CHICAGO -- As the White Sox come off a 6-1 road trip, they face two surprisingly daunting tasks: trying to get on a roll at home and attempting to defeat Bruce Chen. One wouldn’t expect either to be too difficult to achieve, but the White Sox's 24-32 record at U.S. Cellular Field and the fact that they’re winless in Chen’s two starts against them this season tell a different story.
“The way I look at it is we’ve still got some home games coming starting right now today,” Paul Konerko said. “When it comes to looking at things as a whole, you really do have to wait until the end of the season because there’s no saying we won’t get really hot at home and then at the end of the year you look at it and say, ‘Well this is about what we thought we would do at home.’”
Of the White Sox's remaining 45 games, 25 are at home. Manager Ozzie Guillen knows his team has to improve at home. He added that their last homestand -- which ended with six straight losses, including a four-game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees -- was especially difficult.
“That particular week I don't think anybody could have beat New York,” Guillen said. “That team was doing everything well. Pitching well, hitting well, everything was working for them. I think what we did on the road, I think we have to keep hitting the way we hit on the road. If we the hit the way we hit on the road, I think we'll be fine."
It was that White Sox offense that set Guillen off after the team’s most recent loss to Chen. On July 20, Chen held the Sox to one run in eight innings. After losing in extra innings, Guillen went on a profanity-laced tirade directed at his offense’s horrible showing against Chen and the Royal’s pitchers.
On Friday, Guillen was much calmer when Chen was brought up.
“I hope we have a different approach,” Guillen said. “We had a very bad approach every time we face him. I hope we have a different approach and we put some good at-bats together and hopefully we beat him.”
Chen is 2-0 against the White Sox this season, with a combined 14 innings pitched, allowing only two runs in those two starts. Konerko called Chen ‘crafty’ and compared him to White Sox starter Mark Buehrle in that he relies more on his command than stuff.
“Overall, you don’t try to do too much because a guy like that can take advantage of you,” Konerko said. “When you’re trying to swing for the fences or hit big, that’s the kind of guy it’ll backfire on you.”
The White Sox are also looking to get back to .500, a point they’ve reached three times before since the beginning of July. However, the real goal is to jump past that mark, something they haven’t done since they were 7-6.
“It reminds me of my hitting career. Every time I'd get close to .250 I'd jump back to .238 and I'd have to fight back to .250 again,” Guillen joked. “On paper and the talent we have, I think we're better than that. Hopefully we get out there and continue to go up. I'm never looking at .500; I'm looking to win this thing. If you say we're .500 and I'm going to be happy, I'd be lying to you. If we don't win this thing I'll be disappointed and I think a lot of people should be.”
As much as Guillen may have expected this team to get to 90 or more wins, Konerko says the won loss record doesn’t matter, it’s where they end up in the standings.
“There’s a good chance that the team that wins this division might not win 85 games -- they might win in the low 80’s -- that’s very possible,” Konerko said. “So the record I don’t think is going to be as big of a deal, but winning the division is winning the division.”
It looks as though the White Sox next steps towards that goal start with getting past their troubles at home and solving the riddle that is Bruce Chen.