When we last saw Cleveland, we took three of four at home in late May/early June, putting both teams in a tie for second place in the AL Central with 29-30 records.
Since then, a lot has improved for Cleveland, and not much has gone right for the White Sox.
The Wahoos improved from a league-worst bullpen to a league leading 3.43 ERA, coming in at 101 fewer runs allowed than the AL average of 283, with a meager 182. Shortstop Francisco Lindor Is hitting .297 post All-Star Break, and is destroying right-handed pitching. Second baseman and Northbrook native Jason Kipnis has raised his batting average by about 50 points since we last saw him, and the two of them have .980 and .989 fielding percentages, respectively. (By contrast, Tim Anderson’s fielding percentage this season is .944, lowest by a position player in the majors).
The White Sox had a rather forgettable June, going 11-13 and not really doing anything important other than claiming Jimmy Cordero off waivers. Jimmy Biceps has been my favorite bullpen pitcher this second half, and other than DFA-ing Yonder Alonso, it was perhaps the best decision the White Sox made during the month. We also lost Anderson to an ankle sprain, and we hobbled into July to play arguably the worst month of baseball in recent memory. The White Sox went 7-17, including a seven-game skid immediately following the All Star Break. Other than Dylan Cease’s debut, July pretty much sucked. We had the failed A.J. Reed experiment, lots of Dylan Covey, and lots of trade speculation. We didn’t do much at the deadline, sending Nate Jones and a pile of The Money Will Be Spent™ cash to the Texas Rangers in exchange for two minor league pitchers.
The Indians received two-sport athlete Yasiel Puig (check out his soccer skills below) and his red mohawk from the Reds in a trade that sent resident lunatic Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati, and he claims he doesn’t miss Cleveland.
So far this season, the White Sox are 7-5 against the Indians, with a 3-3 record at Progressive Field. The South Siders are in an interesting position for the remainder of this season, as Cleveland currently sits 5.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins, and currently half a game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the top wild card spot, with the Oakland A’s one half-game behind. The next closest hopeful, the Boston Red Sox, are five games back. If we can take at least two of these games and the others in the wild-card chase play well, there is a chance we can play spoilsport to Cleveland’s postseason hopes.
Cleveland is pretty easy to hate, even without Chief Wahoo. We all know how Joakim Noah feels about the former Land of LeBron:
To quote our very own Mike Gasick, “I’ll never forgive this stupid team for blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2016 World Series. Worst day of my life.”
Probable starters are:
Monday, September 2: Ross Detwiler vs. Aaron Civale (6:10 pm, NBCSN/WGN-AM 720) With Detwiler pitching in Saturday’s circus show, this matchup is likely to change. Civale has been impressive in his rookie season, and I expect him to be in the Cleveland rotation next season. He’s got a nasty sinker, averages five strikeouts per game and his WHIP is 0.90. We’re going to need some good luck and possibly an exorcism before we face this guy.
Tuesday, September 3: Dylan Cease vs. Mike Clevinger (6:10 pm, WGN/WGN-AM 720) If Cease can limit the first-inning damage, this could be a fun one. If Dylan gets rocked early, Clevinger could wipe the floor with us.
Wednesday, September 4: Iván Nova vs. Shane Bieber (6:10 pm NBCSN/WGN-AM 720) Shane Bieber has gone 0-2 in his last three starts, including a no-decision to the Kansas City Royals, sandwiched by losses to the New York Mets and Rays. He’s got a good fastball, so expect a lot of South Side strikeouts.
Thursday, September 5: Reynaldo López vs. Zach Plesac (12:10 pm NBCSN/WGN-AM 720) With ReyLo chased out of the game without making it through a single inning on Saturday, this will be his chance for redemption. Plesac, a rookie, is a good pitcher but also is hittable, so if ReyLo gets some run support, he’s got a good shot at taking this one.
With September callups always a possibility, we might be seeing some new faces in the dugout by the end of this series. But for now, we’ve got Manny Bañuelos and Carson Fulmer swelling our bench to 27.
If you can make it through all four games, I promise to give you a special treat in Thursday’s game recap. Until then, let’s try to make it harder for Cleveland to make the wild card playoff game.