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Behind Enemy Lines: Talking surprising AL Central standings with South Side Sox

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Plus, we let them rub in that whole Mike Pelfrey thing a bit.

Chicago White Sox v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

It seems like only yesterday the Tigers were facing the Chicago White Sox. Considering it was only four days ago, that sense of deja vu you’re feeling is justified. The Tigers dropped three out of four games to the White Sox in Chicago in a brutally scheduled series. It might have been as exhausting to watch as it was to play.

The Tigers have a few things to look forward to in this rematch series, however. First, they’re back home at Comerica. Second, they’re coming off a series win in Kansas City, which has to bolster their spirits a little.

We took some time to chat with Josh Nelson from SB Nation’s White Sox blog South Side Sox about the coming series between the division rivals, and touched on everything from rebuilds to the surprising performance of Mike Pelfrey.

BYB: Chris Sale was just in town, how did the reunion feel? Did they hide all the scissors in the stadium?

SSS: I attended the game and it was bittersweet at the beginning. Here is the most talented starting pitcher the franchise has ever had and he is pitching for the opposition. While many White Sox fans understand the circumstances on why Chris Sale had to be traded, it’s heartbreaking that it ever got to that point. The game itself was bizarre. Chris Sale vs. Jose Quintana. Ace vs. Ace. Many were expecting a thrilling pitcher’s duel, and instead we got a barn burner. Neither pitcher looked and I don’t know if it was the hype that go to them or both were way off their game. Regardless, it was fun to see Sale go against Jose Abreu with the bases loaded. Haven’t been that anxious watching an at-bat during a Sox game in awhile.

The past weekend the Tigers and Sox faced off for a pretty rough four-game series including two long days with one cancelled double header and one actual double header, plus a ton of rain delays. It obviously didn’t go well for the Tigers, but how are do you think that is on a team in general?

I’m sure midwest teams handle that better than others, because you have to figure some games will be rained out in April and May (or even snowed out). It didn’t have a great impact on the Sox rotation as Tyler Danish, who was called up as the 26th man, had an extra day of rest to prepare for his first start. Sorry it didn’t work out well for Detroit, but if they were sluggish, I blame the Thursday night game that was scheduled. That’s a bit unfair for the away team to expect them to travel and play a doubleheader.

The White Sox are meant to be in a rebuild, but they were briefly in third place in the AL Central this week and are only 3.5 games back from first. Do you think there’s any chance the Sox could be contenders in the Wild Card race this year? How many wins do you think the team might get?

Make no mistake, while this has been a fun start for the Sox, they’re rebuilding. If they make the postseason it’s because 11 teams in the American League finished below .500. I’ve said from the beginning of the year that the White Sox will finish 72-90 and I’m still sticking with that prediction. At some point, this starting rotation will fall apart and the bullpen will hit a rough patch. This offense is hot and cold depending on the week. Once David Robertson is traded, it could be dicey for the Sox trying to close out games.

Which Tigers player do you think will be the biggest problem for the White Sox this series?

Other than Victor Martinez who has always given the Sox headaches, I’m going to say J.D. Martinez because he’s been on fire this month.

So, Mike Pelfrey got seven strikeouts in his last game against the Tigers. Better than any single game total with the Tigers. Paid for by the Tigers. I don’t really have a question here, but feel free to rub some salt in the wound a little.

Sure. Isn’t it amazing that the White Sox bullpen is second in the American League in ERA, despite injuries to Nate Jones, Zach Putnam, and Jake Petricka? They are doing this with Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak, some duct tape, and minor league journeymen. I mean, if the Sox can build a good bullpen, I’m sure the Tigers could too!

How are the rookies doing this year? I know Jacob May was a big disappointment to start the year, is he improving at all in the minors? With Saladino on the DL how has Adam Engel done during his short time up so far?

Jacob May performed so well in Spring Training that I thought he had a fighting chance on Opening Day. I was wrong. He was clearly outclassed. In a weird way, it’s worked out because Leury Garcia has been good in center, which is a complete shock. Speaking of center, Adam Engel has gotten a few opportunities so it’s hard to know if he belongs or not. He has great speed (for the scouting junkies, I grade it 65 to 70) and does a good job tracking the ball in flight while in the outfield. My concern is that he has a long swing and I worry if handling high velocity (95+ mph) will be a problem long term.

What has been the most surprising thing for you about the season so far?

That the trio of Avisail Garcia, Leury Garcia, and Yolmer Sanchez have been playing so well. On May 31st, Avi is 6th in All-Star voting for outfielders! He’s worth 2.3 WAR according to baseball-reference.com! He’s in the American League Top 5 in RBI! It’s crazy! Leury Garcia and Yolmer Sanchez are making a good case to be part of the future contending White Sox team as utility players. They rank 2nd and 3rd respectively in WAR ahead of Jose Abreu. I mean, this is really unbelievable. If you went up to any Sox fan and told them the Top 3 WAR leaders after May were Avi, Leury, and Yolmer, they would probably respond, “Who is all hurt?” Yet here we are. What a time to be alive.

We want to thank Josh for taking the time to speak with us. You can find his work at South Side Sox and follow him on Twitter.