The White Sox head out on the road following a less than stellar homestand. After taking two out of three from Minnesota to start the homestand, the Sox dropped two out of three to the Royals and Tigers. After Thursday night’s game was rained out, the Sox start the weekend in first place by 1 game over the Tigers.
The Twins are coming off a 4-3 homestand where they took three of four against Cleveland but then lost two of three to Kansas City. The Sox have dominated the season series against the Twins, winning 11 of the 15 matchups overall and 4 of the 6 games in Minneapolis.
With the rainout on Thursday night the White Sox will move Chris Sale (16-6, 2.88 ERA) to Friday night to face Esmerling Vasqez (0-1, 9.35 ERA).
Vasquez will be making his third start for the Twins this year. He has given up 9 runs in 8.2 innings through his first two starts against Kansas City and Cleveland. He has also walked 8 batters and struck out just four. Vasquez has previous Major League experience with the Diamondbacks, where he appeared in 141 games as a reliever and an ERA of 4.66 in 3 years in Arizona. No White Sox player has had more than 2 at bats against Vasquez and Jose Lopez (1-1) is the only current Sox player with a hit against him.
For Chris Sale it will be his third start this year against the Twins, his first since June 27th. In his previous two starts against the Twins Sale is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA and a 0.786 WHIP. He has allowed just 2 runs on 8 hits through 14 innings pitched. He has also struck out 11 against just 3 walks. Sale is looking to continue the momentum from his last start against the Royals where he went 6 innings and gave up just one run.
It was the also the first time in 9 starts that he didn’t allow a home run. Current Twins hitters have struggled mightily against Sale. Combined they are 10-for-56 (.179) with 15 strikeouts against the lanky Southpaw. Only Joe Mauer (3-for-11) and Trevor Plouffe (2-for-6) have had anything close to success against Sale.
Saturday afternoon’s matchup will be Jose Quintana (6-4, 3.52 ERA) going against Samuel Deduno (6-3, 3.55 ERA).
The White Sox saw Deduno for the first time in the first series of their last homestand. They were able to hand him his third loss of the season, scoring 2 runs in 6 innings as he was outdueled by Hector Santiago and a host of Sox relievers. Overall Deduno has been solid since joining the Twins rotation in early July.
Since allowing 7 earned runs at Texas on August 24th, Duduno has not allowed more than 2 earned runs in a start. Over those next three starts he is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA and opponents are hitting just .159 off of him. Gordon Beckham has the lone Sox home run against Deduno.
Quintana came up big on Monday, throwing 7.2 strong innings against the Tigers and picking up his 5th win of the season. It was a big bounce back start for Quintana who many were wondering (me included) if he should have skipped a start considering in his previous two outings he allowed 12 runs on 12 hits in just 5 innings of work. His last start against the Twins was one of those brutal starts. He was tagged for 7 runs in just 1.1 innings as the Twins went on to win 18-9. Quintana has given up 15 runs to the Twins in 3 starts this year. Denard Span (.571), Justin Morneau (.571) and Josh Willingham (.833, 2 HRs) have all had Q’s number this year.
The finale on Sunday will feature Jake Peavy (10-11, 3.27 ERA) and Scott Diamond (11-7, 3.46 ERA)
Diamond was the starter in that game where Quintana was blown up by the Twins and was the beneficiary in the win despite allowing 4 runs on 7 hits in 5 innings of work. It was his first win against the Sox this year in 3 starts but was probably the game he pitched the worst in. For the season Diamond is 1-2 with a 4.42 ERA against the White Sox. The Sox have collected 24 hits in 18.1 innings, but Diamond has walked just three Sox batters and struck out eleven. Alex Rios (.357, HR), Dayan Viciedo (.385, 2 doubles) and Alejandro De Aza (.455) have done the most damage against Diamond.
For Peavy his last start was a microcosm of his season, he pitched well, just not well enough to win. After cruising against Detroit in the early going Peavy got tagged for a couple home runs and the Sox were unable to score enough to back him up and the he lost for the 11th time this year. Jake will make his 5th start against the Twins on Sunday. In the first 4 starts Peavy is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA. He has struck out 24 Twins batters in 28 innings while walking six.
He pitched against the Twins on August 5th and went 6 innings allowing just 1 run on 5 hits and earned his 10th win of the season. Peavy will hope for a similar start on Sunday to try and even his record up at eleven. No current Twins batter has taken Peavy deep and only Ben Revere (7-for-18) has had any real success. Josh Willingham is 0-for-15 with 4 K’s against the Jake-miester.
Keys to the Series
Continue the dominance: While certain teams have given the White Sox fits this year (see KC and Det), the Sox have cleaned up against others. Minnesota is one of those teams. The Sox have won 11 of the first 15 meetings with the Twinkies this year and they need to continue that trend. As the season winds down and every win becomes important, the Sox must capitalize against teams they have proven they can handle.
Peavy and Sale have carried the pitching staff all year and have dominated the Twins and they need to once more. Sox batters have hit more home runs (24) this year against Twins pitching than against any other team. They have also hit .289 as a team against the Twins, their 2nd highest team average against any American League team. No reason to think they can’t continue those trends.
Less is more (in regards to the bullpen): Robin has gone a little bit crazy in terms of handling the bullpen. The White Sox are averaging using 5 relief pitchers per game in September when up until that point they were averaging about 2.6 relievers per game, essentially a doubling in the amount of pitching changes. Many people (myself included) felt that Ventura has mishandled the bullpen lately, especially in the Detroit series. He needs to get guys back into the roles that he used them in all season.
Don’t use 5 pitchers when 3 will do. I understand that he is trying to minimize innings on certain guys in order to preserve them but that doesn’t mean he has to use every pitcher, every night. Part of this is on the starting pitching as well, as over the last several weeks the starters have been unable to work deep into games with any consistency.
The Sox should be able to get some deeper outings from Sale and Peavy this series and if Quintana can come anywhere close to pitching like he did against Detroit, the pen should get some much needed rest.
Replacing the Big Donkey: Adam Dunn continues to miss time with a strained oblique. It is the type of injury that lingers and does not go away, especially on a guy like Dunn who has a big swing. As a result, the Sox offense has sputtered. It should come as no surprise to anyone that a team that relies on home runs to score would struggle when its leading home run hitter is out of the lineup.
Besides the sheer numbers that Dunn has put up this year, he has also been pretty good in the clutch and his mere presence in the lineup forces teams to adjust. Ventura, for the most part, has stuck with his regular lineup, but inserted DeWayne Wise into the number three spot. Wise hasn’t played badly, but he isn’t a typical number three hitter. Combine that with Konerko’s recent struggles and the Sox have struggled to score. It’s not just the middle of the order though, the entire team has done a poor job of hitting with runners in scoring position.
If Dunn does not return soon, the Sox will need to figure out a way to get some key hits and not rely so heavily on the long ball. If they don’t, it will be a struggle to score consistently the rest of the season.
The Sox have dominated the Twins, and the Twins are not very good. This Sox are sending their top three pitchers to the mound in the series and two of them have dominated the Twins this year. Not to mention the fact that whenever the Sox have had a tough couple of series they seem to find themselves playing the Twins and getting back on the winning track.
I don’t see any reason why things should change. Sox should win this series and head into Monday’s make-up game against the Tigers feeling better about themselves.