Series Preview 42: Rangers at White Sox

The White Sox return home after a 6-1 road trip to take on the Texas Rangers in a three-game weekend series. They’ve won a season-high six straight games and three consecutive series against AL Central opponents. 

Alex Rios, AJ Pierzynski, and the Rangers come in leading the AL West by 2.5 games over Oakland. Texas is coming off a 5-3 homestand that just concluded with a sweep over in-state rivals Houston. The Rangers have been white hot in the month of August, posting a 15-4 record. Earlier in the season, the Sox won two of three in Arlington.

Pitching Matchups

The series gets underway Friday night on Elvis Night with a pair of lefties on the mound as Chris Sale (9-11, 2.78 ERA) takes on Martin Perez (6-3, 3.48 ERA). 

Martin Perez will be making his 13th start of the season after joining the Rangers rotation in late May. The 22-year-old Venezuelan lefty has been very solid for the Rangers and has been hot recently, winning each of his last three starts. He has a 2.12 ERA and an opponent’s batting average of .192 over the last four starts.

After some pretty pedestrian strikeout numbers early on, he has picked up the pace, with 24 strikeouts in his last 29.2 innings. He has given up some hits this year (75 in 75 innings), but has kept the walks relatively low while escaping trouble more often than not. Perez features a fastball, curve, slider and change-up, with the fastball up around 93 mph. He has never faced the White Sox, and only Jeff Keppinger (1-for-2) has seen him before.

Like Perez, Chris Sale has also won his last three starts. In those three wins over the Yankees, Tigers and Twins, Sale has tossed 23.1 innings with a 1.93 ERA, 20 strikeouts, and just 5 walks. Opponents are hitting .258 against him, which is high, but Sale has been able to battle out of some jams when he hasn’t had his best stuff. His complete game against the Tigers was his fourth of the season, which leads the American League, and his 6.0 WAR tops AL pitchers. 

Sale has been able to get back in the win column thanks in part to the support from his offense, which has perked up to score him 14 runs over the last two starts. Despite the recent help, Sale still only receives three runs of support per game. Sale made one start against the Rangers earlier this year in Arlington and got the win, going seven innings and giving up two runs on six hits (one HR) with seven K’s and two BB’s. Adam Rosales (.571, HR) and Adrian Beltre (.364) have had the most success against Sale.

The White Sox will face the Rangers ace in the middle game of the series, as Yu Darvish (12-5, 2.68 ERA) takes the mound opposite Hector Santiago (4-7, 3.27 ERA) in Saturday’s Civil Rights Game.

Darvish has been every bit the Rangers ace this season, starting from his first start of the year which resulted in a near perfect game against the Astros. Since then, he has continued to dominate, and leads the American League in total strikeouts and K/9 innings. He has posted nine double digit strikeout games, including five with 14 or more K’s. Also, he’s been a workhorse, averaging 6.7 innings per start. He has only allowed more than three runs in a start five times this year, one of which was against the Sox. 

In the month of August, Darvish is 3-0 in 4 starts with a 2.15 ERA and an opponent’s batting average of .198. He has 42 K’s in 29.1 innings against just eight walks. Back on April 30, Darvish defeated the Sox, but allowed four runs in six innings. Luckily for him, his offense showed up and scored 10 runs. Lifetime against the Sox, Darvish is 1-1 with a 6.57 ERA in two starts, both coming in Texas. Gordon Beckham (2-for-3, double) and Paul Konerko (2-for-6) are the only Sox players with multiple hits against Darvish, although no one has more than seven at bats.

Hector Santiago finally got back in the win column last time out, as he battled through six innings against the Twins, allowing nine hits but just two runs (one ER). The win was his first since June 21. Santiago has been pretty solid in August, posting a 1-1 record with a 3.04 ERA. However, opponents are hitting .289 against him this month, his strikeouts are down (just 16 in 23.2 innings), and he has issued nine walks.  Still, Santiago has battled and kept his team in the game more often than not. 

Santiago will be making his 18th start, and he is getting close to doubling his innings total from last season, so that is something to keep an eye on as we move into September. He made his first start of the season against the Rangers back on May 2 and got the win, going 5.1 innings while allowing one run on two hits with six K’s and two BB’s. Only two current Rangers players have hits against Hector; Adrian Beltre (1-for-3, HR) and Ian Kinsler (1-for-2, double). 

