The White Sox start the second leg of their ten game road trip on Tuesday when they start a three game series with the Twins in Minnesota. The Sox dropped three out of four in Houston and have lost four of their last five. The Twins are wrapping up a nine game homestand and have split the first six games against the Phillies and Tigers. The two teams sit at the bottom of the AL Central with the Twins a game and a half up on the Sox.
Tuesday night’s matchup will have Dylan Axelrod (3-4, 4.26 ERA) taking on Mike Pelfry (3-6, 6.12 ERA).
The Sox beat Pelfry about a month ago in Minnesota in their only meeting with him this season. In that start Pelfry lasted just 4 innings and gave up 5 runs on 8 hits, including 2 home runs.
The Sox hit three homers total in the game en route to a 9-4 win. Pelfry has not won a start since May 5th, dropping his last three decisions. He has given up at least three earned runs in six of his last seven starts. Opponents are hitting .316 against Pelfry this year. Adam Dunn has seen Pelfry the most of any of the Sox hitters and is hittng .286 with 2 homers and 3 doubles. Dayan Viciedo also has a homer off Pelfry.
Dylan Axelrod will be looking to bounce back from what was arguably his worst start of the season last time out when he gave up 6 runs on 8 hits in just 4 innings of work to the Jays. Axelrod surrendered a season high three home runs in the game. Despite the poor start the Sox actually won the game 10-6. This will be the second start of the year against Minnesota for Dylan.
He beat the Twins back on May 15th for his first win of the season. In that start he went 5.1 innings, giving up 3 runs on 9 hits with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts. Axelrod has been pretty solid all season but the walks have started to give him trouble the last few times to the bump. He walked four in his last start against the Jays and five the time before that against Seattle.
The nine walks matched his total in his previous eight starts combined. Axe has been a master of getting out of jams this year but it will be much harder if he is issuing free passes. Joe Mauer (.750) and Justin Morneau (.750) have had success against Axelrod in limited plate appearances.
Wednesday night it will be Chris Sale (5-5, 2.43 ERA) going up against Kevin Corriea (5-4, 3.97 ERA).
The Sox beat Corriea back on May 14th in Minnesota. In that game Corriea went 7 innings allowing 4 runs on 9 hits, including home runs to Viciedo and Dunn. That game marked the beginning of a tough stretch for Corriea who would see his ERA climb more than a run over his next five starts. He was 1-2 with a 5.70 ERA in that stretch and opponents were hitting .339 and slugging .661 against him. Last time out against Philly Correia seemed to figure things out and allowed just 1 run over 5 innings with 6 strikeouts and 1 walk.
Jeff Keppinger (.357, HR) and Adam Dunn (.333, 2 HRs) have had success against Corriea and are the only Sox hitters with more than five at bats against him.
Chris Sale continues to take it on the chin when it comes to wins and losses. He has lost each of his last three starts but his numbers in those starts look like this: 21.1 innings, 14 hits, 7 runs (5 earned), 4 walks, 25 strikeouts, 2.11 ERA, .179 opponent’s batting average. Most pitchers would be 3-0 in a stretch like that. His latest effort was an 8 inning complete game against the Astros where he became the first pitcher in 100 YEARS to lose a game when striking out 14 batters.
Sale is among the league leaders in most pitching categories but has not had much to show for it in the win column. This will be the first start of the year for Sale against the Twins. In his career against the Twinkies Sale is 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in 11 games (3 starts) and Twins batters have hit just .163 off the lanky lefty. The heart of the Twins order has had little success against Sale with Mauer, Morneau and Willingham a combined 5-for-32 (.156) with 13 strikeouts.
The finale of the series will be a Thursday matinee and will see John Danks (1-3, 4.50 ERA) opposing Scott Diamond (4-6, 5.29).
Diamond defeated the White Sox back in Chicago on April 21st for his first win of the season. In that start Diamond went 6 innings allowing 2 runs (1 ER) on 4 hits with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts. That turned out to be one of the few good starts Diamond has had this year. Since May 12th Diamond has made 7 starts and is 1-4 with a 7.12 ERA. Opponents are hitting .346 and slugging .542 against him in that span and he has a strikeout to walk ratio of 1.25. He has not worked into the 7th inning in any of those 7 starts.
He has really struggled at Target Field where he is 1-5 with a 6.40 ERA and opponents are hitting .348 off him. Alex Rios (.368, HR), Dayan Viciedo (.438, HR) and Alejandro De Aza (.500, 2 doubles) have fared well against Diamond.
Danks will be looking for his second win of the year when he takes the mound against the Twins. His last time out Danks was tagged for 4 runs on 5 hits (2 home runs) in 6 innings against the Astros. The good news for Danks is that he has walked just 4 batters in his five starts. The bad news is that he has allowed 3 or 4 runs in four of his five starts. The home run has been the killer for Danks.
Opponents are only hitting .225 against him but he has given up six home runs which have accounted for 9 of the 16 runs (57%) Danks has allowed. Danks is 6-9 with a 5.00 ERA all time against the Twins and is 1-2 at Target Field. Joe Mauer (.375) and Justin Morneau (.314, 3 HRs) have given Danks fits over the years.
Keys to the Series
Adam Dunn has done very well against the Twins pitching this year. Overall he is hitting .263/.333/.947 for a 1.281 OPS. He has 4 home runs against the Twins, most against any opponent this year, and has driven in 7 runs. Dunn has especially liked hitting in Target Field.
In the Sox last trip to Minnesota Dunn was 4-for-11 (.364) with 3 homers and 6 RBI. While Dunn’s season has been a disappointment overall, he has actually had a pretty decent month of June with a triple slash of .273/.379/.636 with a 1.015 OPS. He has scored 11 runs, knocked in 12 runs and drawn 10 walks in 15 games in June.
Despite the Sox abysmal record overall, the club is just 7-9 against the AL Central including 2-3 against the Twins. Outside of the Tigers the rest of the division is not good and the Sox would do well to figure out a way to beat the other teams in the division if they want to claw their way back towards the .500 mark. The Sox have handled the Twins the last few years and have fared pretty well at Target Field.
If the Sox want to salvage this road trip they need another solid performance against a group that no longer has their number.
Twins Pitching Woes
Twins pitchers have surrendered the second most hits of any group in the American League. They have also struck out the fewest number of batters of any AL staff. Their starters have a combined 5.14 ERA and opponents hit them at a .319 clip.
Their bullpen on the other hand has a 2.84 ERA and holds opponents to a .221 average. Bottom line is to get to the starters or you might not have a chance to get anything against the bullpen.
This remains one of the most frustrating teams to watch/predict in a while. They are so wildly inconsistent the only consistency is that they lose more games than they win. When the team hits well, the pitching disappears.
When the pitching is good, the team couldn’t hit their way out of a paper bag. The Sox had a brutal series in Houston but at least avoided the sweep. I would like to hope they can take a series from the Twins but at this point who knows.