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Now we’ll learn if White Sox have what it takes to win

Jake Peavy takes 2.85 ERA insecond half season. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Jake Peavy takes a 2.85 ERA into the second half of the season. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Breaking down the second-half schedules for the top AL Central contenders:

Updated: August 13, 2012 1:59PM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The pause said it all.

Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera was discussing the first-place White Sox, the team he and his teammates are pursuing in the American League Central, and was doing his best to say all the right things.

‘‘No, I’m not surprised,’’ he said. ‘‘They have great pitching, and they’re doing good right now. . . . ’’

That’s when the All-Star third baseman paused and smiled.

‘‘Let’s see how they finish,’’ he said.

Just another reminder that playtime is over.

‘‘This is where it gets serious,’’ Sox right-hander Jake Peavy said. ‘‘This is where the grind starts. People on the outside can say what they want. We like our chances. I mean, why not? We’re in first place, and we’re going to grind it out, I can tell you that. With the ballclub we have, the leadership, the coaching staff, we’re going to grind this out.’’

On paper, the third-place Tigers are more talented offensively, but they seem to be missing something. Maybe they can find it, but maybe it will linger until there aren’t enough games left on the schedule to close the gap.

The Tigers and Sox will play 10 times in the next 21/2 months, and Cabrera is counting on making the Sox earn anything they think is coming to them.

‘‘No one said it would be easy,’’ Cabrera said. ‘‘It is going to be a race the second half, so we’ll see how we play.’’

And let’s not forget the second-place Cleveland Indians, who are almost to the point where they have to jump up and down with their hand in the air, screaming, ‘‘Remember us?’’

‘‘They’re starting to play like Detroit did at the end of last year,’’ Indians closer Chris Perez said of the Sox. ‘‘I hope it doesn’t happen, but that’s what they look like.

‘‘But people are forgetting we’re in the race, and that’s all you can ask for. We’ve taken some injuries lately, some broken bones, but we’re there. I still don’t think we’ve put together a streak that we’re capable of having, but we’re close.’’

Close might not cut it, especially with a front office that is more comfortable sitting on its hands come trade-deadline time than pushing more chips into the pot.

The Sox and Tigers are capable of making big splashes with the non-waiver trade deadline less than three weeks away, and Sox general manager Ken Williams already has bragging rights on the trade of the year after nabbing third baseman Kevin Youkilis from the Boston Red Sox.

All Youkilis has done is help the Sox go 9-4 since his arrival. He entered the All-Star break hitting .444 with two home runs and 11 RBI during a seven-game hitting streak.

Add in a starting rotation in which three of the five members — Jose Quintana (2.04), Chris Sale (2.19) and Peavy (2.85) — have ERAs below 3.00, and it’s no wonder Peavy said the things he did.

In the wake of the Youkilis deal, the question becomes whether Williams has another card up his sleeve.

‘‘We can all look back just in the last week or so on what’s happened, and Kenny deserves all the credit in the world [for] pulling the trigger and being able to get a guy like Kevin Youkilis,’’ Peavy said. ‘‘Not anything bad against Zach Stewart or Brent Lillibridge [who were traded to the Red Sox], but Youkilis has been a game-changer. He has the attitude and edge that we’ve embraced since spring training.

‘‘This guy has single-handedly won us four games, and Kenny deserves all the credit in the world. If he feels like there’s something else to be done, well . . . I know it will be nice to be able to get back some of the guys that are hurt [such as pitchers John Danks and Philip Humber]. That will be big.’’

But big enough?

Cabrera was right about one thing: ‘‘Let’s see how they finish.’’

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