Oakland, CA, USA; Chicago White Sox designated hitter Paul Konerko (14) runs the bases on his 400th career home run against the Oakland Athletics during the ninth inning at O.co Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Chicago White Sox 5-4 in 14 innings. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
The Red Sox aren't quite where they want to be, but a series with the Twins turned out to be just what they needed. The Sox are now 7-10, winners of three-straight contests, and head to Chicago to take on the White Sox. The White Sox are mere percentage points behind the Cleveland Indians for first place in the Central, tied with the Tigers at .556.
It's a surprising place for them to be, but it's also still April. The standings change significantly during the season, and a lot has to go right for the White Sox to stay in this thing for the entire season. They absolutely have talent, but whether or not it all stays healthy and on the field, or continues to produce, is a question that can't be answered after 18 games.
Game 3: Jake Peavy (28-2/3 IP, 6.5 K/BB, 226 ERA+) vs. Jon Lester (24 IP, 1.2 K/BB, 72 ERA+)
MLB.com lists Sunday's starter as "TBA", but Beckett is next up in the rotation after Lester, so we're rolling with that.
Humber is fresh off of a perfect game. Those are flukes by nature -- there have been just 21 in the history of baseball -- but don't let that fool you about Humber's abilities. In his 177 innings with the White Sox, he owns a 3.50 ERA and three times as many strikeouts as walks. He's a different pitcher than he used to be back when he was drafted, thanks to the addition of a slider to his arsenal. (For more on Humber's transition to major-league starting pitcher, you can check out my Baseball Nation article from earlier in the week.)
John Danks is a better pitcher than this, just like the Red Sox pitchers are better than their current K/BB and ERA+ might indicate. The beauty and ugliness of small samples are on display in each of these pitcher's early-season lines. Since 2009, Danks has an ERA+ of 111. He's no ace, but he's a steady, above-average contributor.
Jake Peavy's most significant weakness is his health. When he's on his game, he's scary to face. It's just rare that he's been healthy of late -- it's one of the main reasons the Padres dealt him, as it got them out from under the lucrative contract extension that the White Sox are still paying. If you can't tell by that 226 ERA+ or 6.5 K/BB, Peavy's currently feeling good. Depending on which Lester shows up to play on Saturday, that could be quite the pitching match.
Gavin Floyd, the man who would be a Red Sox. We pined over Floyd in the rotation for quite some time this winter, but to this point, Bard and Doubront have done well enough to keep us from regretting a deal not occurring. Josh Beckett might have started out the season on the wrong foot, but since his initial beating at the hands of the Tigers, he's allowed just six runs in 21 innings, or one less than he gave up in his first start alone. It's tough to know which Clay Buchholz or Jon Lester is going to show up each night, but Beckett appears to be back to doing what he does.
The Red Sox have the advantage offensively, but the White Sox have the pitching to neutralize that. Paul Konerko is hitting -- surprise, surprise, right? It's only been that way since 1999 for him. Alex Rios is hitting again, and that makes sense because he's productive every other year, once all of his fantasy owners have once again given up on him. It's good to see Adam Dunn is also making contact once again, although let's hope that doesn't happen in this particular series. Center fielder Alejandro De Aza picked up where he left off in 2011, and has an 877 OPS in 282 plate appearances with the White Sox over parts of three seasons.
The bullpen is a bit more questionable than the rotation, so if the Red Sox can wear down the starting pitching, there are runs to be scored late. Of course, the White Sox are thinking the same thing about winning against Boston.