Well, now that the Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup and completed an epic season in Chicago sports history, all that we have left is baseball.
Unfortunately, the White Sox have not lived up to the standard their brethren on the ice have established. They are coming off a series win in Kansas City though, so that’s something.
The Sox return home to Chicago after a 3-7 road trip that can’t be described as anything other than a disappointment. They’ll take on the Mets for a quick two game series before welcoming in the Indians and Orioles. The Mets are on an extended road trip of their own and are currently 5-3 after stops in Atlanta and Philly. The two teams split a two game series in New York earlier in the season.
The series kicks off Tuesday night when Zack Wheeler (1-0, 0.00 ERA) takes on Chris Sale (5-6, 2.69 ERA).
Wheeler made his Major League debut in a double header against the Braves last Tuesday. He tossed six shutout innings, allowing four hits and five walks with seven strikeouts. The 23-year-old was the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft by the Giants and came over to the Mets in the Carlos Beltran deal in 2011.
At AAA Las Vegas this year, Wheeler was 4-2 with a 3.93 ERA, striking out almost 10 batters per nine innings. He was ranked as the #11 prospect by Baseball America before the start of the season. There isn’t much tape on Wheeler, so it will be interesting to see how the Sox deal with him.
Chris Sale will be looking to get back into the win column after losing four consecutive starts. Last time out against Minnesota, Sale lasted just five innings and allowed four runs on eight hits. This was coming on the heels of his eight inning, 14 strikeout game against the Astros.
Sale is 0-4 in June with a 3.08 ERA and has held opponents to a .228 batting average over that stretch. However, the batting average on balls in play for the month is at .300, well up from the .235 in April and May. It could be that hitters are just getting lucky right now against Sale and finding some holes. Sale did not face the Mets earlier in the season, so this will be their first look at him as well.
The series wraps up Wednesday when Shaun Marcum (0-9, 5.76 ERA) goes up against John Danks (1-4, 5.40 ERA).
Marcum has really struggled in his first season with the Mets. After going 20-11 over two seasons with the Brewers, Marcum has already lost nine games in less than half a season in the Big Apple. While he has had a few good starts, he’s also struggled quite often, allowing four or more runs in five of his nine starts this year. One of his best appearances of the season came in relief, when he tossed eight innings out of the bullpen against the Marlins in that crazy 20 inning game a few weeks ago. He took the loss despite allowing just one run on five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. Unfortunately for him, the Mets couldn’t score him a run and get him into the win column.
In his two starts after that relief appearance, he has allowed 11 runs in 10.1 innings in losses to the Cubs and Braves. Lifetime against the White Sox, Marcum is 3-0 with a 2.48 ERA in 5 starts. Most of those outings came back when he was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, as he has not faced the Sox since 2010.
The struggling John Danks will look to right the ship that seems to have veered off course over the last few weeks. His last outing against the Twins was his worst since coming off the DL. He allowed six runs on twelve hits, including four home runs, in just five innings.
Danks has now allowed 10 homers in 35 innings this season, and that has been the biggest problem for him since coming back from surgery. Coming into this year, Danks was allowing 1.1 home runs per 9 innings. However, that number is at 2.6 this year. He must figure out a way to keep the ball in the ballpark. Danks has never faced the Mets, although Marlon Byrd (.167, 5 Ks) and John Buck (.182, 3 K’s) have both seen Danks quite a few times.
Keys to the Series
Mets Tired Arms: The Mets have played eight games in the last seven days, and despite getting an off-day Monday, have had a pretty rough June. That 20 inning game against the Marlins set some things in motion for them. Although they have been playing better lately, they have also been throwing a lot of innings. Wheeler will be making his second start, and if the Sox can get to him and get into the pen early, it could open the floodgates.
Sweet Home Chicago: Despite the awful record this year, the Sox are actually a winning team at home at 16-14. They haven’t lost a home series (not counting the one game they played against the Cubs) since they dropped two of three to the Angels from May 10-12. The Sox are 8-5 since then at home and can hopefully keep those good vibes rolling against the Mets.
Last Look at Old Faces: This could very well be the last chance the Sox get from the front office to turn things around. They have a nine game homestand before a nine game road trip (with the makeup game against the Cubs thrown in) before the All-Star Break. If the Sox can’t make a run over the homestand, it will probably be time to initiate the fire sale. Anyone and everyone could be on the move, so if there are any players you want to make sure to see one last time in a Sox uniform, this is the time to go see them.
It’s a two game series with two bad teams. The Mets are at the tail end of a road trip and might be wearing down, and the Sox are just returning from one of the more brutal road trips the team has endured in recent memory. A split is most likely and that is what I expect to see.