With just five games left in the season for the White Sox, it’s pretty clear what is coming next: a first-round ALDS matchup with the Houston Astros.
What has still yet to be decided is exactly where Game 1 will be played.
Home-field advantage has been a talking point for the White Sox fan base all of September. The battle of health vs. wins is nothing new, but to this point in September, it’s been pretty clear that Tony La Russa has chosen to prioritize the health of his oft-injured team. While home-field advantage is A goal, it is not THE goal for the White Sox right now.
However, over the course of this week, the White Sox may just have a chance to accomplish both goals. Here’s what the week and the path look like.
At current, the Astros are 2.5 games better than the White Sox in the standings. That leaves their current magic number at 3, meaning any combination of Astros Wins and White Sox Losses that totals 3 clinches home-field advantage for the Astros.
The means the White Sox have two goals over the rest of this week if they want to gain home-field advantage:
- Win every ballgame possible
- Hope the Astros don’t win too many games
In order to accomplish both of the above goals, it only makes sense to look at the schedule for each team.
The White Sox have five games to close the season.
- 2 Games HOME vs. Reds (82-75)
- 3 Games HOME vs. Tigers (75-81)
On the other side, the Astros have six games to close the season
- 3 Games HOME vs. Rays (97-59)
- 3 Games HOME vs. Athletics (82-72)
So, both teams get to finish up their seasons in their own beds, which as you can see from their home records up above, strongly benefits both of them.
Let’s take a look at the Astros’ opponents first. The Rays don’t have much to play for as a 97-win team who has both locked up their division and has a Magic Number of 1 to clinch the #1 overall seed in the playoffs – in other words, it’s not going to take much to give themselves the best position possible in the playoffs. They will likely rest their players as much as possible while remaining a very, very good ball club. This will not be an easy matchup for the Astros. The Athletics also pose a threat, although since they are mathematically out of the AL West race and 3.5 games back of the AL Wild Card, they could already be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs by the time they play the Astros. Again, tough team, but with potentially nothing to play for. This context makes both of these series slightly easier for the Astros.
The Astros are 2-1 against the Rays this season and 9-7 against the A’s.
For the White Sox, these games are winnable, but by no means a walk in the park. They open their series against the Reds tonight, who are on the heels of a four-game winning streak, but are on the verge of missing the Postseason. It’s unlikely they will have much to play for, but sport a potent offense. The same goes for Detroit – they have nothing to play for, but the scuffle with Jose Abreu on Monday afternoon likely gives them a bit more incentive to show up and look to ruin the White Sox’ chances to obtain home-field advantage.
The White Sox are 1-1 against the Reds this season and 10-6 against the Tigers.
The question – as it has been for weeks – remains the same: is it worth prioritizing wins over health when the White Sox do not currently control their own home-field destiny?
Tony La Russa has clearly already entertained this idea without prioritizing it, as several players who were not supposed to play on Monday afternoon did so:
So, if La Russa and the squad are willing to try and both stay healthy and make a push for home-field advantage, it’s going to start with Reynaldo Lopez and a quality performance against the Reds tonight. Every win from the White Sox pushes the Astros harder if they want to keep home-field advantage.
The number to keep in mind is 3. The number doesn’t move if the White Sox win – let’s hope they force the Astros to earn it.
Featured Photo: Joe Ruffalo (@jruff96) / Twitter