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Series Preview 9: White Sox at Rangers

The White Sox will hit the road for a six game trip starting Tuesday in Texas.  The Sox went 3-5 on an abbreviated eight game homestand with two games cancelled due to weather issues.  It has been a tough go for the South Siders, who have not won a series since the first week of the season.

The team they will face, the Rangers, is coming home after a 4-3 road trip and is the only team in baseball that has not lost a series yet this year and sits atop the AL West at 16-9.  The Rangers have been very good at home so far winning seven of their first nine games at the Ballpark in Arlington. 

Pitching Matchups

The series kicks off on Tuesday night as Jose Quintana (2-0, 2.78 ERA) takes on Rangers ace Yu Darvish (4-1, 1.65 ERA). 

Darvish started off this season by pitching 8.2 perfect innings against the Houston Astros before Marwin Gonzalez singled to break up the perfecto.  Darvish also struck out 14 Astros batters in the game, one of three double digit strikeout performances this year.

After suffering his first loss at the hands of the Seattle Mariners on April 12th, Darvish has ripped off 13 consecutive scoreless innings allowing just 6 hits and striking out 21 batters.  His 49 K’s lead the American League as does his 13.9 strikeouts per 9 innings.  He is also yet to allow a home run.

After a solid rookie campaign, Darvish is establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in the American League.  The good news?  He made one start against the White Sox last year and was tagged for 6 runs (5 ER) in 6.1 innings in a loss, so we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

On the bump for the Sox will be Jose Quintana who has been on a nice little run of his own the last four starts.  Since getting roughed up by Seattle in his first outing Quintana has allowed just 2 runs over his last 18.2 innings and has picked up a win in each of his last two starts.

Over that stretch opponents are hitting just .154 off Jose and he has struck out 17 batters against just 4 walks.  Quintana made one start against the Rangers last season and was brilliant.  He went 8 innings allowing 1 run on just 2 hits with 1 walk and 8 strikeouts in a win. 

Neither team has seen very much of either starting pitcher and both pitchers have been on a roll lately, this could be a very interesting game to watch.

The second game of the series on Wednesday will see Chris Sale (2-2, 4.09 ERA) vs. Nick Tepesch (2-1, 2.53 ERA).

Tepesch is a 24-year-old right-hander in his first season in the big leagues.  He spent the last 2 seasons in the minors after being drafted by the Rangers from Missouri in the 14th round of the 2010 draft.  Both of his wins were solid starts working into the 7th inning and beyond and allowing just one run.  He has not walked a batter since his Major League debut back on April 9th.  He hasn’t been a big strikeout guy so far, getting just 14 K’s in 21.1 innings.  Opponents are hitting .244 against Tepesch in his brief Major League career. 

The Sox will look for another good start from their ace Chris Sale, who bounced back from two consecutive losses to beat the Rays his last time out.  With the exception of the start in Cleveland where Sale was lit up for 8 runs in 4.1 innings, Chris has been very solid.

His ERA in his other 4 starts is 2.23 and opponents are hitting just .167 against him in his last two starts.  While his strikeout totals are a little lower than last season, he has worked at least 7 innings in 4 of his five starts and hasn’t thrown more than 104 pitches in a game.  In his career against the Rangers Sale is 2-1 with a 3.71 ERA in 6 appearances (2 starts).

However his ERA at the Ballpark in Arlington is 7.04, allowing 6 runs in 7.2 innings.  Overall, he has held the Rangers to a .233 batting average and yielded just one home run in 17 innings of work.  Adrian Beltre (4-for-8) and Nelson Cruz (3-for-6, HR) have done the most damage against Sale.  No other Ranger has more than one hit against him and Elvis Andrus is 0-for-8 with a couple strikeouts.

The finale of the three game series on Thursday evening will pit Jake Peavy (3-1, 3.38 ERA) against Justin Grimm (2-0, 1.59 ERA).

Grimm is another 24-year-old right handed pitcher stepping into the rotation due to some injury issues.  He made five appearances last season, including one relief appearance against the White Sox in a game the Sox won 19-2 on July 3rd.

