For major league teams, there is nothing like coming out of the All-Star break with a winning record and jumping right back into the race to the postseason.
Playing games that matter makes the blazing dog days ahead more bearable, and it’s a lot easier showing up to the ballpark each day with energy and enthusiasm when a playoff spot is on the line.
The White Sox still are a year away from gaining contender status, but they are playing much better baseball than they did in 2017 and '18, when they posted a combined 129-195 record.
The excitement level is beginning to build on the South Side, and here are some things to watch in the second half.
All-Star righty Lucas Giolito was the only reliable starter before the break, which makes the Sox’s 42-44 record pretty remarkable.
Reynaldo Lopez entered the season viewed as a future part of the rotation, but his status has changed.
The 25-year-old Lopez has the highest ERA (6.34) in baseball and needs to start locating his fastball and improving his offspeed pitches if he wants to keep his job.
Dylan Cease showed plenty of potential in his first start with the Sox, against the Detroit Tigers on July 3.
He doesn’t take the mound again until Tuesday at Kansas City, so Cease should be well rested. If he can locate the big fastball lower in the strike zone, Cease has a chance to be a top-end starter.
Yoan Moncada was a bust in 2018, but the third baseman came back with a boom first half.
He didn’t make the American League All-Star team, but Moncada can make a case for being the Sox’s best all-around player.
Not only is he hitting .308/.364/.544, but Moncada has cut down his big strikeout total and looks like a natural third baseman after breaking in with the Sox at second.
Shortstop Tim Anderson, Moncada’s neighbor on the left side of the infield, also has reduced the strikeouts and become an elite hitter.
Still recovering from a high ankle sprain – Anderson should be back in early August – defense is the only concern.
Anderson has only played in 69 games, but he leads all major league shortstops with 16 errors.
The July 31 trade deadline is approaching, and the Sox have been active the past two years dealing veterans for prospects.
The Sox have an attractive trade chip in closer Alex Colome, who is under contract through next season.
Colome could be on the move if an interested team offers a pair of high-end prospects.
If an offer is less than that, Colome will be a big asset next season when the Sox make an expected playoff push.
Eloy Jimenez, Cease and Zack Collins already are on the Sox’s roster this season.
Luis Robert is waiting on deck, and he is going to be a special player.
Robert played his first game for Triple-A Charlotte on Thursday night after tearing up the Southern League with Double-A Birmingham.
If Robert continues to thrive with Charlotte, it makes sense that he joins the Sox in September.
If not, he should be more than ready to play for the Sox in April.
Congratulations to the Sox for being the first team in the majors to extend protective netting down the outfield lines.
With two weeks off between the All-Star break and 10-game road trip to open the second half, the time was right to take the extra step and ensure fans sitting down the lines are not going to be seriously injured by screaming line drives.