Guardians knock White Sox out of AL Central race, playoff hopes dire

Guardians knock White Sox out of AL Central race, playoff hopes dire

Guardians knock Sox out of Central race, playoff hopes appeared first on NBC Sports Chicago

At best, the White Sox would have swept the Guardians this week to get within a game of first place in the AL Central and start a thrilling race to end the regular season.

The worst case scenario was — you guessed it — what happened over the past three days in the Guaranteed Rate Field.

Cleveland completed a three-game sweep Thursday that not only buried the White Sox in the AL Central race, but also eliminated them from the playoffs altogether with 12 games left in the season.

“It’s tough,” Gavin Sheets said after the 4-2 loss, in which his solo home run provided half the Sox offense.

“Obviously 162 doesn’t go down in three games, but we knew what we had to do this series and we couldn’t do it.”

Cleveland could win the AL Central as soon as Sunday. Their magic number is five, which ensures the tiebreaker (head-to-head record) over the Sox this week.

Meanwhile, the White Sox’ shutout tally in the AL Wild Card game is seven. They are 6 1/2 games behind the Mariners for the final spot. They are also 2 1/2 games behind the Orioles, the first team behind Seattle.

MORE: Track White Sox standings, playoff odds

“It’s disappointing. It’s disappointing,” Sheets added of the sweep in Cleveland. “But it’s not just this series. We had to play better all season.

“Obviously, that was a huge run and we just couldn’t pull it off. They’re playing great baseball, but it definitely wasn’t just the streak.”

That moment of honesty from Sheets echoed one from teammate Lance Lynn a day earlier, after Lynn was asked if he was surprised the Sox are as far behind as they are this late in the season.

“Nothing surprises you. Lynn said Wednesday. “Especially when you’ve been playing like sh– all year. We’ve gone six games all year, it seems.

“We still have a little bit of time, but we put ourselves in a hole, that’s for sure.”

Thursday’s loss dropped the Sox to seven games from first – their largest deficit this season. It’s no secret that they’ve been wildly, if not wildly inconsistent over the past five-plus months.

The AL Central preseason favorite picked my lot to make a deep postseason run, holding a share of first place in the division for eight days this season. The Sox have led the Central by no more than two games, and that was in the second week of the season.

One of the best stretches of the year came over the last three weeks courtesy of acting manager Miguel Cairo, who led the team to a 13-9 record in Tony La Russa’s absence.

“From August 31, they decide to play, they decide to fight,” Cairo said after Thursday’s loss. “They went and did everything and I’m proud.

“I’m proud of what they’re doing. Just because we lost that series, if you look back to August 31st we won, what six series, and they struggled. They give everything. We just fell behind a very good team. This team is really good.”

The Guardians, to their credit, have completely taken over the division with a strong September (15-7). The Sox are mathematically alive, but they would need a miraculous finish in their final 12 games and a ton of help to secure a third straight postseason berth.

As consistently as the Sox have played under Cairo, it’s been too little, too late.

“We had our bursts of playing really good baseball, but it just wasn’t consistent enough,” Sheets said. “That’s why I said it’s not about these three games for sure.

“I think we would all agree that we should have played better baseball. It’s disappointing.”

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