The Chicago White Sox, at 26-15, are tied for first place in the AL Central with the Cleveland Indians and stand a game ahead of the Minnesota Twins. They’re 7-3 over their last 10, as are the Indians, but come in riding a four-game win streak by virtue of sweeping the listless Kansas City Royals, from whom Cleveland has already won one game from in their current four-game series.
This week stands as a particularly important one for the White Sox, who stand to potentially put some distance between themselves and Cleveland and Minnesota; they begin a four-game series tonight against the 13-26 Pittsburgh Pirates and this Saturday they start a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers, who, at 18-21 field one of the worst rotations in baseball and present three very winnable games.
And while the White Sox have an easy path this week, and though the Indians continue their four-game series tonight against the Indians, the Twins play a formidable St. Louis Cardinals team tonight. More to the point, however, Cleveland and Minnesota begin a three-game series this Friday, with Cleveland playing the Cubs afterward and Minnesota playing the White Sox. If the Sox can peel off a few wins this week and Cleveland and Minnesota each walk away from their series this weekend with one loss, the White Sox will be in good position. Moreso, the White Sox can expand on that lead when they play Minnesota, and the Cubs are by no means an easy three wins for Cleveland next week.
But to think that far into the future, the White Sox have to worry about the current task at hand, and that’s the Pirates, the team to whom Lucas Giolito didn’t surrender a hit only two weeks ago. Dylan Cease gets the ball tonight and makes his second start of the month after an August in which he put up a 2.14 ERA and averaged 6.95 K/9. He has yet to reach seven innings pitched yet this season but has been an effective, hard-throwing starter. The White Sox’s strong bullpen has made Cease an even more valuable pitcher as someone who can shut things down for five or six innings.
After optioning Reynaldo López to Schaumburg and continuing to play without a healthy Carlos Rodón, the White Sox have given Dane Dunning three starts. He has a 3.86 ERA in those starts and has 18 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched, and against a lineup as weak as Pittsburgh’s nine, he should find success in his start tomorrow.
At 1.53, the Pirates’ pitchers have the seventh-highest HR/9, with their starters having the third-highest at 2.00, so there is plenty of opportunity for a hard-hitting team like the White Sox to do some damage. The Tigers’ pitching is even worse, so there could be some firework displays for the White Sox over the next seven days. Even though they are almost guaranteed to make the playoffs at this point, winning their division would be very helpful in the seeding of what will be a crowded playoff field. A month from now (Can you believe it?), this may be looked at as a big moment in the White Sox’s season.