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Series Preview #4: White Sox at Cleveland Indians

After a disappointing three game sweep at the hands of the Washington Nationals, the White Sox will head to the shores of Lake Erie and take on division foe Cleveland over the weekend.  Last year the White Sox won 11 of 18 games against the Indians, including a 6-3 mark at Progressive Field.

 The Indians have made some changes since we last saw them.  Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner are gone and taking their place are Michael Bourn and everybody’s favorite ex-Sox Nick Swisher.  The Tribe also added Drew Stubbs and Mark Reynolds to their lineup and another ex-White Sox player Brett Myers to their pitching staff.

The new look Indians are off to a 3-5 start and had their last two games against the Yankees rained out.  In the two games they did play, the Yankees scored 25 runs and hit 8 home runs.


Pitching Matchups

Friday night’s game will feature Jose Quintana (0-0, 11.25 ERA) against Justin Masterson (2-0, 0.69 ERA).

Masterson is being relied on to be the Indians ace this season.  The Tribe is hoping 28-year-old right hander finally takes that next step into being a top of the rotation starter and through his first two starts, it looks like he might be ready.  Masterson has allowed just one run on five hits in 13 innings this year in wins over Toronto and Tampa Bay.  He is averaging a strikeout per inning but has also walked 7 batters and hit another one. 

The White Sox have seen plenty of Masterson over the years, this will be his 20th appearance (16th start) against the Sox and Masterson is 4-5 with a 2.69 ERA and a 1.330 WHIP.  He has allowed just two home runs to White Sox batters in 97 innings.  Overall the White Sox have hit .257 off Masterson and have just 22 extra base hits in 358 at bats.

Adam Dunn (.360, HR, 2 doubles) and Alejandro De Aza (.357) have had good success against Masterson while Alexei Ramirez (.167, 5Ks) and Alex Rios (.235, 5Ks) have struggled, although they have both homered against him. 

The Sox will be hoping for a bounce back effort from Jose Quintana, who was roughed up in his only outing.  After allowing a leadoff homer to Franklin Gutierrez, Quintana cruised through the next four innings before it all fell apart in the fifth.  After a double and an error (charged to Quintana) the Mariners recorded five consecutive hits and scored five runs, knocking Quintana out of the game.  The Sox were able to come back and send the game to extra innings to get Q off the hook for the loss, but eventually lost the game in 10 innings. 

Quintana will return to the place where he made his Major League debut last May when he came in to the first game of a double header in a relief role and allowed just one hit in 5.2 innings.

He got his first career win in his first career start against the Tribe on May 25th when he went 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits.  Overall last year against Cleveland Quintana allowed just 2 runs on 5 hits in 12.1 innings and Cleveland hit just .119 against Q.  No current Indians player has more than one hit against Jose. 


Saturday’s game is a late afternoon (3pm Central) start and will see Chris Sale (1-0, 1.84 ERA) take on Zach McAllister (0-1, 3.00 ERA). 

McAllister, an Illinois native, will be making his second start of the young season.  In his first outing he allowed 4 runs (2 ER) in 6 innings in a loss to the Rays.  The encouraging sign for him was that he did not walk a batter after averaging almost 3 walks per 9 innings last year.  This will be McAllister’s second season in the Indians rotation.  Last year he was 6-8 with a 4.24 ERA and a 1.364 WHIP in 22 starts for the Tribe.

This will be his fourth career start against the White Sox, in the previous three he is 1-0 with a 3.13 ERA.  He has held the White Sox to a .258/.298/.419 slash line over 17.1 career innings.  Only Alejandro De Aza (3-for-7 with a double) and Jeff Keppinger (2-for-4, 2 BBs) have multiple hits against McAllister.  Adam Dunn has the only home run among active White Sox hitters against McAllister but he has also struck out five times in seven at bats. 

Through two starts this season, Chris Sale has lived up to his billing as the team’s ace.  After 7.2 scoreless innings on Opening Day, Sale came back and went 7 strong innings against Seattle giving up 3 runs on 5 hits with 7 strikeouts and 2 walks. 

Last season against the Tribe Sale was 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA in 3 starts (4 games) and held them to a .224 batting average (.148 at Progressive Field), although his K/9 rate of 5.7 was the lowest against any team.  His career numbers against Cleveland are pretty similar: 2.10 ERA, 1.109 WHIP, 3.70 K/BB, .202 opponent’s batting average.  Jason Kipnis (4-for-12, 2 doubles) has had the most success of any current Indian against Sale and only Ryan Raburn has homered against him. Nick Swisher is 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.


