The White Sox are three games below .500 and six games behind the American League Central-leading Indians, but they've remained confident, and recently, the results on the field have taken a turn for the better.
Chicago has won five of its last seven games and six of its last nine, including Monday's 6-4 win over the Red Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox will play 16 of their next 22 games in Chicago, and perhaps more important, they've seen a number of players -- namely Adam Dunn, Alexei Ramirez, Alex Rios and Dayan Viciedo -- start to get hot at the plate.
"I think offensively we're starting to turn it around. As far as looking at games ahead, we're looking a lot more than we did before," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "For us, that's the most positive sign in the right direction."
But first, they'll have to put away a Red Sox club that hasn't made a habit of dropping series this season. Boston has won nine of 14 series, tied for the most in the Majors with Baltimore, Texas, St. Louis and the Yankees. The Red Sox, who went 69-93 last season, were 6-2 against the White Sox last season, their first season series victory against Chicago since 2007.
"Last year, they had some guys that were banged up and didn't start off well, and it didn't get any better as far as health-wise, and they made that big trade," Ventura said. "They're a different team than they were last year for a lot of different reasons."
One of those reasons is their improved starting rotation, which could be even better when Tuesday starter Felix Doubront finally gets into a groove. The lefty has allowed opponents to hit .307 against him this year, and he walked six Rays batters Thursday. He allowed just two runs, three hits and fanned seven while ending up with a no-decision when Will Middlebrooks hit a three-run double in the ninth to give Boston a 4-3 win.
"I finally figured out my pitches. My breaking balls, changeups and curveballs, I started getting the feeling back," Doubront said Thursday. "I wasn't that consistent, but I had good spin and my grip was good."
Doubront will get the start opposite White Sox lefty Jose Quintana, who is 2-1 with a 3.97 ERA this year but hasn't won since April 24. He allowed the Angels four earned runs in 6 2/3 innings on Thursday, a no-decision.
Red Sox: Bailey back in the bullpen
• Closer Andrew Bailey was activated before Monday's game, but manager John Farrell said he will be cautious not to overuse Bailey early on in his return from the disabled list. It seems unlikely that Bailey will pitch on consecutive days or three times in a four-day span anytime soon, but when he does take the mound, it will be as Boston's closer.
"Well, he makes our bullpen better," said Farrell. "Everyone will slot back in to a similar role that they've had when Andrew was still with us before the injury, so he'll go back into the closer's role. We will have to monitor just the workload and whether back-to-back is a good thing for him right now. That will all be a day-to-day situation."
• Shane Victorino left Monday's game early with tightness in his left hamstring.
White Sox: Dunn coming alive
• Dunn hit a three-run homer in the first inning Monday night, his 11th of the season. He's gone 9-for-25 with four homers, 13 RBIs and six runs scored over his last seven games, and Ventura pointed out that Dunn's recent uptick in production hasn't been the product of a drastic change in mechanics or approach.
"A lot of people look at mechanics and think that's just it. It has to be a combination of feeling good with the mechanics, having a clear mind and feeling positive swinging the bat," Ventura said. "Sometimes, mechanical stuff makes you feel better. Looking at them, you wouldn't see a noticeable difference in anything. He's not wide open or really closed or standing on his head. He's just gotten better."
• Rios extended his career-high hitting streak to 15 games with a first-inning single Monday. He's batting .383 (23-for-60) with four homers and 12 RBIs during the streak.
• Fifteen of Chicago's last 18 games have been decided by three runs or fewer. The White Sox are 9-6 in those games.
• The Red Sox have won six of their seven road series, the most road series victories in the Majors.