The Red Sox are contending and the White Sox are not, but Boston might be in for a harsh surprise if it doesn't take Chicago seriously this weekend.
The Red Sox will welcome the White Sox to town on Friday for three games at Fenway Park. Despite their record, the White Sox (56-76) might not be such a pushover, as they have won five straight series, during which they are 12-4. The Red Sox (79-56), meanwhile, took a 3-2 loss to the Orioles on Thursday to snap a four-game win streak.
In Friday's series opener, Chicago will use left-hander Hector Santiago (4-7, 3.25 ERA) against Boston's Ryan Dempster (6-9, 4.77 ERA).
Santiago has turned in two straight quality starts, and the White Sox have won each of his last four contests. Over his three most recent outings, Santiago is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA, with 20 hits and six runs (four earned) allowed in 17 1/3 innings.
"We're almost out of it and the numbers in the won-loss column aren't great, but we're playing like we're in contention to make the playoffs," Santiago said after getting a no-decision in a Chicago win last Saturday. "It feels like we're battling. We're definitely not giving in and not giving up when we're down and we're battling to keep our team in the game."
As for Dempster, this start is his first since he was suspended five games for intentionally throwing at Alex Rodriguez on Aug. 18. In his last seven outings, Dempster is 1-1 with a 6.81 ERA.
The Red Sox have won six of those outings, however, and will look to continue that winning on Friday. Boston has a 2 1/2-game lead over Tampa Bay in the American League East.
"He's rested, I know that. He'll be ready to go. I don't see this period of time in which he hasn't gotten on the mound as being a huge obstacle for him," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He's a guy that clearly knows his delivery. He knows his routine and what to prepare even if there's been an extended downtime, and more than anything, I think the downtime gives him a boost, just from some rest rather than possibly making him rusty or lack touch or feel to his secondary pitches.
"I think it's also Ryan making a positive out of this as well. So I think it's just his veteran experience and confidence in himself that would make this a positive."
White Sox: Garcia gets shot at leadoff
Leury Garcia, whom Chicago acquired from Texas in the Alex Rios trade earlier this month, batted leadoff in Wednesday's 6-1 win over Houston. Garcia went 0-for-2 with two walks, two runs scored, an RBI and a strikeout.
"He can [lead off] because of the speed you can go that route. But again, he's young," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of the 22-year-old rookie. "I don't think he's maxed out as far as what he's going to be. Hopefully this experience makes him better and you go from there. Speed is something you can't teach."
In 30 games this season, Garcia is batting .190 with two RBIs and two stolen bases.
Red Sox: Ortiz struggling
In an 0-for-18 slump going into Thursday's game against the Orioles, designated hitter David Ortiz was once again held hitless. He finished the game going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
Ortiz has never gone more than 27 at-bats without getting a hit, and he's never gone more than 23 at-bats without a hit as a member of the Red Sox.
"He's gotten some pitches that he's missed. At times, he might get a little pull-conscious where he's pulling off the ball at times and making the swing a little bit long," Farrell said before Thursday's game. "He's going through some early work on the field right now to address some of those situations. It's more than anything maybe getting a little bit overaggressive at times. We've all seen when he's been at his best is when he's driving the ball to left-center field. I know he's working to get back to that right now."
• The White Sox took two out of three games from the Red Sox on May 20-22 at U.S. Cellular Field.
• Since 2008, Chicago is 21-18 against Boston.
• Boston leads the Major Leagues with 27 series victories.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.