With three games to open the season in Cleveland and then three more in Detroit, the two teams all but coroneted as the only ones who will matter in the American League Central, the common school of thought was that the White Sox would be lucky to survive this lengthy excursion with two victories.
Now, on Monday afternoon, the White Sox will take on the Twins in front of a sellout at U.S. Cellular Field, a group of frenzied fans who will be celebrating a week in which the Sox proved those naysayers wrong. Ozzie Guillen's crew finished off its long Midwestern journey with a 13-2 shellacking of the Tigers on Sunday night at Comerica Park, posting their fourth straight victory and keeping Detroit as the lone winless team in baseball through six games.
White Sox fans might be satisfied with their team's 4-2 showing through treacherous Midwestern waters, possibly downright ecstatic. But for the White Sox, it's simply the first week of what they hope to be many successful weeks on a challenging run to the postseason.
"I think we could have even won those other two games in Cleveland," said White Sox third baseman Joe Crede, who offset the two errors he made on Sunday with four hits and three RBIs. "Everybody in here knows the kind of team we have, and it's a team that's going to be competitive this year."
"It's a great feeling going to Chicago with the momentum and enthusiasm we have," Guillen added. "I think the fans should be happy because we have a better club than people think. We know we will hit bad stretches, but as long as we play with enthusiasm and the belief that we are good, that's all that counts."
Mark Buehrle (1-0) gained a little bit of 2008 redemption with a Buehrle-like efficient effort in completing the three-game road sweep. Buehrle allowed two runs on seven hits over seven innings, after giving up seven runs on seven hits over 1 2/3 innings during his Opening Day start in Cleveland.
As Guillen joked during a fourth-inning interview on ESPN, the difference with Buehrle on Sunday night was that he had lasted past the second. Buehrle struck out one and walked two, but induced double-play grounders in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings to keep the Tigers under control, using his changeup to keep Detroit hitters off-stride.
"When I'm breaking bats and getting ground balls, it means my stuff is moving pretty good," said Buehrle, who threw 89 pitches and will have five days before a Saturday start against the Tigers at home.
A six-run sixth inning provided most of the heavy lifting for a White Sox offense leading the American League with 10 home runs and a .370 on-base percentage. Orlando Cabrera delivered the knockout punch, with a bases-clearing double to right-center on a 0-2 pitch from reliever Aquilino Lopez.
This rally started when Detroit first baseman Carlos Guillen dropped a routine throw from third baseman Miguel Cabrera on Paul Konerko's grounder, and included RBIs for Crede, Nick Swisher and Carlos Quentin, who raised his Sunday RBI total to four with a bases-loaded triple in the ninth. Swisher added his first home run of the season and his first career home run as a leadoff hitter against Detroit ace Justin Verlander (0-1), who was touched for nine runs (four earned) over 5 2/3 innings.
Detroit held a lead in each of the series' last two games and forged a tie on two occasions in the opener. But the White Sox would not beat themselves, and instead have won 22 of their last 31 games played at Comerica Park. They go after their first five-game win streak since Aug. 10-14, 2006, on Monday.
Sweeping the Tigers at Comerica is not exactly stunning. Not with an 11-3 record for the White Sox during their last 14 games in Detroit.
Getting off to this sort of quick start, especially after losing two straight in Cleveland, is somewhat eye-opening to everyone but the team assembled by general manager Ken Williams. There's a long way to go, but big first steps have been taken.
"The biggest thing that surprised me is not the on-the-field play, because I've seen that," said Swisher, who drove in two runs on Sunday. "I think it's the inside-the-clubhouse camaraderie. A lot of time the word 'family' is thrown around loosely. But around here it's not. When you talk about the White Sox family, it is family. And I'm proud to be part of it."
"A lot of people are counting us out, but I think we're going to show a lot of people what we can really do," Crede added. "Everybody on this team knows what happened last year and nobody wants to go through that again."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.