A season that began with lofty October expectations for the Chicago White Sox ultimately has boiled down to something far more trivial.
Should the defending American League Central champions win two of three from the visiting Minnesota Twins in a series that begins Monday night, Chicago will finish .500.
The White Sox (79-80) have slumped to the finish line, losing nine of 12 to fall out of contention in the division and American League wild-card races, but they will start one of their more consistent right-handers in veteran Johnny Cueto.
Consistent until the stretch run, that is.
After serving as a stalwart since joining the team in mid-May, Cueto (7-10, 3.39 ERA) went 1-4 with a 5.20 ERA in five September starts. He has lost four starts in a row, including his most recent one, allowing six runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings on Wednesday at Minnesota.
Cueto is 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA in three starts against the Twins this season, with 15 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings. He is 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA in six career starts against Minnesota.
The Twins (77-82), who also were in the hunt for the Central crown before fizzling in September, have lost three of four, including their home finale to the White Sox on Thursday.
Minnesota lost two of three at Detroit over the weekend, including 5-2 on Sunday.
With the Twins eliminated from playoff contention, the club’s attention turns to individual accolades, namely first baseman Luis Arraez’s pursuit of the AL batting title.
Arraez enters Monday batting .3155, with Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees his nearest pursuer at .3113.
However, the Twins are being cautious with Arraez. He was withheld from Sunday’s game as he dealt with various injuries to his legs and hamstring.
“You could see the way he was moving around (Saturday) on the field,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “If he was completely healthy, he would have been in the lineup today. That’s what we’re probably going to have to work through from here until the end of the year.”
Baldelli added that the Twins will “be keeping a close eye on” Arraez.
According to reports, the White Sox will announce manager Tony La Russa’s retirement on Monday. After steering Chicago to 93 wins and a division title last season, La Russa presided over this season’s inconsistency. However, he has not guided the White Sox since Aug. 30, when he left them due to health reasons.
La Russa will turn 78 on Tuesday.
“He’s going to have a good retirement,” White Sox reliever Joe Kelly said. “It would be different if he was 50. He’s not in the beginning part of his career. He’s had a great career. Hall of Famer. Ultimately, we fell short as players, and we didn’t perform as well as we should have. … Wish we would have played a little bit better for him as a unit, for sure.
Twins right-hander Bailey Ober (2-3, 3.18) will try to defeat Chicago for the second straight start after delivering 7 1/3 innings of two-hit ball on Tuesday in a win.
Ober is 2-1 with a 3.34 ERA in seven career starts against the White Sox.
–Field Level Media