White Sox super summer surfacing on South Side

Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and rest of Robin Ventura's company playing some must-see baseball

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers

Adam Dunn is greeted by Alexei Ramirez after a solo home run in the fourth inning. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today Sports / June 5, 2014)

In a cool commercial released Friday night, the White Sox sell the idea that U.S. Cellular Field during the ninth inning has become Chicago's new baseball hot spot.

That's when the Sox have won an American League-leading six games in their final at-bats. That's where Alexei Ramirez and Jose Abreu have admired walk-off home runs and teammates have mobbed everyone from Adam Dunn to Moises Sierra after other timely game-winning hits. That's why the Sox believe no opposing lead is safe, no matter the pitcher, not with a lineup as dangerous as theirs.

"Our kids just will not quit!'' Hawk Harrelson exclaims in the 30-second ad.

It fades to black just after leaving the audience sound advice, especially this week as the Sox begin a seven-game homestand Monday against the Tigers.

NEVER LEAVE EARLY

That goes for anybody thinking about beating postgame traffic. Surprisingly, the words also sum up the Sox mindset as their unlikely quest to win the AL Central continues. The Sox plan on going nowhere but further up the standings and deeper into the city's consciousness as a legitimate divisional contender.

How refreshing to have a team in town where the focus remains on the field. When Sox manager Robin Ventura benched Adam Dunn last Monday against the Dodgers despite Dunn's 8-for-13 success lifetime against pitcher Clayton Kershaw, it sparked debate — a baseball debate with defensible points on both sides.

Most discussions about the Cubs, even after this week's winning streak, wind up veering back into business-versus-baseball territory or bricks and ivy and scoreboards. The Sox didn't need approval from a governmental agency to expand the "K Zone,'' a section of nearly 1,000 seats when Chris Sale pitches. The Cubs probably would have needed Ald. Tom Tunney's signature for such a promotion.

While the Cubs try playing hardball with City Hall, the Sox just play baseball. While the Cubs dominate headlines delaying Wrigley Field renovation between radio deals, the Sox quietly maintain a healthy relationship with respectability.

So much parity exists that the Sox realistically have a chance at least to stay in the hunt all summer for the AL's second wild-card spot — and perhaps Chicagoans eventually will notice how exciting Abreu and Sale make this team. In 31 home games, attendance has yet to reflect the resurgent season the Sox are enjoying. They average 19,811 fans at the Cell, ahead of only the Indians and Rays — down from last season's 22,105.

The more people see of Abreu, still a Cuban curiosity to many, the more crowded the ballpark figures to get.

"We probably haven't had a hitter like Jose since Frank (Thomas),'' White Sox senior vice president Brooks Boyer said. "At the ballpark, whenever he comes to bat, everything stops. The vendors stop. People come off the concourse. Nobody wants to miss him hit.''

Nobody who appreciates greatness should. Every at-bat should include an #AbreuAlert from savvy Sox fans on social media. Every game Abreu plays when Sale pitches represents a rare opportunity. The Cubs have the Core Four, in the minors. The Sox's marquee offers Abreu and Sale, which hardly rhymes but makes Boyer feel like singing.

"We've had some really good players, guys with championship pedigrees, but when you talk about homegrown guys being potential superstars, it's something to get excited about from a marketing standpoint,'' Boyer said.

From a baseball standpoint, this start is everything general manager Rick Hahn envisioned after a 99-loss disaster. Injuries cost the Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia and closer Matt Lindstrom for the season and other regulars such as Adam Eaton and Gordon Beckham for stretches. Yet somehow manager Robin Ventura kept his team's attitude, and its arrow, pointing up.

Abreu has exceeded expectations. Sale has been historically dominant. No AL shortstop has started stronger than Ramirez. Outfielder Dayan Viciedo has produced good moments. Third baseman Conor Gillaspie entered the weekend hitting .336.

The bullpen lacks definition and consistency, making it fair to wonder if left-handed first-rounder Carlos Rodon and his wicked slider actually could contribute in a specialist role if September matters. The starting rotation needs a jolt, something Hahn should address if the Sox stay above .500 into July. Wouldn't soon-to-be-former-Cubs-pitcher Jason Hammel fit nicely in the Sox rotation?

Speaking of fun possibilities, imagine the boost Garcia would provide a potential Sox playoff chase if he surprises everybody with a late-season return. After successful surgery in April to repair a torn labrum and avulsion fracture in his left shoulder, Garcia has attacked rehabilitation and already has begun strengthening exercises. Nobody dares to project a timetable but sources say Garcia has trained like someone with a goal of playing again in 2014.

Word is, Garcia doesn't want to miss out on the excitement on the South Side. It's easy to see why.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh

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