The White Sox will wrap up their homestand with a three game series against the Blue Jays starting on Monday. The Sox are coming off a split with the A’s after winning the final two games of the series.
The Blue Jays took two of three from the Rangers, including winning a marathon 18 inning game on Saturday. Both teams have been a disappointment so far this season and sit in the cellar in their divisions. The two teams split a series in Toronto back in mid-April.
The series gets underway Monday night with Dylan Axelrod (3-4, 3.73 ERA) taking on the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey (5-7, 4.66 ERA).
Dickey has been one of several disappointing off-season pickups for the Jays. After coming out of nowhere to win 20 games last season, the Jays rewarded Dickey with a 5 year, $37.5 million contract. So far they have not gotten the results they hoped for.
He has been very hit or miss for the Jays, and hardly the model of consistency he was a year ago. In four of his starts he has allowed six runs or more, but has also had six starts where he allows two runs or fewer. His last outing against the Giants was very good, pitching 8.1 shutout innings against the Giants. Dickey beat the Sox back in April tossing 6 innings of shutout ball allowing just 2 hits and striking out seven.
R.A. is now 2-2 lifetime against the Sox with a 7.36 ERA in 7 games (3 starts). He has pitched 7 career innings at US Cellular Field and given up 11 runs on 10 hits, including 3 home runs. Alex Rios (.333, 2 HRs) and Paul Konerko (.364, 2 HRs) have had success against Dickey in the past.
Dylan Axelrod continues to provide the White Sox with quality pitching out of that fifth starters spot. He has lowered his ERA by over a half a run since mid-May and last time out blanked the Mariners over 5.1 innings scattering 6 hits and 5 walks to go with 4 strikeouts.
The White Sox would eventually win that game, in 16 innings. Axelrod has not allowed more than 3 earned runs in any of his last 5 starts and is 3-1 with a 3.10 ERA over that stretch. Axe continues to battle out of trouble and keep the White Sox in almost every game that he starts. If he got some better run support, he would be on the plus side of .500 record wise. Axe has done a good job at home this year, limiting opposing batters to a .213 average as opposed to .293 on the road.
Axelrod faced the Jays in Toronto back in April and went 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 7 hits with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts, however he did serve up a pair of homers to Jays hitters. He is 1-1 against the Jays in his career with a 5.40 ERA in 3 starts. Colby Rasmus has had Dyaln’s number (4-for-6, 2 HRs) and JP Arencibia (2-for-5, HR) has also taken Axelrod deep.
Moving along to Tuesday night it will be Jose Quintana (3-2, 3.95 ERA) going up against Chien-Ming Wang (0-0, 0.00 ERA).
Wang will be making his first start for the Blue Jays and first start in the Major Leagues since September 30th of last season when he was pitching for the Nationals. After some solid seasons for the Yankees back in the mid-2000’s, Wang has battled injuries and hasn’t made more than 15 starts in a season since 2007. Wang had been pitching for the Yankees AAA affiliate where he was 4-4 with a 2.33 ERA in 9 starts.
He opted out of his deal because the Yankees had no intention of bringing him up and the Blue Jays signed him. While Wang’s minor league ERA was pretty good, he struck out just 25 batters in 58 innings. Lifetime against the White Sox Wang is 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 4 starts, all of those coming at US Cellular Field. Only Alex Rios (.227), Paul Konerko (.300) and Adam Dunn (.500, HR) have faced Wang before.
Quintana will be looking for his first win since May 21st when he takes the mound against the Jays. Last time out the Sox handed Quintana a 3-0 lead but he couldn’t hold it and the Sox ended up losing the game in extra innings. It wasn’t a bad performance for Quintana, and he pitched better than the numbers would indicate. The home runs killed Q, as he served up 3 gopher balls to A’s hitters.
It was only the second time this year that Quintana has allowed multiple homers in a game and accounted for a third of all the bombs he’s allowed this year.
He beat the Blue Jays in Toronto for his first win of the season back on April 17th. In that game he tossed 6.2 shutout innings allowing just 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out seven. Quintana is now 2-1 lifetime against Toronto with a 1.86 ERA in 3 starts. Rajai Davis (6-for-8, 2 doubles) has given Quintana fits and it will be important to keep him off the base paths.
