In 94 games decided by three runs or less this season, the White Sox have a 47-47 mark, struggling the most with a 13-22 ledger in two-run games. These close contests serve as an overall positive for an American League Central-leading team that has rarely been blown out but also has rarely blown out the opposition, mainly because those tight finishes define playoff baseball.
On the flip side, these narrow escapes or close defeats also can take a lot out of a team.
"There's good news and bad news," said White Sox captain Paul Konerko in a recent conversation on the topic. "When you play these types of games a lot, you feel comfortable in them. You feel like it's normal.
"If you are lucky enough to get to the playoffs, it makes you a better playoff team because that's the games you are going to play. At the same time, it's very draining. It's very taxing, doing it every single day."
After grabbing an early 3-0 lead Thursday against the Royals and with chances to widen that margin, the White Sox looked as if they might have a bit of a breather before hitting the West Coast. Instead, they dropped a 4-3 decision to keep their magic number to win the division at 12.
So, the White Sox basically have been playing playoff baseball long before the playoffs arrive. Now, they just have to reach the postseason to put this learning experience into action.
"We are a little ahead of the game," said White Sox reliever Matt Thornton. "We have the experience under our belt a little bit. It's a positive thing, but at the same it's exhausting, very tiring. We just have to make it there somehow. It would be a luxury right now to clinch a playoff spot, but we don't have that luxury."
"Our '05 team was like that a lot," said Konerko, in regard to not adding on runs once the team grabs a lead. "The only time we seemed to add on runs the whole year was in the playoffs. So who knows? We'll just keep doing what we are doing. We feel like we have the pitching, bullpen and team to play those types of games, but it's definitely tough to play them."