There are 42 games remaining for the Chicago White Sox in the 2011 season, and the Sox are a mere three and a half games back despite what has been a generally disappointing season. There’s a little over six and a half weeks left in the regular season, and since the White Sox are now back in the race, it’s simple to say that every series is crucial.

However, a mid-August series against one of the two teams that the White Sox are competing with for an AL Central championship is substantially more important than most, and that’s what the Sox are getting themselves into tonight as they open a three-game series in the middle of a nine-game home stand against the Cleveland Indians.

A lot of people, including myself, have written off the Indians as a viable threat in the AL Central since they cooled off in late-May, but Cleveland has seemingly hung in this race by the proverbial thread. Tonight, they’ll trot out their prized trade deadline acquisition, Ubaldo Jimenez, in hopes of a strong outing.

He’ll be matched up against inconsistent White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd in a contest that will feature two of the sharpest breaking balls in the game. The issue, unfortunately for both, has been the inability to throw that often devastating curve ball for a strike.

It’s safe to say that both squads will have their off eye on the right-field scoreboard in an effort to keep up with the first-place Tigers as they square off with the Minnesota Twins, but they’d be smart to focus their attention on the task at hand.

A sweep by either the White Sox or the Indians is likely to all but eliminate the other from postseason contention, and narrow the AL Central race from three teams to two.