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Sox could have champagne on ice as they watch Tigers on last day of season

White Sox manager RobVenturhas be hoping his team can fare better against pesky Kansas City Royals. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

White Sox manager Robin Ventura has to be hoping his team can fare better against the pesky Kansas City Royals. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

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TONIGHT

ROYALS AT SOX

The facts: 7:10, Ch. 26, 670-AM, 97.5-FM.

The pitchers: Luis Mendoza (7-9, 4.48 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (5-11, 5.11).

THE REST OF THE SERIES

Saturday: 3:05 p.m., Ch. 32, 670-AM, 97.5-FM. Bruce Chen (10-11, 5.28) vs. Chris Sale (15-6, 2.94)

Sunday: 1:10 p.m., CSN, 670-AM, 97.5-FM. Jeremy Guthrie (7-12, 5.34) vs. Hector Santiago (3-1, 3.71).

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Updated: October 9, 2012 2:54PM



The White Sox have achieved their goal of playing meaningful games in September, and they almost certainly will play meaningful games in October.

During the first three days, at least.

That’s when they’ll finish the regular season with a series against the Indians in Cleveland. That’s where the American League Central likely will be decided.

The Sox, who lead the Tigers by one game, have occupied first place for 98 days but haven’t led by more than 3½ games. So there’s no reason to believe they’ll put the Tigers away or be put away before October.

When the Sox play the Indians on Oct. 1, 2 and 3, the Tigers will be in Kansas City, where they got swept last week. Which presents this possible season-ending scenario: Because the final Sox game begins an hour earlier than the Tigers-Royals, picture the Sox, with champagne chilling on ice for a possible title celebration, watching the eighth and ninth innings of the Tigers-Royals on clubhouse TVs in Cleveland.

A Royal pain

With seven games left against the Tigers and six with the Sox, the Royals will have a big say in who wins the division. They’ve been tougher on the Sox than the Tigers, but they closed out a 17-11 August by winning three one-run games against Detroit.

The Royals have won five in a row against the Sox. Their lineup gives Sox pitchers fits, and their starters in this weekend’s series aren’t bad: Luis Mendoza has a 3.32 ERA in his last three starts against the Sox, Bruce Chen was 2-0, 2.84 in two August starts against them and Jeremy Guthrie has had one poor start in seven after July 27.

Fight to the finish

At 74-62, the Sox must go 16-10 down the stretch to finish 90-72, which could be enough to win the Central. An 18-13 September would be their second-best month of the season.

Because the Tigers are three games out of the wild card with four teams above them, nobody is really talking about the two wild-card teams coming from the AL Central.

The Sox month-by-month:

Month W-L Avg. R/G HR ERA

April 11-11 .241 3.9 23 3.41

May 18-11 .271 5.4 39 4.20

June 13-14 .254 4.6 33 4.14

July 14-11 .262 5.0 31 4.14

Aug. 16-12 .252 4.6 45 4.09

Sept. 2-3 .259 4.4 4 6.48

Good seats available

With two first-place teams going head-to-head, Sox fans cited the economy and premium pricing for the 26,042 average attendance for three Yankees games Aug. 20-22. But with value pricing on Labor Day, they drew 21,676 for the Twins.

The opening game of the Tigers series with first place at stake is a Value Monday. For the rest of the series, tickets are priced as low as $9 in the upper deck with lower-level tickets starting at $20.

The Sox rank 24th among 30 teams in attendance. They’re selling an average of 1,048 fewer tickets per game than last season. It’s a sore subject with fans, management and players, but the Sox aren’t alone: Tampa Bay and Oakland are also in playoff contention, and they rank 29th and 30th in attendance, respectively.

Four all the marbles?

The Sox and Tigers each have 26 games remaining. The Sox have 14 at home, where they are 16-5 since the All-Star break, while the Tigers have 16 on the road, where they are 30-35. The four big ones are next week, when the Tigers visit U.S. Cellular Field on Monday through Thursday nights. Here’s what else is left for both teams:

White Sox (74-62 record, 40-27 home, 34-35 road)

◆ Home games: 14 (record vs. opponent). Three vs. Kansas City (4-8), four vs. Detroit (4-10), three vs. Cleveland (8-4), four vs. Tampa Bay (3-0).

◆ Road games: 12 (record vs. opponent). Three at Minnesota (12-4), three at Kansas City (4-8), three at Los Angeles Angels (3-2), three at Cleveland (8-4).

Tigers (73-63, 43-28 home, 30-35 road)

◆ Home games: 10 (record vs. opponent). Three vs. Oakland (2-2), three vs. Minnesota (7-5), four vs. Kansas City (7-4).

◆ Road games: 16 (W-L vs. opponent). Three at Los Angeles Angels (5-2), four at White Sox (10-4), three at Cleveland (6-9), three at Minnesota (7-5), three at Kansas City (7-4).



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