The finale on Sunday afternoon will see Jake Peavy (1-1, 5.56 ERA) against former Sox pitcher Brett Myers (0-1, 12.19 ERA).

Myers appeared in 35 games for the White Sox as a reliever last season after coming over in a trade from Houston mid-season.  He signed with the Indians in the off-season with the hopes of being a part of their starting rotation.  His first start since 2011 did not go well as he was tagged for 7 runs on 7 hits (4 HRs) in 5 innings against the Blue Jays.

His second appearance was about the same as his first as he allowed 7 runs on 11 hits (3 HRs) in 5.1 innings against the Yankees in a relief appearance after Carlos Carrasco was blown up.  In case you weren’t doing the math that is 7 home runs allowed in 10.1 innings. 

This will be just his fourth appearance and second start against the White Sox.  He has allowed 5 runs (4 ER) in 6.2 innings against the Sox in the past.  Only Adam Dunn (3-for-26, 2 HRs) and Jeff Keppinger (3-for-13, 2 HRs) have had more than five at bats against Myers. 

Jake Peavy will be looking for a bounce back start as well.  After a solid first outing Peavy was tagged for six runs in 5.1 innings of work in Washington, including three home runs.  It appeared that Ventura stuck with Peavy a little too long, hoping he could get through the 6th inning and be pinch hit for to lead off the 7th, alas Peavy allowed two homers in the inning and left the game with the Sox trailing 6-1. 

This will be Peavy’s 11th start against the Tribe, in the previous ten he is 4-3 with a 4.21 ERA and a 1.040 WHIP.  He has allowed 12 homers in 66.1 innings against Indians hitters who have hit .224 (.228 at Progressive Field) against the Jake-meister.  Asdrubal Cabrera (.294, HR) and Jason Kipnis (2-for-8, 2 HRs) have had some success against Peavy, while Mark Reynolds (.118, 9 Ks) and Nick Swisher (.111, 6 Ks) have struggled.


Keys to the Series

New Look Tribe

The Indians made several moves in the off-season and brought in quite a few new faces.  Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher are familiar names from their times in the American League but Sox fans will get their first look at Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs who come over from the NL.

Bourn (.344 average) and Reynolds (4 HRs, 8 RBI) are off to good starts as is hold over Carlos Santana who is hitting a Smooth (ft. Rob Thomas) .500 on the year with a couple of homers.  The new look Indians lineup has scored 35 runs in 8 games, an average of 4.375 runs per game.

Swinging for the Fences

We all know the White Sox need to hit the ball over the fence to score on most days.  Lucky for them the Indians have been serving up plenty of gopher balls so far this year.  Cleveland pitchers have given up 16 home runs in 27.9 innings of work or about 2 homers a game.  Overall the Indians pitchers have been putrid.  They are sporting a staff ERA of 5.58 and a 1.451 team WHIP.

The White Sox offense has not gotten off to a great start and hopefully a date with the Indians pitching staff will be just what they need to wake up those sleeping bats.

Save the Pen

The White Sox need their starters to give them some innings this weekend.  Outside of Chris Sale, none of the Sox pitchers worked deep into the game in their second start.  The Sox bullpen has pitched 29.1 innings in 9 games this season, an average of almost 3.1 innings per game.

As a result of this the White Sox recalled relief pitcher Deunte Heath to take the place of Gordon Beckham on the 25-man roster.

With Sale and Peavy, two of the Sox work horses, going in the series the Sox are hopeful that the pen will get some rest but the key start is Quintana’s on Friday.  After Axelrod’s short outing Thursday in Washington the Sox need Quintana to work deeper into the game than he did the first time out.


Outlook

The Indians just got lit up by the Bronx Bombers before the rain saved them, and their pitching staff, for the last two days.  The White Sox are coming off a poor series as well, where they didn’t do very many things well.  The Sox match up well against the Indians, although they have struggled at times against Masterson and McAllister.

I think that the Sox bats will wake up and continue the assault on Indians pitching that the Yankees started.  Peavy and Quintana are both looking for better outings and should get them.  Chris Sale has dominated the Tribe in the past and that doesn’t seem likely to change.  I think this will be a bounce back series for the entire Sox team and they should be able to at least take two out of three.

A sweep would be really nice but let’s not get greedy yet.  Sox win this series and everyone can stop freaking out as they head to the Great White North. 

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