White Sox Head to Fenway for Four-Round Bout With the Champs

The White Sox hit the road for a seven game trip to wrap up the pre-All Star break portion of the season with the first stop being a four game set at Fenway against the Red Sox.  The Sox went 3-3 on their just concluded homestand but won three of the last four.  The Sox are now 43-47 on the year in fourth place in the AL Central.

The defending World Series champs from Boston are surprisingly in last place in the AL East and are 10 games under .500 at 39-49 on the season.  The Red Sox have lost five of six on this current homestand including being swept by the Cubs.  Wait that can’t be right.  Wow.  Boston is now 21-24 at home after this recent slide and has fallen nine games behind Baltimore in the division race.

The Sox lost two of three to the Red Sox in Chicago earlier in the year including the 14 inning marathon game that saw Leury Garcia take the loss after a blown save by the bullpen wasted a good outing by John Danks.

Pitching Matchups

The series kicks off Monday night at Fenway with Scott Carroll (2-5, 5.05 ERA) taking on Clay Buchholz (3-4, 6.22 ERA).

It has been a tough year for Clay Buchholz, especially after the terrific season he had last year.  After a rough month of May Buchholz was placed on the disabled list with a knee injury.  He returned from the DL in late June and this will be his third start back following the injury.

The first start back was a win for Buchholz, although he did allow three home runs to the Mariners.  The last time out he pitched well against the Cubs going 6.1 innings and allowing one run on five hits with no walks and two strikeouts.

Buchholz faced the Sox back in April but did not record a decision.  In the start he went six innings allowing three runs (2 ER) on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts.  Lifetime against the White Sox Buchholz is 2-2 with a 4.10 ERA in seven starts.  Current Sox hitters have not had much success against Clay with Paul Konerko (.467, HR) having by far the most success.  Taking out Konerko the rest of the Sox hitters are a combined 14-for-77 (.182) with two homers and 18 strikeouts.

Scott Carroll will get another start because the White Sox really don’t have anyone else to go with right now.  Carroll was bombed his last time out by the Angels to the tune of seven runs on 10 hits in six innings.  Carroll has given up 12 runs (10 ER) in 11 innings since rejoining the Sox rotation.

For whatever reason Carroll seems to be effective only in a relief role.  As a starter he has an ERA of 6.75 an opponents are hitting .358 against him.  However as a reliever Carroll has a 1.83 ERA and has held opposing batters to a .224 batting average.  The third time through the lineup seems to be the killer for Carroll.  Opposing batters are hitting .417/.463/.708 the third time around against him.

Moving on to Tuesday night, the matchup will be John Danks (7-6, 4.12 ERA) for the White Sox and Brandon Workman (1-2, 4.17 ERA) for the BoSox.

Workman will be starting his eighth game of the season for Boston after rejoining the team and stepping into the rotation in late May.  Workman had appeared in three games in early April out of the bullpen before being sent to AAA.  As a starting pitcher Workman is 1-2 with a 4.62 ERA but has held opposing batters to a .218 average.

The last start for Workman was his first since stepping into the rotation.  He lost to the Cubs allowing six runs on five hits (2 HR’s) in only four innings.  Over his last two starts Workman has allowed 10 runs in 11 innings of work in a pair of losses.

Workman appeared in one game against the Sox last year and got the win in relief.  In that game he pitched 1.1 innings and allowed a run on two hits with one walk and one strikeout.  Paul Konerko and Alexei Ramirez collected the hits in that appearance.

John Danks had another strong outing his last time out against the Angels going 7.2 innings and allowing two runs on seven hits (2 solo HR’s) with one walk and a season high 10 strikeouts.  Danks was probably left in one batter too long as Josh Hamilton took him deep in the 8th to tie the game and cost Danks a shot at the win.

Over his last eight starts Danks is 4-2 with a 2.65 ERA and has held opposing hitters to a .227 batting average.  He has walked 14 and struck out 34 in 54.1 innings.  We will see how he bounces back from throwing a season high 120 pitches in his last start.

Danks faced the Red Sox earlier this year and pitched well.  He went six innings allowing one run on three hits with four walks and three strikeouts.  He was in line for the win before the bullpen collapse led to Leury Garcia eventually pitching in the 14th inning.  Lifetime against Boston Danks is 3-6 with a 4.97 ERA in 10 starts.  He is 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA in four career starts at Fenway Park including a loss last year.  David Ortiz (.300, 2 HR’s) and Xander Bogaerts (3-for-3, 2 BB’s) have had success against Danks while Mike Napoli (.222, 13 K’s) and Dustin Pedroia (.150) have not.

Game three of the series will be Wednesday night and will feature Chris Sale (8-1, 2.16 ERA) for the White Sox against a yet to be determined pitcher for Boston.

Chris Sale was snubbed from the All Star team by Red Sox manager John Farrell so I wouldn’t be surprised if he is out for revenge on Wednesday night.  Sure Sale can still win the final vote (#TargetSale) but the fact that he was left off the initial roster with his numbers is pretty ridiculous.

