The White Sox lost to the Tigers today, with Manny Ramirez -- whose offensive production since being acquired at the end of August has amounted to seven singles in 24 at-bats -- grounding out to end the game. By dropping three of four in Detroit this week, while the Twins swept the Royals, the Sox have fallen a full six games out of first place in the AL Central with 22 left to play. If you're into sports betting, your money's probably safe on the Twins at this point.
That's not to say this race is over. We can't easily forget that the Twins faced a similar deficit in the standings one year ago and managed to overtake the Tigers with a fierce push in the final weeks. There are plausible ways that Chicago could work there way back into the thick of this race. If, for instance, the Sox were to pick up a game over the weekend (Chicago hosts the Royals while Minnesota travels to Cleveland) and then sweep the Twins at home next week, they'd shave the deficit down to two games.
But let's be realistic and give our team some credit. It would take a significant collapse on the Twins' part to let the Sox move past them, and they've simply given us no reason to believe that's going to happen. This is the hottest team in baseball, led by a strong pitching staff and an intimidating offense.
If the Twins stay even with the Sox over the weekend and take two of three in Chicago next week, their lead will bulge to seven games with 16 left to play. At that point, even if the Twins played .500 ball the rest of the way, the Sox would have to go undefeated to surpass them in the standings. Not happening.
The White Sox still have a chance to make their last gasp within the next week, so it remains a bit too early to count them out. One week from today, though, it might be time for the Twins to start planning out their postseason rotation