Prior to Tuesday's contest against the Dodgers, White Sox manager Robin Ventura was asked a simple question: Does he like his 2014 team?
The question caught Ventura a bit off guard, but he regrouped quickly enough to answer in the affirmative.
"I like this team. There are parts when you start missing parts of the team," Ventura said. "It started differently than it is right now, with the injuries that we had and everything else. These guys have found a way to come to the ballpark and compete at a high effort level. The effort level has been good."
With the team's record at an even 30-30, the results have been markedly improved from last season's 63-99 mark, the franchise's worst since 1970.
The White Sox are just one game behind the Dodgers, but the gap in perception of the teams' standings is vast. At .500, the South Siders have been a pleasant surprise in Chicago. At 31-29, the Dodgers and their league-high $238 million payroll have underachieved.
Just don't blame Wednesday's starter Josh Beckett (3-2, 2.52 ERA) for the Dodgers' troubles; his performance has been worthy of his $17 million salary.
After a disappointing end to his stint in Boston and a year after being limited to just 43.1 innings because of shoulder problems, the 34-year-old is having a renaissance season, punctuated by his no-hitter against the Phillies on May 25. Beckett has allowed just seven earned runs in his last five starts, a span of 32 innings. As it stands, the 2.52 ERA would be the lowest of his career.
The last time Beckett faced the White Sox, he was a member of the Red Sox. He allowed three earned runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking three in April 2012. He is 4-3 with a 3.74 ERA (23 ER/55 1/3 IP) in nine career starts against Chicago.
He'll be opposed Wednesday night by John Danks, who the White Sox hope has turned the corner after a tumultuous stretch from late April to mid-May. In his last two starts -- against the Yankees and Padres -- Danks has allowed two earned runs on 11 hits and one walk in 15 innings, lowering his ERA 0.98 to 4.66, its lowest mark since late April.
Danks and the Dodgers don't have much of a history. The lefty last started against the Dodgers in 2009, and only three Dodgers [Drew Butera, Chone Figgins and Adrian Gonzalez] have faced Danks in the last five seasons.
With the right-handed Beckett throwing for the Dodgers, look for Adam Dunn to start in left field once again.
Dodgers: Underachieving but undeterred
The team with the league's highest payroll isn't supposed to be hovering just above .500. But through 60 games, that's where the Dodgers find themselves: losers of five of their last seven games and seven games back of the National League West-leading Giants.
Manager Don Mattingly has said numerous times this season that he's not relying or expecting on his team to go on a magical 42-8 run like it did last season.
The team recognizes it's underwhelmed thus far. The expectation is that the results will change for the better, and soon.
Slowly, but surely.
"It's always one game. It's win that game that night," Mattingly said, "but if you look at it in terms of a three-game set with a team, you always want to win that series. If you can do that over the course of the season, you're going to be in good shape."
Said closer Kenley Jansen: "These guys have been battling. They've been working hard. It's got to start going our way sometime soon."
White Sox: Is this reshaped team a viable contender?
The White Sox have made it abundantly clear that they did not intend to throw away this season on some sort of strict rebuilding plan. Even with that point acknowledged, the team's target date to truly contend would be more along the lines of 2015 and/or 2016 as the reshaping plan takes full effect.
But with the Tigers struggling and the American League not exactly loaded with dominant teams, could the White Sox move into playoff contention in '14? It was a question broached to Ventura.
"Well, I think we need some guys to get healthy and continue to improve," Ventura said. "That's part of where we started from last year to this year. You go ahead and get younger guys and try to improve and hopefully that progresses to the point where you are playing meaningful games.
"For us, it's a shot in the arm when you get a Jose Abreu, who is in the middle of the lineup. He's always a force. If other guys around him start picking it up to where it's consistent, then all of a sudden you start making a move."
• The Dodgers are 5-2 against the American League this season and have the best record against the AL since the start of the 2013 season (17-10).
• It appears Abreu is healthy. In two games since returning from the 15-day disabled list for a left ankle injury, the 27-year-old rookie has returned to terrorizing opposing pitchers, hitting two home runs and driving in five runs in the two games.
Ryan Hood is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.