White Sox perking up, but is it too late in AL Central race?

CHICAGO (AP) The Chicago White Sox rolled into the All-Star break playing their best ball of the season, finally performing like the team they thought they were after a miserable start.

Maybe the worst is behind them. Or maybe this is just a brief reprieve.

For all the talk about firing manager Robin Ventura and shaking up the roster, the White Sox can at least breathe a little easier during this break.

”We’re playing some good baseball, we’re beating some good teams so I wish we didn’t have the All Star Break to be honest with you,” said Adam Eaton, batting .245 after agreeing to a $23.5 million, five-year contract in March. ”We’re continuing to play good baseball, but we’ll take the four days that we have and rest up and hope to make a good close in the second half.”

It would not hurt if Chris Sale could start every game, the way he is dominating. Actually, the staff as a whole has been solid. The hitting and fielding, well, that’s another story. The White Sox are last in the AL Central, 11 games behind division leader Kansas City and 5 1/2 out of the wild card.

That’s not the return they were looking for after spending big in the offseason. But at least they are starting to win.

”I like what these guys are bringing to the table every day,” Ventura said. ”They haven’t quit, they haven’t given up on anything.”

The White Sox (41-45) won nine of 11 games before getting shut down by Jake Arrieta in a 3-1 loss to the Cubs on Sunday. They have cut back on the mistakes and started to resemble the team they thought they would be after adding starter Jeff Samardzija, closer David Robertson, outfielder Melky Cabrera and slugger Adam LaRoche.

It just might be too late, though.

The White Sox are last in the majors in runs scored at 292, headed toward their lowest total in an uninterrupted season in 47 years. They project to finish with 550 runs over 162 games. The last time they scored so few in a season that was not shortened, they finished with 463 in 1968. For comparison, the 2000 team scored a franchise-record 978.

They have not fared particularly well on defense, and are just 24th in fielding percentage. But their pitching has been solid, particularly with Sale at the top of the rotation and Samardzija (6-4, 4.02 ERA) starting to deliver after a shaky start.

Sale (8-4, 2.72) made his fourth consecutive All-Star team and it’s easy to see why.

He tied Pedro Martinez’s major league-record with at least 10 strikeouts in eight consecutive starts and ranks second in the majors to Clayton Kershaw with 157.

”He’s the closest thing to Randy Johnson, I think, that you’ve seen in a long time,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. ”Very uncomfortable at-bat. Really good stuff. A breaking ball that’s equally good to both righties and lefties. Fastball is awesome. Uncomfortable delivery. He’s got all that going on.”

While general manager Rick Hahn has said he hopes to be in a buying rather than selling mode, the White Sox could have some difficult decisions to make before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

”There have been tough stretches, but we’re still having fun, we’re still enjoying being around each other,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. ”Now we’re starting to play a little bit better, playing as a unit and maybe starting to click a little bit more, so it’s even more fun.”