Winners of just four of their last fifteen, the first-place Chicago White Sox have fallen back to the rest of the American League Central after jumping out to a torrid pace through the first five weeks of the season. After losing three of four in Cleveland to start the week, the Pale Hoes hold a razor-thin half-game lead in the division and the World Champion Kansas City Royals sit in third just two games back.
While the calendar has yet to turn over to June, this series certainly matters as the top four teams jockey for positioning in the tightest division in the American League. These squads just saw each other, and Thursday and Friday's games are repeats of the match-ups over the weekend, so familiarity will play a part in the proceedings.
Game One - Thursday, 7:15 PM CDT
The most complimentary thing that can be said about Miguel Gonzalez right now is: at least he's better than John Danks. Gonzalez is a fungible back-of-the-rotation starter three years removed from an almost average season. Yes, he had a sparkling ERA in 2014, but his peripherals suggested what 2015 bore out, harshly. He was so underwhelming to the Baltimore Orioles that they released him in Spring Training despite not being particularly deep in the area of starting pitching. Past the Pail Hose top three starters, there's not a lot of quality, as Gonzalez and Mat Latos are living, breathing proof. The Royals just saw Gonzalez on Saturday, when he put together his only quality start of the season, striking out eight and walking none. It would be surprising if he enjoyed similar success the second time around.
The Kevin talked about Danny Duffy earlier this week. He has looked great this season, and this will be his third go back in the rotation. He reached the 63-pitch mark last time around, so he's probably looking at a usage level somewhere in the 80-90 pitch range.
Game Two - Friday, 7:15 PM CDT
Both Rodon and Ventura were solid if unspectacular when they faced on another on Sunday. With neither living up to the lofty expectations foisted upon him by his natural abilities, both pitchers could surprise with a dominant start. Rodon's peripherals suggest that perhaps he has been a bit on the unlucky side. Ventura, on the other hand, has been fortunate to only have as much damage done to his ERA as has been done so far.
Game Three - Saturday, 1:15 PM CDT
That 28-year-old Mat Latos had to jump on a one-year, $3M deal this past offseason speaks almost as loudly as the fact that he was dealt at the deadline and then cut loose by a playoff team in the waning days of the season with rosters expanded. What those two facts along with a FIP, xFIP, and SIERA on the wrong side of 5.00 say is that Latos's best days are in the rearview. Just three years ago, Latos was worth nearly 5 WAR. Now he owns a K/9 that could be confused for his ERA in another start or two (4.59). His K-BB% is a dreadful 3.6%, fifth-worst amongst qualified starters (the worst is the league leader in walks, Yordano Ventura).
Ian Kennedy has been pretty, pretty, pretty good.
Game Four - Sunday, 1:15 PM CDT
If getting to face Latos on Saturday feels like a gift, it's likely because Chris Sale will take the mound on Sunday. Factoring in the decision in every one of his ten starts this season, Sale is 9-1, suffering his first loss of the season on Tuesday. While his K-rates are down to somewhat pedestrian (for him) levels, he is pitching to contact more this season, and his IFFB% are up to career high water marks (15.1%). Whether his ERA is begging for some regression is anyone's guess. He is certainly capable of striking out 15 in an outing to get that K% back up to the levels expected of him.
Volquez is pretty, pretty, pretty good.
|Adam Eaton (L)||RF||213||3||20||15||5||.295||.378||.426||.353||124|
|Jimmy Rollins (S)||SS||138||2||20||8||4||.230||.290||.349||.282||74|
|Melky Cabrera (S)||LF||196||2||22||18||0||.295||.364||.403||.337||113|
|Dioner Navarro (S)||C||103||2||11||12||0||.234||.282||.383||.287||78|
|Alex Avila (L)||C||68||0||4||2||0||.182||.324||.218||.262||60|
Stats through Tuesday, May 24
Let's leave that blank slot at the bottom. It wouldn't be surprising to see Rick Hahn add a position player to the roster at some point during this series, though with the doubleheader they played on Monday, Chicago has played ten games in the last nine days and isn't getting a day off until Thursday, June 2.
These guys are who we thought they were. Frazier can hit the ball a long ways. Eaton is as good as he was a week ago. The offensive unit suffered a bit of a cold spell since the last preview. They're now slashing .248/.321/.389 with a .311 wOBA and 94 wRC+, the latter two being slightly better than the Royals' .308 and 92 marks.
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