This year he has made three starts, two against Seattle and one against Minnesota, not exactly offensive powerhouses.  He has handled himself well the last two starts earning wins in both including 7 shutout innings of the Twins his last time out.  He has struck out 13 batters against just one walk over his last 13 innings.  In that relief appearance last year the Sox scored 3 runs In 3 innings off Grimm although Alexei Ramirez is the only current Sox player with a hit against him. 

Jake Peavy will look to continue his run of solid starts for the Sox.  Since taking a beating in Washington Peavy has allowed 5 runs over 20.2 innings and struck out 26 batters against just 5 walks.  Opponents are hitting .221 against him overall, although his .292 BAbip is a little high.  Lucky for him he has been able to get the strikeouts to help get out of some jams.

While he hasn’t been lights out, he has been very good and has worked into the 7th inning each of his last 3 starts.  His lifetime numbers against the Rangers however are not good.  Peavy is 0-2 with a 7.59 ERA in 4 starts against Texas.

The Rangers have hit .294 off Jake with 10 extra base hits (4 HRs) in 21.1 innings.  Mitch Moreland (3-for-6, 2 HRs, 5 RBI), Adrian Beltre (2 HRs, 2 doubles, 2 RBI) and Lance Berkman (.250, 2 HRs, 5 RBI) have done the most damage against Peavy. 

Keys to the Series

Warmer Weather = Warmer Bats? : I have heard more than a few people say that once the weather warms up, the ball will travel better and the White Sox bats will come to life.

Well the temperature is expected to be in the mid-80s this week in Texas so I guess we will find out if this theory holds any water.  The White Sox have the 2nd worst team batting average in the American League at .229 and the worst OPS at .662.  One way or another this team has to start hitting or it is not going to matter how good the pitching is and the pitching has been pretty good.

Unfortunately the Rangers pitching has been the best in the AL so I am not sure if this is going to be the series the Sox bats awaken from their long winter slumber.  The good news is that the Sox will avoid Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando and will get a shot at a couple of rookies so that could make a difference.

It’s a simple game, you throw the ball, you catch the ball: The White Sox would be wise to remember the words of the skipper from Bull Durham.

Up to this point in the season the White Sox have made a habit of not catching the ball and throwing it away.  As mentioned in other pieces on this site the White Sox have committed 16 errors, second most in the American League.

These 16 errors have led to 11 unearned runs, already more than a third of the way to last year’s total.  With the Sox offense inconsistent at best they cannot afford to allow teams to play with extra outs and score free runs.  This will especially be true in this series as the Rangers come in with the best ERA in the AL at 3.02.  The Rangers by the way have committed 11 errors that have led to 6 unearned runs. 

Hello, Old Friend: White Sox fans will get their first look at AJ Pierzynski in a uniform other than the silver and black for the first time since 2004.

AJ became somewhat of a cult hero on the South Side of Chicago and many fans were not happy to see him leave after last year.  AJ has gotten off to a good start with the Rangers hitting .295 with 4 home runs and 11 RBI.  For those who can remember AJ back in his days with the Twins, he was an absolute Sox killer.

His career average against the Sox is .347 and he has 4 homers and 25 RBI in 50 games against his former team.  His .515 slugging percentage against the Sox is the highest against any American League team. 

Outlook

On the surface this does not look like a good series for the White Sox.  They are 3-7 on the road taking on a team that is 7-2 at home.  They are in last place in the weakest division while the Rangers are in 1st place in one of the toughest.

They aren’t hitting and the Rangers have the best ERA in the AL.  This all equals a bad series right?  Maybe…maybe not.  The Sox are throwing their three best pitchers against the Rangers while only getting one of the Rangers top three.  The Rangers offense, while much better than the Sox, is still just middle of the road in the AL.  This could be a much closer series than a lot of people expect.

I am certainly not going to predict that the Sox will be the first team to hand the Rangers a series loss, somebody has to right?  Why not the White Sox, why not now? 

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