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Series Preview: Red Sox vs. White Sox

A battle of the Sox

Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

South Side Sox

The Opponent in one sentence

The White Sox are ostensibly rebuilders and their record reflects that, but they aren’t too far from making The Leap and they are getting more and more of their young talent at the highest level.

Record

53-80

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 1, White Sox 2

Trend

Up. The White Sox are actually rolling right now as some of their young guys start to settle in and show what this roster could look like as early as next year. They are coming off a series victory in New York against the Yankees (thanks for that) and they have won five of their last six. Chicago has also won each of their last five series.

Pitching Matchups

8/30: Rick Porcello vs. Lucas Giolito, 8:10 PM ET

Porcello has not been looking great of late, and both he and his team could really use a big outing from the righty. The bullpen has been taxed of late and the rotation is hurting as well. To be fair, Porcello wasnt terrible in his last outing, but he still only made it through five innings. He’s been less than ideal (to say the least) in his last two, three of his last four and five of his last eight outings. He needs to get back to commanding the edges of the zone, and if the 2016 Cy Young winner can find a way to get through seven strong innings the team will owe him a debt of gratitude. If not, well, the bullpen will get even more work. The White Sox score three runs (two of which were earned) in six innings against Porcello back in June.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, Giolito was the consensus number one pitching prospect in the game, and if you are a TINSTAAPP (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect) believer he is Exhibit A. This has been his first full season in the majors, and it’s been mostly a disaster. The righty has made 26 starts and has pitched to a 5.85 ERA with a 5.67 FIP and a 6.62 DRA. Things have been....not great. He’s not missing bats, he’s walking the world and he’s allowing a few too many homers. All of that being said, he’s settling in a bit of late, allowing three or fewer runs in four of five starts this month and seven of his last nine outings overall. Giolito features a pair of low-to-mid-90s fastballs along with a slider, a changeup and a curveball.

8/31: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Michael Kopech, 8:10 PM ET

Eovaldi has certainly been trending in the wrong direction after his two incredible starts to kick off his Red Sox career. The lack of offspeed offerings is coming back to bite the righty of late, and if he’s not displaying perfect command he will get hit. Fortunately, he got some help from the greatest pitcher of all time. Pedro Martinez reportedly noticed something was off with Eovaldi’s mechanics and was with the team this week at Fenway to help the righty out. These things don’t always work out, but if Pedro is talking you listen. Hopefully this is the fix Eovaldi needed.

Hey, here’s a familiar name. Kopech was, of course, one of the top prospects in the Red Sox system and part of the deal that brought Chris Sale to Boston. Yoan Moncada headlined that deal, but right now you could certainly argue that Kopech is the most exciting former Red Sox prospect. The big, intimidating righty had a great year at Triple-A, and this will be his third major-league start. His first was shortened by rain, but overall he’s allowed one run in eight innings on eight strikeouts and no walks, but he has allowed ten hits. Kopech has a huge fastball and mostly complements that with a slider.

9/1: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Carlos Rodon, 7:10 PM ET

Saturday is a big day for the Red Sox as they get Eduardo Rodriguez back on the mound. This is obviously huge for their rotation, as one could make a good argument he’s the team’s third best starter when everyone is at full health. The lefty was looking great before he went down with his injury, combining the best efficiency we’ve seen from him with his typically impressive stuff. Of course, this is not the first injury Rodriguez has dealt with over his career, and generally speaking he’s had trouble displaying the same confidence when he comes back from those injuries. Hopefully he is able to keep his mechanics and confidence coming off this injury, because the team could use his presence in the rotation.

Rodon is a former first round pick who was supposed to fly through the minors and become a viable major-league starter almost immediately. The lefty did fly through the minors, but the success hasn’t been there in his first few seasons. This year, they have been there, though it hasn’t been a full season. Rodon has a 2.70 ERA through his first 14 innings, but his 4.45 FIP and 5.64 DRA suggest he’s been fortunate to post those results. Rodon’s strikeouts are way down but he’s still walking too many batters. The Red Sox saw him in his first outing of 2018 and they scored four runs (two earned) in five innings.

