The White Sox limp into this series with Cleveland having lost four straight and nine of their last twelve, including two of three to the Tribe. The Indians meanwhile snapped a five game losing streak by winning a pair of games against Houston over the weekend. Both teams have struggled overall this year and sit at the bottom of the AL Central.
The opener on Monday will see Dylan Axelrod (0-1, 4.70 ERA) taking on Justin Masterson (3-1, 1.67 ERA).
Masterson was brilliant 10 days ago when the Sox faced him in Cleveland. It was a classic pitcher’s duel as neither he nor Jose Quintana yielded a run. However, Masterson was able to go the distance and the Indians scratched a run across in the bottom of the ninth to win it for him.
It was the second shutout of Masterson’s career. His next start out against Boston, Masterson finally took a loss and allowed a season high 4 runs on 11 hits in 5 innings. He had only allowed 10 hits in his previous 3 starts. With the win against the Sox earlier this month Masterson is now 5-5 with a 2.46 ERA against the South Siders. His numbers at US Cellular Field are also solid: 3-1, 2.70 ERA in 9 games (7 starts).
The slumping Adam Dunn has the best numbers against Masterson (.310, HR).
Axelrod was moved back a day like the rest of the Sox pitchers after the cancellation on Friday.
While his is still looking for his first win of the season, he has pitched pretty well in two of his three outings. Last time out against Toronto Axelrod allowed 2 runs on 7 hits over 6 innings in a game the Sox would go on to win in the 9th inning.
This will be his second career start against the Indians and third appearance overall. He has allowed 4 runs on 7 hits in 5.2 innings against the Indians, who have hit .350 off him. Most of those numbers came against players no longer with the team, as Carlos Santana is the only current Indian with a hit against Axelrod.
Tuesday night will feature Jose Quintana (1-0, 2.55 ERA) against Zach McAllister (1-2, 3.12 ERA).
McAllister beat the Sox in Cleveland back on the 13th of April going 6.1 innings and allowing 3 runs (1ER) on 5 hits with 6 strikeouts and no walks. Overall McAllister has been solid this year, not allowing more than 3 earned runs in any of his starts. He has also walked just 3 batters against 16 strikeouts. He is now 2-0 lifetime against the Sox with a 2.66 ERA in 4 starts.
He has made one previous start at US Cellular Field and allowed 2 runs on 4 hits over 6 innings in a no decision. The Sox have hit just .241 against the Chillicothe, IL native. Jeff Keppinger is 4-for-7 against him.
The last time he faced the Indians Jose Quintana was brilliant, pitching 7 innings of one hit ball. He allowed just 2 baserunners (HBP) to the Indians and yet didn’t figure in the decision as the Sox were shutout by Justin Masterson.
Quintana still hasn’t allowed a run in his last 13.2 innings of work and has allowed just 6 hits and 2 walks over that stretch. The Sox will look for him to continue his mastery of the Indians as he has now allowed just 2 runs in 19.1 innings against the Tribe who have hit just .094 against the Sox young left-hander. No current Indians player has more than one hit against Quintana and as a team they are just 7-for-47 with a team OPS of .437.
In the finale on Wednesday afternoon the Sox will send their ace Chris Sale (1-2, 4.50 ERA) to the bump against Corey Kluber (1-0, 1.80 ERA).
Kluber will be making his first start of the season, taking the place of Brett Myers who was put on the disabled list. Kluber has pitched in two games in relief this year including a 4 inning performance on Saturday against the Astros where he earned the win allowing just 2 hits and no runs.
Last year Kluber made 12 starts for the Tribe and was 2-5 with a 5.14 ERA. His last two starts of the year were against the Sox and he was 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA, allowing 6 runs on 9 hits over 12.2 innings, he also struck out 10 and walked five. The Sox hit .205 against him in those starts but did hit a couple of home runs.
Chris Sale was roughed up by the Indians in Cleveland for a career high 8 runs back on the 13th of this month. Sale lasted just 4.1 innings in that game and really struggled. It was odd to see Sale get banged around like that, especially against a team he had dominated up until that point. He allowed homers to Swisher and Reynolds that pretty much sealed his fate.
His last outing against Toronto was better, although he still took the loss. In it he allowed 3 runs (2ER) on 4 hits with 6 strikeouts and 1 walk over 7 innings. If you take out the Cleveland game Sale has really been pretty good, working at least 7 innings and allowing 3 runs or fewer in his other 3 starts. Despite getting beat up last time out Sale’s career ERA against the Tribe is still 3.72 and they have only hit .228 against him.
Keys to the Series
No Gopher Balls: In the series in Cleveland, White Sox pitchers allowed 4 home runs to Indians hitters that accounted for 9 of the 11 runs the Tribe scored in the series. The Indians brought in Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds and Jason Giambi in the off-season to improve their power numbers and so far it has worked out.
The Indians have hit 25 home runs; the second most in the American League and Reynolds has led the way with seven. If the Sox can keep the ball in the ballpark, they should have a pretty good chance of keeping the Indians offense at bay.
All Three Phases: The White Sox have not been able to put all three phases (hitting, pitching, defense) together in the same game very often. If they get solid pitching, then they can’t score any runs. If they score some runs, the pitching blows up and they lose anyway.
In the last series it was a little bit of both as the Sox got two good starts from Peavy and Floyd but they couldn’t score any runs and the bullpen let them down. When a team is clicking they get good pitching and score a few runs and the bullpen locks it down and boom, you win a game.
That has just not been the case for the White Sox where it seems like every single game has been a struggle so far. Maybe after getting a look at the Indians pitching last week they will be able to wake up the bats.
Less is More, Robin: In the midst of this prolonged offensive slump it seems like Ventura has been trying to over manage the team to get them to break out of it. That just has not worked and there have been several potential rallies killed as a result of botched hit and runs and decisions to bunt. One comes to mind from Sunday when the Sox had runners at 1st and 2nd with one out for Adam Dunn. On a 1-2 pitch Dunn strikes out and Rios is caught stealing third base.
I am not sure whether that was a designed hit and run or just Rios trying to make something happen but in that situation with a guy up who hasn’t made contact in 10 days who is a left handed hitter, you cannot run yourself out of an inning. There have been a lot of instances like that over the last couple weeks where RV has tried to push a button to get something going and every button he has pushed has been the wrong one.
I understand his desire to try and force the issue but he has to pick better spots to do it. Know your personnel.
Well considering the way the Sox are hitting and what they did (or didn’t do) against Masterson and McAllister last time out I don’t have a lot of confidence right now. I have also picked them to snap out of it the last couple series only to have that blow up in my face.
To be honest, Cleveland is not a good ball club and you are playing them at home. If the Sox want to keep themselves above water, they better start winning some games, so now seems like as good a time as ever. Let’s see if some of the vets get in the ears of the other guys and they can snap out of it and take a series for the first time since the first week of the season.