SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The White Sox have been building to this year for a few seasons now and are running away with a weak AL Central thanks to a balanced roster and star-level talent in every area.
Red Sox 2, White Sox 2
Down. While the White Sox are all but guaranteed a playoff spot at this point, they have been banged up a bit over the last few weeks and it’s showing with their results. They have lost each of their last two series, dropping two of three to the Royals and then doing the same against the Athletics.
9/10: Tanner Houck vs. TBD, 8:10 PM ET
Houck has now been in the rotation full-time for over a month, and almost all of his starts have been at least good, if not great. The focus now has been on pushing him a little bit deeper and trying to get him at least through five every time out, something that’s becoming all the more important with a couple of rotation members on the COVID list. And while two starts ago he really struggled with his control, he was electric his last time out. In his most recent start, Houck tossed five scoreless innings against Cleveland, allowing only three hits while not issuing a walk and tossing seven. This is going to be a much more potent lineup, however, and he’s going to need his best stuff to be able to challenge hitters in the zone. The good news on that front is that he seems to be trusting that splitter more often these days.
There is no official starter for this game on Chicago’s side as of this writing on Friday morning, but the expectation is that lefty Carlos Rodón will get the nod. A former top three overall draft selection, it took the southpaw a long time to really deliver on that promise, but he’s broken out in 2021. Thanks to much-improved command, Rodón has pitched to a 2.41 ERA this season, keeping his walk rate below seven percent for the first time in his career while also striking out a career-high 35 percent of his opponents. That said, he hasn’t been able to pitch as much of late due to some shoulder issues, making only three starts since the start of August. Rodón will feature a mid-90s fastball along with a slider, which is his best offering, and a changeup.
9/11: TBD vs. Dylan Cease, 7:10 PM ET
While the White Sox don’t have an official starter for Friday, it’s Boston without one for Saturday. That said, there’s not much mystery to who will get the nod. Every expectation is that Connor Seabold will be up to make his major-league debut on Saturday. He would have been the top choice for last weekend’s spot start in Nick Pivetta’s space, but he had just started the day before. Seabold, of course, came over from the Phillies in last summer’s deal that sent away Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree. The righty dealt with some injury issues early in the year that kept him out for a few months, but since getting back he’s looked good in Worcester. He’s pitched to a 3.67 ERA in Triple-A over 41 2⁄3 innings, striking out 44 and walking 13. Seabold is one of the top pitching prospects in the organization and will look to make an early statement for him to be high on the depth chart for next season, if not part of the Opening Day rotation.
Like Rodón, Cease has long been an enticing young arm but he’s had trouble putting it all together. And although he hasn’t been quite on the level of Rodón this season, the righty has been much better than in the past, pitching to a 3.87 ERA with peripherals that paint a slightly better picture. He will have some lapses of command issues, both in the form of walks and hard contact, but the stuff is outstanding and helps keep his floor relatively high. Although he is coming off a little bit of a tough outing his last time out, allowing four runs in five innings, he’s pitched to a 3.15 ERA since the start of August, striking out 59 in 40 innings of work. The Red Sox saw him way back in April and scored two runs over 4 2⁄3 innings. Cease will feature a big fastball along with a slider, a curveball, and the occasional changeup.
9/12: TBD vs. TBD, 2:10 PM ET (TBS for out-of-market)
Ah, the ol’ TBD vs. TBD, and being broadcast on TBS for good measure. On the Red Sox side, this is a true TBD as Chris Sale was scratched on Friday morning. They are hoping to have Pivetta back for this start, as he was vaccinated and thus doesn’t have to sit out for the full 10 days. That said, it’s still not at all a guarantee that will happen. If it’s not Pivetta, they could also fly Kutter Crawford out as a Plan B, or they could move Eduardo Rodriguez up a day due to the day off and try to delay having to make a decision. I suspect we won’t really know who’s starting this one until Sunday morning.
As for the White Sox, like on Friday this isn’t really a true TBD. Every expectation is that Lance Lynn will be activated off the injured list for this outing. This is bad news for the Red Sox, as Lynn has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball this season. Acquired in a trade with the Rangers this past winter, the veteran righty is firmly in the AL Cy Young conversation with a 2.59 ERA in 24 starts. He’s been out a couple weeks with a knee injury, but it doesn’t appear it was all that serious given he’ll be back for this start. Prior to the injury he had his worst start of the season, allowing seven runs over five innings to the Cubs. Lynn will feature a pair of low-to-mid-90s fastballs along with a cutter.
Yoán Moncada was, of course, one of the most highly-touted prospects in recent Red Sox history and eventually the centerpiece of the trade that brought Chris Sale to Boston. Although he’s yet to reach the true superstar, perennial MVP status many saw for him, he’s become a productive everyday infielder on a World Series contender.
Craig Kimbrel was the closer in Boston for a three-season stretch that included a championship run, and is at least in the conversation for best non-Mariano Rivera reliever of all time. He was traded to the White Sox this summer from the Cubs.
Michael Kopech was another part of the Sale trade and one of the best pitching prospects from the Red Sox system in recent years. The hard thrower has dealt with injury issues that have prevented him from cementing himself as a major-league starter, and right now he’s pitching out of Chicago’s bullpen.
Notable Position Players
Moncada, as mentioned, is a regular in this lineup, playing third base and normally hitting second. Despite a strange lack of power this year, he’s had a nice season thanks to a high BABIP and a ton of walks.
José Abreu is the reigning MVP, and while he’s not in that conversation again he’s still to be feared in the middle of this lineup. He’s the platonic ideal of a run producer who is a threat to drive in runs whenever someone is on base in front of him.
Luis Robert has missed time with injury this year but is one of the most exciting players in the game. He has tremendous athleticism, big power, and just generally hits the ball hard.
Eloy Jiménez has missed most of this season after an early-season injury, but he’s back now and is another power bat in the middle of this lineup.
Yasmani Grandal is one of the stranger hitters in the league in terms of just looking at his batting line. He’ll consistently post one of the lowest averages in the league, but boasts a sky-high walk rate and can hit for legitimate power.
Andrew Vaughn was one of the Rookie of the Year favorites before the season, but he’s struggled with consistency this season. That said, he’s still a league-average bat with the upside for much more than that.
Gavin Sheets hasn’t played a ton in the majors this year, but when he’s in the lineup he’s yet another big power hitter who can drive in runs.
Leury Garcia is not going to hit for power, but he’s a good on-base guy to set the table for the big bats up atop the lineup.
César Hernández has struggled since a midseason trade to Chicago, with his typically-modest power taking another step back.
By the numbers, the White Sox bullpen has been in the middle of the pack this year, but on paper they should be among the best. Liam Hendriks and Kimbrel combine for perhaps the scariest one-two bunch in all of baseball, and a pair of recent high draft picks in Kopech and Garrett Crochet give two more high upside options in the late innings as well. When you throw in Aaron Bummer, Ryan Tepera, and José Ruiz, you get a bullpen that goes seven deep with trustworthy options.
While the White Sox have been banged up of late, they’ve been getting healthy now. As we speak, technically Lance Lynn is still on the IL, but we know that won’t last much longer. The same can be said for ace Lucas Giolito, who is expected to start on Tuesday after this series. The big injury right now is Tim Anderson, whose timeline is still a little unclear.
There shouldn’t be any weather issues out in Chicago this weekend, with the forecast looking sunny all weekend with temperatures in the 80s. Perfect weekend for baseball.
A big thank you to FanGraphs, and particularly their Roster Resource tool, as well as Baseball Savant for research.