9/2: Brian Johnson vs. James Shields, 2:10 PM ET

At this point I think it’s fair to say that we generally know what to expect from Johnson in this role. It’s not wildly exciting, and he has deviated from this pattern at times, but for the most part he’ll allow two or three runs in five-ish innings of work. That’s not great in terms of ERA and you’d like to see deeper outings, but at the end of the day it keeps the team in the game. The lefty won’t win you any games, and that shouldn’t be the expectation, but as long as he avoids implosion he’ll get you to around the midpoint of the contest.

Red Sox fans are plenty familiar with Big Game James, who spent the early parts of his career in Tampa Bay when the Rays were making playoff runs. The righty isn’t the guy he once was, and for the last couple years it seemed like he could be on his way out of the league. Shields has been a little bit better this year, though the standards aren’t very high. He has a 4.54 ERA and he’s not allowing more than two homer per nine innings for the first time in a few years. If the Red Sox can get the ball over the fence, though, they could explode in this game.

Old Friends

Kopech was discussed above, but he is the old friend we’ll hear the most about this weekend.

Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

Yoan Moncada has been somewhat forgotten, and I think many are writing him off too early. There are clear flaws in his game, and we saw that when the top prospect was still with the Red Sox, but there’s a reason he headlined the Sale trade. There’s a wild amount of talent here and the sky is the limit if it all gets put together.

Ryan LaMarre played five games for the Red Sox back in 2016 and he hasn’t really played for the White Sox this year either, but he did single-handedly lift Chicago over the Yankees on Wednesday.

Miguel Gonzalez never played in the majors for the Sox, but he spent time in the minor-league system before heading to Baltimore after being released by Boston. He’s never been close to a star, but he’s carved out a solid career after being cut.

Notable Position Players

Avisail Garcia has had a tough year with injuries after a breakout 2017, and he’s been brutal in August with a high strikeout rate and struggles to make solid contact.

Tim Anderson is ultra-aggressive and won’t walk much at all, but he has surprising pop and when the shortstop gets on base he can wreak absolute havoc with his legs.

Daniel Palka is going to strike out and he’s not going to draw walks, but in between all that he will also show an ability to hit the ball over the fence. Don’t make mistakes to him and things will be fine.

Nicky Delmonico has been solid but unspectacular across the board this year, though his overall numbers are being dragged down by a lack of batted ball luck.

Yolmer Sanchez will put the ball in play and can do damage on the bases, but beyond that he’s not much to worry about at the plate.

Matt Davidson is a three-true-outcomes hitter and he was also born on the exact same day as me, including the year, so he must be great.

Adam Engel strikes out, doesn’t walk and doesn’t hit for power. He’ll still play just about every day because his defense in center field is spectacular.

Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Bullpen Snapshot

Jace Fry has emerged as the top option in the White Sox bullpen after they traded Joakim Soria at the deadline. Fry, a lefty, is really talented, as he racks up strikeouts and keeps the ball in the yard. The Red Sox have to be patient and hope he loses control.

Juan Minaya and Thaigo Vieira are the two set-up men from the right side. Minaya has served as a closer before and is the solid veteran while Vieira is the fireballing youngster.

Injuries

Jose Abreu is still the best player on the White Sox, but he’s out with abdominal pain and Chicago could feasibly just hold him out for the rest of the year.

Welington Castillo hasn’t been able to play much this year thanks to an 80-game PED suspension and now dealing with a shoulder injury. It’s not clear when he’ll return.

Nate Jones was supposed to play a big role in the bullpen but has dealt with arm issues all year. He still wants to return at some point in September.

Danny Farquhar was part of the scariest moment of 2018 when he suffered a brain aneurism in the dugout early in the season. He’s recovering well but obviously has put baseball to the side for the moment.

Old friend Gonzalez underwent shoulder surgery in July that will keep him out all year.

Leury Garcia was having a solid year in Chicago’s outfield but he’s out with a hamstring strain that could keep him out for the rest of the year.

Weather Forecast

It’s going to be a humid weekend in Chicago, which also means there will likely be some thunderstorms in the area. It doesn’t appear they will affect the games, but it’s something to keep in mind for this series.