The guards sweep the White Sox out of the AL Central race, the playoffs are highly anticipated

The guards sweep the White Sox out of the AL Central race, the playoffs are highly anticipated

Guardians sweep Sox out of Finals race, hope to play bad hope appeared first on NBC Sports Chicago

At best, the White Sox would have swept the Guardians this week to clinch a first-place game in the AL Central and set up an exciting run to end the regular season.

The worst case scenario was – you guessed it – what played out over the past three days at the Guaranteed Rate Field.

Cleveland finished off a three-game sweep Thursday that not only buried the White Sox in the AL Central race, but also knocked them all out of the playoff picture with 12 games left in the season.

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

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

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

Meanwhile, the number seven elimination of the White Sox in the AL Wild Card race. They are 6 1/2 games back of the Mariners for the final point. They are also 2 1/2 games behind the Orioles, the first team behind Seattle.

BIGGER: Track White Sox standings, playoff odds

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

“Obviously this was a huge series, and we just couldn’t pull through. They are playing excellent football, but it was definitely not just about the league.”

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

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

“We have some time left, but we put ourselves in a hole, that’s for sure.”

Thursday’s loss dropped the Sox to seven games out of first — their largest deficit this season. It’s no secret that they have been wildly, if not maddeningly inconsistent for five months and more.

The preseason AL Central 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 not led by more than two games, and that was in the second week of the season.

One of the best stretches of the year has come in the last three weeks, to the credit of acting manager Miguel Cairo, who has guided the team to a 13-9 record in the absence of Tony La Russa.

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

“I’m proud of what they’re doing. Just because we lost this series, if you look back from August 31 we won, which series, and they fought. They give everything. We just managed to field a very good team. That team is very good.”

The Guardians, to their credit, have fully grasped the division with a strong September (15-7). The Sox are mathematically alive, but it would take a miraculous finish in their final 12 games, and a ton of help, to clinch a third straight postseason berth.

As strong as the Sox played under Cairo, it’s too little, too late.

“We had spurts of playing really good baseball, but it just wasn’t consistent enough,” Sheets said. “That’s why I said it definitely doesn’t come down to these three games.

“I think we would all agree that we should have had better ball. It’s frustrating.”

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