CLEVELAND -- It is a simple equation for the Chicago White Sox: Win or start growing your offseason beard.
Manager Robin Ventura and his club face elimination in Cleveland and Kansas City where the Detroit Tigers, who are up three games in the AL Central, can win the division outright with a victory over the Royals.
“You don’t stop until you’re officially done,” Ventura said. “The guys are going to come out and play. You just never know what will happen. Crazy stuff happens all the time. You realize it is not a great situation to be in, but we are here to win games, and that is what we will try to do.”
The White Sox’s only hope is for the three straight wins in Cleveland along with three straight losses by Detroit to in Kansas City. That would force a one-game play-in for the AL Central title on Thursday at Comerica Park.
“You talk to guys on the plane, but again if they need to be reminded of what is going on … as a group they are ready to go,” Ventura said.
Sox reliever Matt Thornton was involved in three elimination games in a row during the Sox’s wild run at winning the division championship in 2008.
“Hey, we had to beat the Indians, Tigers and Twins in order to get in,” said Thornton, who along with Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, are the only players left from that team. “There was a tremendous amount of intensity, and at the same time a lot of fun for us. It was a great time. This time we don’t control our own fate.
“We still have to concentrate on playing good baseball and giving ourselves a good chance.”
The end of the 2011 season produced perhaps the most improbable finish ever to a season. The Tampa Rays, who were down seven runs in the eighth inning, came back to defeat the New York Yankees while the Baltimore Orioles were coming back with their own bizarre rally to beat the Boston Red Sox. Tampa went to the playoffs and Boston went home.
White Sox infielder Dan Johnson hit the walk-off home run in the Rays clincher.
“You really have to play it out,” said Johnson, who spent five months at the Sox’s Triple-A Charlotte this season. “You never know how things are going to play out. I did not know I was going to be the hero in that game, but I was ready when the chance came my way.”
The White Sox will need more than a chance. In this case, they need a miracle.