CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox's offense continues to flourish, although problems continue to rise all around it, and now the Tampa Bay Rays come to town for a four-game series that kicks off a six-game homestand.
The White Sox lead the American League in total runs scored with 125, a full nine ahead of the next closest team. They are also the AL leaders in OPS (.767), while they are second in slugging percentage (.435) and home runs (28), and tied for second in doubles (44).
Yet for all the heads the offense has turned, it's shut-your-eyes time when it comes to the pitching staff, as well as health concerns.
Gordon Beckham returned from the disabled list this week, but Avisail Garcia, Nate Jones, Jeff Keppinger, Chris Sale and Felipe Paulino all remain on the DL. Not only that, but Adam Eaton (hamstring) and Conor Gillaspie (bruised left hand), have missed games of late.
The bullpen has been an issue all season and is now carrying a 5.48 ERA, 14th in the 15-team AL. Their 48 strikeouts are also 14th, as is a 37.5 save percentage. Now there are serious issues with the starting staff as Sale and Paulino's spots need to be filled.
Andre Rienzo has moved into one starting rotation spot, but one remains spot vacant after left-hander Charlie Leesman got a chance to start earlier this week and struggled. He was sent back to Triple-A Charlotte after Wednesday's game.
An overall record of 11-12, though, is pretty much what was predicted of a White Sox team that is rebounding from a 99-loss season last year.
This year was always going to be about realizing what pieces needed to be improved upon while moving forward. Not that anybody in the front office was writing off this season, but that's what rebuilding seasons are all about.
So while Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez have taken off this season with the first and third best batting averages in the AL, respectively, and Jose Abreu closes in on the AL rookie record for home runs and RBIs in March/April, more areas of improvement remain.
This weekend will provide the offense an interesting test since the Rays are going with three unheralded starters, along with one established veteran in David Price. But success will require more than the offense meeting its challenges.
HEAD TO HEAD
Nobody on the White Sox has more than three at-bats against Rays starters Chris Archer, Cesar Ramos or Jake Odorizzi, and nobody has ever faced Odorizzi. ... Dayan Viciedo is 2-for-2 against Ramos with a home run. ... Look for Paul Konerko to get a start Sunday since he is 10-for-20 with two home runs in his career against Rays left-hander David Price. ... Gordon Beckham has not been as good against Price, going 3-for-22 (.136). ... The Rays' Evan Longoria is just 3-for-15 (.200) against White Sox starter John Danks, while Ben Zobrist is just 2-for-16 (.125) against the lefty. ... Erik Johnson and Andre Rienzo have never faced the Rays in their young careers.
The White Sox went 2-5 against the Rays last season, winning the first two games, but losing the next five by a combined score of 22-7. ... The White Sox lead the all-time series 69-54 and are 35-24 at U.S. Cellular Field. ... Adam Dunn needs two walks to tie him with Jack Clark for 48th place all time at 1,262. ... Abreu has seven home runs, one behind the opening-month rookie record shared by Albert Pujols (2001), Carlos Delgado (1994) and Kent Krbek (1982). ... The White Sox are batting a combined .308 over their past five games, four of which were played in Detroit. ... Johnson has given up just two earned runs over his last two starts (11 2/3 innings), while allowing four hits. He has walked seven, though.
Friday: White Sox right-hander Erik Johnson (1-1, 5.32 ERA) vs. Rays right-hander Chris Archer (2-1, 3.65), 7:10 p.m. CT.
Saturday: White Sox left-hander John Danks (2-0, 2.84) vs. Rays left-hander Cesar Ramos (0-1, 4.91), 6:10 p.m. CT
Sunday: White Sox TBA vs. Rays left-hander David Price (3-1, 4.04), 1:10 p.m. CT.
Monday: White Sox right-hander Andre Rienzo (1-0, 4.91) vs. Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi (1-2, 6.52), 7:10 p.m. CT.