Originally written by Morris Daily Herald Staff Writer Mark Johnson.

Ah, nothing like a good ol' west coast road trip to get the White Sox going in the right direction.

What's that, you say? The Sox never play well out west? Someone forgot to tell the 2011 Sox that they're supposed to play their worst baseball on that dreaded trip, not before it. They went to Seattle on May 6 with an 11-21 record and haven't lost a series since. They're 11-4 in their last 15 games, and yesterday's 8-3 defeat of the Dodgers was their fifth in their last 6 games.

I thought Adam Dunn and Alex Rios would have to get red-hot for the inevitable Sox run to happen. As a Dunn owner in fantasy baseball, I can testify that has not happened. Rios has come around a bit, raising his batting average from .155 to .206 and his OPS from .458 to .583 since May 1. Dunn, it seemed, was breaking out when he got his average up to .216 on May 14; it's slipped back below the Mendoza line as he's got 3 hits in his last 8 games. Worse, the power hasn't been there; Dunn still has just 4 home runs.

Others have picked up the slack and allowed the Sox to score 4 or more runs in 5 of their last 6 games. Alexei Ramirez has had his OPS rise from .656 to .811 since May 7 and has 7 hits in the past 2 days. Carlos Quentin had gone cold for a while but had a good weekend, slamming a home run among his 4 hits on Saturday and Sunday. And, above all else, Paul Konerko continues to be the most consistent and best offensive player on the team.

The pitching has been good, allowing more than 4 runs just 4 times all month and never allowing more than 6 in a single game. Jake Peavy has provided a shot in the arm, and in the short term, anyway, the 6-man rotation has seemingly fostered an environment of healthy competition to hold down rotation spots long-term. More importantly, in my book, Sergio Santos' emergence at closer has solidified the bullpen. It's allowed Matt Thornton to go from a terribly struggling closer back to being one of the best left-handed setup men in baseball. Other pieces are falling into place.

Before Sox fans get too giddy, they need to realize their team is still a fourth-place outfit and a full 9 games in back of the Indians. Only the incompetence of the Twins is saving them from being one bad series from the cellar. The Sox have, however, taken the title of Best Baseball Team in Chicago away from the 20-25 Cubs. If they keep this up, the Sox could catch and pass several more teams.


This article was originally written for www.morrisdailyherald.com by Staff Writer Mark Johnson. It has been republished here with consent of Mark Johnson and the Morris Daily Herald. You can find the original article http://www.morrisdailyherald.com/blogs/entries/2011/05/23/51842850/index.xml