Stretching the Field: Let's ride the White Sox bandwagon

Philadelphia, PA ( - In Monopoly, players who pull a particular Chance card can take a ride on the Reading Railroad and collect $200 if they pass Go.

It's a helpful strategy for those in need of cash or want to avoid houses or hotels erected on more than half of the board.

Bandwagons are like trains and the proverbial act of jumping on and off them happens throughout an entire calendar year. Injured ankles need to heal with alternating hot and cold compresses when pledging allegiance to a particular team.

For the Chicago White Sox fans who taped their ankles before May, be prepared because this gravy train could come to a halt at the nearest station.

The White Sox are the hottest team in the American League with six straight wins and 10 in the last 13 games. So much like all bandwagoners, it's time to break out the replica jerseys or, in some cases, those of the authentic variety.

To call the White Sox the hottest team in the AL seems far-fetched with the New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros hogging the headlines. But the Pale Hose are only 4 1/2 games out in a competitive AL Central loaded with talent. Kansas City, Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago all have records above .500 in the division.

Philadelphia is hot in the National League with six wins in a row, but they're the Phillies (17-23). The premature celebration with either the White Sox or Phillies is deserved, but consistency has been the issue with these two clubs in recent years.

Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber said Chicago has a "really aggressive lineup" and learned first-hand in Monday's 2-1 loss in 10 innings despite pitching well. Kluber, of course, is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and current strikeout king, and could foresee a resurgence with the South Siders.

Having missed the playoffs in each of the past six seasons, Robin Ventura's club is on to something. The White Sox are 11-5 at home and have won each of their first five series at U.S. Cellular Field for the first time since turning the trick over the initial six home series in 2002. They've won five straight on the road and four consecutive series as the visitor.

So how have the White Sox put it all together with a lineup that Kluber described as "aggressive?" For starters, Jose Abreu is carrying the offensive load and leads the club in home runs (six) and RBI (22), and is second in batting average (.293) behind Avisail Garcia. Abreu is riding a 13-game hitting streak in which he's batting .333 with seven RBI, 10 runs and 17 hits.

Discipline in the batter's box brings smiles to the faces of the players and coaches, and leadoff hitter Adam Eaton is aware.

"We're continuing to build our friendships in here as a team," Eaton said. "If you smile as a team, you're going to win as a team. I truly do believe that, and guys are really enjoying each other's company and going out there and getting the job done. The team that gets along can enjoy each other's company, can make fun of each other, it goes a long way. It really does."

Eaton is on a seven-game hit streak and batting .286 with 11 runs scored and 16 hits in his last 13 games.

Great pitching goes a long way, too, and Chicago starters are 5-1 with an ERA just above 3.00 in the last 11 outings. Jeff Samardzija has prevailed twice during the past 13 games and Chris Sale was in line to do the same until his no-decision against Kluber on Monday. Sale struck out seven and allowed only a run in eight innings, while Kluber's line against the Chicago lineup was 12 Ks and one run in nine innings.

Chicago's not going to score four or more runs every game like it has 11 times since May 5. The club will oftentimes encounter a pitcher of Kluber's expertise. Close games such as the one Monday night helps build confidence and character, and keeps seats on the bandwagon safe.

As former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said to his teammates prior to a win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, "The final score will be 17-14. ... Believe it and it will happen."

It did happen.

The White Sox always had faith and it's becoming more clear.

"We've always believed in each other," Sale said. "But I think we're starting to believe in ourselves."