Two weeks ago, things were looking rather dismal for the Chicago White Sox.
Having lost six of their previous nine games, they had dropped to 15-21, their lowest point below .500 during Robin Ventura's one-plus seasons as manager.
But two weeks later, the White Sox are suddenly one of the hottest teams in baseball, having won nine of their last 12, including Sunday's 5-3 victory over the Miami Marlins that completed a three-game series sweep at Cellular Field.
At the same time, the White Sox (24-24) are now back to .500 for the first time since April 10, when they were 4-4.
"I just think we're playing a cleaner game, that's what I feel better about," Ventura said. "The record is going to end up being the record, but it's how we play, be focused and being ready to come and feel like you're going to win every day."
But Ventura, ever the pessimistic optimist, cautioned that even though the White Sox have now evened their season record, there's still a lot more baseball to come.
"It's one game," Ventura said. "You take aim at whomever you're playing that night. You can't start looking at standings and figuring it out.
"We know where we're at, but again, you can't look at everybody else and play your game while you're looking at the scoreboard. We need to take care of ourselves, play our game and go from there."
Miami, meanwhile, continues to have the worst record in the majors, dropping to 13-37 after Sunday's loss, the Marlins' fifth in a row and 18th in their last 23 games.
Alejandro De Aza was the hitting star for Chicago. His two-run, second-inning double held up for the winning hit, complementing Adam Dunn's two-run homer an inning before that scored Alexei Ramirez.
Miami scored its first two runs in the top of the second. Marcell Ozuna singled, went to third on Chris Coghlan's single and scored on Justin Ruggiano's base hit. Coughlin, however, was nailed trying to score on Ruggiano's hit. Ruggiano then scored on Nick Green's single to make it 2-2.
The White Sox went back ahead 4-2 in the bottom of the second when Dayan Viciedo led off with a double, Hector Gimenez walked and De Aza doubled to left center to score both runners.
De Aza added a second double to lead off the bottom of the eighth, and then scored Chicago's fifth and final run on an RBI single by Alex Rios.
Miami closed to 4-3 in the top of the third when Juan Pierre and Adelny Hechavarria both walked, Derek Dietrich flied to right to push Pierre to third, and Pierre then scored on Marcell Ozuna's groundout to third.
Winning White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod (3-3) pitched 5 1/3 innings, gave up all three Marlins runs, six hits one walk and struck out one.
"After a tough start, we feel pretty good about it right now," Axelrod said. "It's at that point of the year where you turn it on a little bit, get back to .500 and now the only way is up. Good things are happening."
White Sox closer Addison Reed worked the ninth, striking out two en route to his 17th save.
"You need to win the games you're supposed to," Ventura said. "If you don't, you're looking at this series differently. So it's one of those we'll take."
And while the White Sox bats gave Axelrod great support, it was Chicago's defense that proved crucial.
In the Marlins' two-run second, Viciedo's throw from left field nailed Coghlan at home. And then in the sixth, Rios threw out the Marlins' Marcell Ozuna, who tried to score from second on Justin Riggiano's single to right.
"Our outfielders have some good arms and that's the difference in the game right there," Axelrod said. "If those two guys score, we lose it. So hats off to them and Hector (catcher Hector Gimenez) did a great job back there."
Marlins starter Alex Sanabia (3-7) lasted just four innings and suffered the loss.
"He was laboring," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said of Sanabia. "He didn't look good really from the start. I think he battled to give us the four innings. We ended up taking him out because his groin started barking on him.
"He was battling all game. You could see his velocity was down and he just didn't look like himself."
The White Sox are now 167-124 all time in interleague play, the third-best winning percentage to date in the major leagues.
"Every win is very important and every win means a lot," Rios said. "Sweeping teams like (Miami), you have to do it. You have to sweep things like this and keep it going for the next game.
"It's nice (to be back to .500). We've been playing good ball since about a couple weeks ago and it's looking good."
The White Sox play host to the Cubs on Monday and Tuesday in the "Crosstown Classic" before the four-game series shifts to Wrigley Field for Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Thursday. Lefty Jose Quintana (3-1) faces the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija (2-6).
"They're fun games, the fans enjoy them, it's great for the city, so we're looking forward to them," Ventura said.
The White Sox lead the all-time series with the Cubs 49-41. They're 26-19 at U.S. Cellular Field and 23-22 at Wrigley Field. The Sox have won eight of the last 11 games and 15 of the last 21 against the Cubs.
NOTES: Attendance was 25,464, the biggest Sunday crowd thus far this season. ... Miami heads to Tampa Bay for the start of the four-game "Citrus Series" on Monday. The Rays will host the first two games on Monday and Tuesday before the series shifts to Miami for Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Thursday. Jose Fernandez (2-2) will face the Rays' Jake Odorizzi (0-0) in Monday's game. ... Dietrich, a rookie saw his streak of reaching base end at 14 games, three short of the team record by Kevin Miller in 1998. ... Conor Gillaspie's game-ending single on Saturday followed Jeff Keppinger's game-ending single to win Friday's game. That marked the first time the White Sox have won consecutive games on game-ending hits since April 23-24, 2010. ... Here's a stat you don't see every day: The White Sox have made a major league-best 910 quality starts since 2003, two more than the Los Angeles Angels.
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