The series and the homestand wrap up on Wednesday when Chris Sale (5-4, 2.68 ERA) goes up against Esmil Rogers (1-2, 3.60 ERA).
Rogers will be making just his second start for the Jays, having worked out of the bullpen for the first two months of the year. In his first start of the season against Texas Rogers went 4 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits with 1 walk and 6 strikeouts.
He threw 73 pitches in the start and clearly wasn’t stretched out enough to work deeper into the game, so it will be interesting to see how far he goes against the Sox. Rogers has made 5 appearances in relief against the Sox in his career and is 0-0 with a 9.64 ERA. He has allowed 5 runs on 6 hits in 4.2 innings. No White Sox batter has had more than 5 plate appearances against Rogers and no player has more than one hit off him. Connor Gillaspie has the lone homer of any current Sox player off Rogers.
Chris Sale will be hoping for some better luck this time out. He has lost each of his last two starts, both against Oakland, and both tough losses. On June 2nd he allowed just 1 run over 6 innings but got no run support as the Sox were shut out 2-0.
Then on Friday Sale was cruising until the 6th inning when he loaded the bases and made one mistake to Josh Donaldson, who took him deep for a grand slam. The Sox lost 4-3 and Sale took another tough defeat. The Sox have scored just 2.84 runs per game when Sale is on the mound. It was also a tough loss for Sale in Toronto earlier this year when he went 7 innings allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits with 1 walk and 6 strikeouts. The Sox mustered just 1 run of support and Sale took the loss.
Sale is 0-2 lifetime against the Jays with a 3.00 ERA in 4 games (1 start). Rajai Davis is the only current Blue Jay with multiple hits against Sale (2-for-5) and overall they hit .233 against the lanky lefty.
Keys to the Series
Jays' Pitching Woes
The Blue Jays thought they had solved their starting pitching problem in the offseason when they signed RA Dickey, and acquired Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson in a trade from the Marlins. So far this has not worked out and hasn’t solved anything.
The Blue Jays starters are 13-23 with a 5.20 ERA and opponents are hitting .275/.345/.466 for a .811 OPS. Injuries have factored in as well but overall the Jays starting pitching has been awful. The Sox will see Chien Ming Wang, who hasn’t pitched in the Majors since last year, and Esmil Rogers who has been a reliever up until a week ago.
Neither of these guys was in the Jays plans for their starting rotation when the year started. The Sox need to take advantage.
I’ve Got to Have More Power
The White Sox offense had been struggling, and one of the biggest reasons was that they had stopped hitting home runs. I mentioned in the preview for the A’s series that the Sox had scored just 1 of their last 20 runs via the homer. Well the Sox have now scored 6 of their last 11 runs via the long ball.
Whether we like it or not the Sox need to hit homers to win games because they just don’t string enough hits together to consistently score runs. If you need more proof of the need for homers, just look at how the A’s won their games in the series. They had a 3 homer game against Quintana and a grand slam accounted for all the offense against Sale.
On the plus side for the Sox; Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko all homered in the A’s series.
Win Now or Never
The Sox next 15 games are against five teams that are a combined 50 games below the .500 mark. If there was ever a time for the Sox to get back into contention it is now.
The Tigers have started to distance themselves from the pack and with everyone else in the division struggling, the Sox need to make their move now. By the time this stretch is over it will be late June and we will have a much better idea about where this season is going and if the Sox will be looking to buy or sell with the trade deadline about a month away.
This team has kept saying they can turn it around, and the time is now.
The Blue Jays are a mess right now but they still have some professional hitters. The Sox might be catching them at a good time since the Jays are going to be just one game removed from an 18 inning marathon against the Rangers.
If the Sox can get to the bullpen early in the series, it could bode very well for them. I thought the Sox could have easily won three out of four against Oakland but as usual let a couple games slip away. Hopefully they are feeling good about the way the series ended and they can take care of the Jays and at least win the series.
Chien Ming Wand and Esmil Rogers? Really? They better win two of three.