After struggling through his last few starts of June, Sale was back to his dominant form his last time out on the Fourth of July.  Sale tossed his second complete game of the year allowing one run on six hits with no walks and season high 12 strikeouts.  It was the fourth double digit strikeout game of the year for Sale and the third time he has recorded double digit strikeouts without walking a batter.

His first double digit strikeout game of the season was against Boston back in April.  Sale went seven innings and allowed one run on one hit (solo HR) with three walks and 10 punchouts.  That was the first start for Sale against the Red Sox.  In his career he is 1-0 with a 0.71 ERA against Boston in six games.  He has made three scoreless relief appearances at Fenway in his career and picked up a save.  No Red Sox hitter has more than one hit against Sale.  Jonny Gomes (.111, HR) and Xander Bogaerts (.500, HR) have the only homers against him.

The finale of the series will take place Thursday at an odd 4 pm eastern start time.  The matchup for that one will be a good one as Jose Quintana (5-7, 3.20 ERA) takes on Jon Lester (9-7, 2.73 ERA).

Lester has been the one truly steady rock for the Red Sox pitching staff this season.  He continues to go out every fifth day, work deep into the game and pitch well.  Lester has worked into the seventh inning in 14 of his 18 starts this year including the last five straight.  In those five starts Lester is 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA and opponents are hitting just .193 against him.

Lester faced the Sox earlier in the year and got the win in the game that Chris Sale started.  In that game Lester went eight innings and allowed just one run on seven hits with no walks and nine strikeouts.  It was his first win against the Sox since 2012.  In his career against the Pale Hose Lester is 5-5 with a 4.93 ERA in 11 starts.  Paul Konerko (.357, 3 HR’s) and Dayan Viciedo (.333, HR) have had success against Lester in the past.  Alexei Ramirez (.214, 7 K’s) and Gordon Beckham (.167) have struggled against the veteran lefty.

Quintana has been on a nice run for the Sox lately as well.  His last time out was probably his best start of the season as he tossed 7.2 scoreless innings allowing only four hits and one walk while striking out a season high 10 batters.  Alas he was denied the win when the Sox bullpen gave it up in the ninth (sensing a recurring theme).

Since back to back poor starts in mid-June Quintana has posted a 2-0 mark with a 0.94 ERA in his last four starts.  He has held opposing hitters to a .188 average over that stretch and has 31 K’s against seven walks in 28.2 innings.  He has also pitched at least seven innings in each of those appearances.

Quintana did not face the Red Sox when the two teams played back in April but he has owned them so far in his short career.  In two starts against Boston Quintana is 1-0 and has not allowed a run in 14.1 innings.  In his only start at Fenway back in 2012 Quintana went 8 shutout innings allowing only five hits.  No Red Sox player has more than one hit against Jose in limited plate appearances.

Keys to the Series

Red Sox Offensive Woes: Last year the Red Sox scored more runs than any other team in the American League and led the league in slugging percentage.  This year it is a much different story.

The 2014 Red Sox are ranked last in the league in slugging percentage, second to last in runs scored and third to last in batting average.  Other than David Ortiz with his 19 home runs and 55 RBI the only other player with double digit homers is Mike Napoli with ten.

Cuban All Stars: Alexei Ramirez and Jose Abreu were both named to their first All Star Game.  The two Cuban players have been the White Sox most consistent offensive players through the first half of the season.  Abreu leads the AL with 27 home runs and a .616 slugging percentage and third in RBI.

Alexei has already surpassed last year’s home run total and is closing in on his RBI total from last year.  He is on pace for the highest slugging percentage of his career since 2010.  While Abreu is making his first All Star team as a rookie, Ramirez is being rewarded in his seventh season.

Avoid the Battle of the Pens: While the Red Sox have struggled this year, their bullpen has been pretty solid.  Their relievers have a 3.33 ERA and have converted 21 of 29 saves with Uehara converting 18 of 19 save opportunities.

Meanwhile, the White Sox bullpen now has 11 blown saves in 30 opportunities and has a 3.81 ERA.  If the White Sox want to take this series they will need to get to the Red Sox starting pitchers because if this series turns into a battle of the bullpens, it favors Boston.

Series Outlook

The White Sox might be catching the Red Sox at the right time.  Boston has not been playing well and Chicago, other than the bullpen issues, has actually been playing pretty solid baseball.  However the last time the Sox took to the road for a four game series against a struggling team they were swept in Minnesota.

The good guys have struggled on the road most of the season and typically do not play well in Fenway Park.  On the plus side the White Sox are throwing their three best pitchers in the series, who have all been pitching very well lately.  A split seems like a reasonable expectation here.


About matthoeppner

White Sox fan for as long as I can remember. Graduate of the Michigan State School of Journalism, Pitch F/X Operator for MLB.com, play-by-play announcer for the Michigan Regional Sports Network and new dad. I live in the Detroit area but am still a Chicagoan all the way.