White Sox-Orioles Preview

Early next week, the Chicago White Sox start a crucial set of

games that could go a long way toward determining if they win the

AL Central.

First, they’ll try to stay hot during a four-game road series

beginning Friday night against new manager Buck Showalter and his

suddenly resurgent Baltimore Orioles.

Chicago (62-46) enters this weekend’s set holding a 1 1/2-game

division lead over Minnesota, which it will face in its return home

Tuesday night. The White Sox will then host third-place Detroit for

three games, before traveling to Minnesota for three more.

Chicago made strides against one of its challengers this week by

taking three of four road games from the Tigers, improving to 9-2

in its last 11 and a major league-best 38-13 since June 8.

Despite taking a 6-4 victory in 11 innings in Detroit on

Thursday, the White Sox still have concerns about closer Bobby

Jenks’ effectiveness.

Jenks yielded three ninth-inning runs in the eventual win,

blowing his second save opportunity in five tries as his ERA

increased to 11.37 since July 17. Mark Kotsay bailed the White Sox

out when he delivered a two-run triple in the 11th after hitting a

two-run homer in the top of the ninth.

“I keep saying Bobby will be the closer,” manager Ozzie Guillen

said. “But we’ll see over the next couple of days.”

If John Danks can regain the form he showed most of last month,

Guillen might not need to worry as much. Danks (11-8, 3.40 ERA) was

4-1 with a 2.21 ERA in his first five starts of July, but ended the

month by giving up five runs over 6 2-3 innings in Saturday’s 6-2

loss to Oakland.

The left-hander is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his last three

matchups with Baltimore.

However, he’ll now face an Orioles team that’s 3-0 under

Showalter and completed a sweep of the Los Angeles Angels with a

5-4 victory Thursday night.

Baltimore (35-73) blew a four-run lead in the eighth inning, but

won on an RBI single by Cesar Izturis in the bottom of the

ninth.

“(Showalter’s) track record speaks for itself,” Orioles reliever

Jason Berken said. “Guys have a lot of respect for him. He’s done a

great job; he’s going to do a great job. For us, it’s just a matter

of really just putting all facets of the game together, and we’ve

been able to do that so far.”

Baltimore starter Brad Bergesen (3-9, 6.63) will try to end his

lengthy slide and help the worst team in the majors match its

longest win streak of the season. The Orioles have won four

straight twice in 2010, most recently a four-game sweep of Texas

just before the All-Star break.

Bergesen is 0-7 with a 7.26 ERA in his last 11 starts. Another

loss Friday would give him the longest active skid in the

majors.

The right-hander nearly ended his drought Saturday, when he left

after seven innings with the Orioles holding a 3-2 lead over Kansas

City. Baltimore’s bullpen, however, couldn’t hold on in a 4-3

defeat.

Bergesen went 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA in two starts last season

against the White Sox as a rookie.