The finale of the series will be a Sunday throwback matinee with former Cub pitcher Matt Garza (9-2, 3.59 ERA) taking on John Danks (3-10, 4.22 ERA) in a re-match of Game 3 of the 2008 ALDS.

Garza will be making his seventh start for the Rangers since coming over from the Cubs in July. Since joining Texas, he is 3-1 with a 4.32 ERA. After two good starts to begin his Rangers career, Garza has made four consecutive starts, allowing at least four runs. He has also allowed six home runs in six starts since the trade. Over the last four starts, opponents are hitting .290 with a .841 OPS against Garza. The damage might be worse if not for a 5:1 K/BB ratio. 

The Sox saw Garza earlier in the year in one of his last starts in a Cubs uniform. He was excellent on that day, getting the win throwing seven innings while allowing two runs (one ER) on five hits with six strikeouts and no walks. Lifetime against the Sox, Garza is 3-3 with a 4.17 ERA in eight starts but is 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA at US Cellular Field. However, he did lose at The Cell in the 2008 ALDS when he was a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. Paul Konerko (.412, 3 HR’s), Jeff Keppinger (.455, 2 doubles) and Gordon Beckham (.375) have all had success against Garza, and Josh Phegley hit his second career homer against Garza earlier this year. 

John Danks ended an extended winless streak with a tremendous performance against the Royals the last time out. He tossed eight shutout innings to earn his first win since July 2 and remained perfect against the Royals. It was a much needed performance from Danks, who is still working his way back after last season’s shoulder surgery. While Danks hasn’t been great, he has been decent, posting quality starts in 11 of his 17 outings (65%). Run support continues to elude Danks, who has now passed Chris Sale with just 2.92 runs per game.

Danks is just 1-5 with a 3.88 ERA against Texas, the team that drafted him with the ninth overall pick of the 2003 draft. Ian Kinsler (.393, 4 HR’s) and Elvis Andrus (.385) have hit Danks well, and Adrian Beltre also has a couple of homers against him. 

Series Notes

AJ’s Return: AJ Pierzynski will return to the South Side of Chicago for the first time as an opposing player since September 11, 2003 when he was a member of the Minnesota Twins. In eight seasons with the White Sox, Pierzynski hit .279 with 118 home runs, 460 RBI, and helped the Sox win the World Series in 2005 and get back to the playoffs in 2008.

AJ is having a pretty solid season for the Rangers, hitting .279 with 14 home runs and 52 RBI in 100 games. He has also had a pretty good month of August, hitting .311 with three homers and 15 knocked in over 16 games. It will be interesting to see the reaction he gets from the fans at US Cellular, but I expect it to be mostly positive the first at-bat of each game as the fans pay their respects to a guy who became somewhat of a cult hero on the South Side. 


It is also the return of Alex Rios (who was traded to Texas earlier this month) and another 2005 World Series Hero, Neal Cotts, who is having a terrific season as a left-handed arm out of the Texas bullpen. It will be interesting to hear the receptions these two players get as well.

Winning Ways: The White Sox have won a season high six games in a row, the longest current winning streak in baseball. They have a chance for their first winning month since May, when they went 14-13.  The big difference has been the offense, which has scored 4.8 runs per game during the winning streak.  All five Sox starting pitchers also have wins during the streak. The Sox have won four of the last five series and 12 of their last 17 games overall.  What’s most amazing is that the Sox winning streak came on the road, where they had lost 10 straight games before winning the last six. 

Reed’s Streak: Addison Reed has saved every game in the six-game winning streak. The last pitcher to record a save in six straight games was Eric Gagne back in 2003, the year he was a perfect 55-for-55 in save chances. Reed now has 34 saves on the season, tying him with Keith Foulke, Dustin Hermanson and Bobby Thigpen for the seventh highest single season total in franchise history.  Reed is 34 for 39 (87%) in saves on the year , has converted his last eight opportunities, and also has a win thrown in.

In the month of August, Reed has allowed just one run on seven hits in 14.1 innings (0.63 ERA). Despite playing on a last place team, Reed ranks fourth in the league in saves. His numbers across the board have improved from last season, and there is no reason to believe he isn’t the Sox closer for the next handful of years.