sellout home crowd decked out completely in black and won the Tiebreaker game in a game filled with heroic moments. Ken Griffey Jr. throwing out a runner at the plate on a potential sacrifice fly, Jim Thome hitting an absolute bomb of a Home Run to center field that ended up as the only run, and to top it off a full-on diving catch by Brian Anderson to seal the win.
And as exciting and thrilling as that finish was… IT NEVER SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN TO THAT POINT. With 8 games remaining that season, the Sox had a 2.5 game lead on the Twins heading into a series with them in Minnesota. And when the Sox played at the Metrodome (and thank god the Twins moved out of that house of horrors…) bad things happened. And sure as 60 seconds of silence from Hawk Harrelson after an opposing player hits a key Homerun… The Sox got swept in 3 games falling to 2nd place on their way to a 5 game losing streak. That’s the only reason why the Sox were forced to play that 3 Team Parlay and likely the reason they faltered so badly in the playoffs (When Javier Vasquez is your Game 1 pitcher… You’re gonna have a bad time)
So that finish was more of a skydive-out-of-a-plane-parachute-malfuntions-and-only-deploys-at-the-last-moment feeling. 2012’s finish? An even playing field. Both teams have a fair shot and there is absolutely No. Room. For. Error. Will the Sox find a way to pull that emergency chute cord in time to avoid becoming a bloody smear on the Sox growing wall of disappointing finishes? I sure as hell hope so. But regardless, for a season I went into having ZERO expectations for any real success, 2012 will give me a true, honest to goodness race to see who’s better. And I can’t wait to see who ends up on top.