The White Sox are back on the road after their brief three game homestand and the first stop is Minnesota. The Sox dropped two of three over the weekend to the Angels but were able to avoid the sweep thanks to the masterful performance of Chris Sale on Sunday night.
The Twins sit at 17-17, 2.5 games ahead of the Sox in the standings. They won the first two games against the Sox this year in Chicago in a weather shortened series. The White Sox were 7-2 against the Twins at Target Field last year.
The series kicks off Monday night with Hector Santiago (1-1, 1.69 ERA) taking on Pedro Hernandez (1-0, 5.96 ERA).
White Sox fans may remember Hernandez, who went to the Twins as part of the Francisco Liriano deal last season. He made one start for the White Sox in Boston and was lit up for 8 runs on 12 hits, including 3 homers, in 4 innings of work. Hernandez has started four games this year for the Twins with a couple of relief appearances mixed in.
His last two starts did not go well as he was hit hard by Texas and Boston. He allowed 11 runs on 15 hits (3 HRs) in 7.1 innings but did not take a loss in either start. Opposing batters hit .429 with a .500 OBP and slugged .857 against Hernandez over those last two outings. For the season, Hernandez has not worked deeper than 5.1 innings into a game.
Hector Santiago will be making his third start of the season for the Sox. His first two starts have gone very well. Santiago has allowed just 1 run on 6 hits in 12.1 innings of work with 14 strikeouts against 4 walks. Opposing batters have hit just .150 against Hector as a starting pitcher.
He could easily be 2-0 as a starter if the Sox were able to muster any offense against Matt Harvey in New York last week. Hector has one appearance against the Twins this year and it resulted in his only loss, although it wasn’t entirely his fault.
He came into the game in the 10th inning of a 1-1 tie and gave up an unearned run and took the loss. Lifetime against the Twins he is 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA in 5 games (1 start). He has had a little bit of trouble with walks to the Twins (6 BBs in 11 innings) but has held them to a .200 batting average overall.
Jamey Carroll (2-for-2, HR) is the only Twin with multiple hits off Hector and Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham are a combined 1-for-8 with 3 strikeouts against him.
Tuesday night’s matchup will be Jake Peavy (4-1, 3.03 ERA) against Kevin Correia (4-2, 3.09 ERA).
Correia has been surprisingly good for the Twins after spending his entire 10 year career in the National League. He has been their most consistent and best starter through the first six weeks of the season. He started off this season with five straight quality starts, working at least 7 innings in each start. In his last two starts, Correia has failed to make it through 6 innings.
He allowed 7 runs on 15 hits in 10.1 innings in those two starts and opposing batters hit .326 against him. He has been very tough to beat at Target Field going 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA in 4 home starts this year.
Opponents have hit just .241 against Correia at home versus .315 on the road. This will be Correia’s first career appearance against the White Sox, although several Sox players have seen him before. Jeff Keppinger is 5-for-11 with a homer and Adam Dunn is 3-for-9 with a homer against Correia.
Jake Peavy will toe the slab for the Sox Tuesday night and hope to continue his string of solid performances. In his last four starts Peavy is 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA over 27.1 innings. He has struck out 32 batters and issued 7 walks over that stretch and opponents have hit just .202 against him.
That stretch included a start against the Twins and it was the only game that Peavy did not win, although once again it had nothing to do with his performance. Peavy went 7 innings and allowed 1 run on 6 hits and struck out nine. That was the game that the Sox eventually lost in 10 innings on the unearned run allowed by Santiago.
In his career Peavy is 6-3 with a 2.87 ERA against the Twins, including a 4-1 mark at Target Field. Of the current Twins players Joe Mauer (.310, HR, 3 doubles), Brian Dozier (5-for-13) and Chris Parmalee (5-for-11, double) have had the most success against Peavy. Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau are a combined 4-for-37 (.108) with 8 strikeouts against the Jake-meister.
The series wraps up Wednesday afternoon when Dylan Axelrod (0-3, 4.17 ERA) takes on Mike Pelfry (3-3, 6.03 ERA).
Pelfry is in his first season with the Twins after spending his entire 7 year career with the Mets. He had a pretty rough stretch of 4 games in April where he allowed 4 or more runs in 5.1 innings or less in each of his starts. He has turned things around a little bit lately allowing 4 runs total in his last two starts spanning 12 innings. For the season opponents are hitting .331 off Pelfry, although he has allowed only 2 home runs on the year.
This will also be the first time Pelfry has faced the Sox in his career. Adam Dunn (6-for-26, HR, 2 doubles) and Jeff Keppinger (3-for-6) are the only White Sox batters who have faced Pelfry before.
Axelrod is still looking for his first win of the season, although he has really only pitched poorly in 2 of his 7 starts. Unfortunately his last start was one of those two. He allowed 6 runs (5 earned) in 6 innings to the Angels and took the loss. He did strikeout a season high six batters though.
This might be the last start for Axelrod before John Danks returns to the rotation and if he wants to keep himself in the mix for a starting spot, he will probably need to pitch well. Overall Axelrod has done a very solid job as the 5th starter and his 0-3 record does not accurately reflect how he has pitched.
Axe has made 2 previous appearances against the Twins and is 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 4.2 innings of relief work. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit each have one hit against Axelrod.
Keys to the Series
Seriously, it’s Time to Score Some Runs
The White Sox pitching staff has the second best ERA in the American League and have held opponents to a .234 batting average, almost 20 points below the league average.
In short, the pitching has been very good. We know the defense has contributed to several losses but the bottom line is that this team needs to start hitting. Nearly half the White Sox regular lineup is hitting below .220, including Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn.
The Sox have the worst team batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage in the AL. For a team with as many veterans as this one this is unacceptable. It is time to start hitting again and this Twins pitching staff ranks towards the bottom of the league in ERA and strikeouts.
It is time to break out of this year long slump.
It was mentioned in the preview for the Angels series that Dayan Viciedo would be returning to the Sox lineup over the weekend and could add some much needed pop. While he didn’t go deep over the weekend there were still some good signs from The Tank.
The most obvious sign was that he went 5-for-8 (.625) with a double and 2 RBI in the three game set. Even more impressive though was that he drew 4 walks in the series, including at least one in every game. Why is that such a big deal? Because before he was on the DL Viciedo drew exactly ZERO walks in 13 previous games. If nothing else it is a sign that he is seeing the ball well and that should lead to better at bats and more production.
AL Central Woes
The Sox are once again struggling with their division opponents. They usually have a problem with just one or two of the teams, like KC and Detroit last year or the Twins and Indians before that.
However this year they have struggled across the board, posting a 5-8 record against AL Central teams and they haven’t even played Detroit yet. The Sox need to do better against the division, especially against a team like Minnesota who is just not very good.
They handled the Twins last year winning 14 of the 18 meetings, including at 7-2 mark at Target Field. There is no reason that they shouldn’t be able to handle them again this year.
Honestly I am just starting to feel like a broken record here. I am usually dead on about the Sox pitching being able to handle an opponent but I keep waiting for the Sox offense to break out and make something happen and it just never does.
They are facing two pitchers (Hernandez and Pelfry) in this series who have not been very good at all this season and Correia is coming off his worst starts of the year. If there was ever a time to break out it should be now. The Sox continue to waste good pitching and are coming dangerously close to falling way behind in the division.
This is a series they need to have, and if they can’t put some runs on the board against Hernandez and Pelfry…well then I’m going to be just about out of answers.