Records: Sox 33-17/Reds 25-26
Start Times: Fri 6:10/Sun 12:10
Friday: Tyler Mahle (1-2, 4.31 ERA) vs. Jonathan Stiever (0-0, 2.45 ERA)
Saturday: Tejay Antone (0-2, 2.76 ERA)vs. Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 2.19 ERA)
Sunday: Trevor Bauer (4-3, 1.71 ERA) vs. Dylan Cease (5-2, 3.20 ERA)
The First Place White Sox travel to Cincinnati this weekend having clinched the first playoff berth the franchise has seen since 2008. TWELVE YEARS! Much has changed…
— YOLMER FOREVER (@WFrenchman) September 17, 2020
The team clinched an overuse of the term “Soxtober” by coming from behind to beat the hated MinneHOta Twins Thursday afternoon, securing postseason representation by taking three of four from their closest pursuant in the Division. Not much time for celebrations, though, as the team heads to the Queen city for three with the resurgent Reds, winners of five straight and thinking about a postseason trip of their own. The Reds have gone 7-3 in their last 10 to take over Second place in the NL Central and an automatic playoff berth – for now.
The exciting Sox bats weren’t exactly on full display against the Twins, but their 14 runs across the four game set were enough to buoy strong pitching performances from the pitching staff in the mid-week series. One would think they’d like to see more from the supporting cast around Jose Abreu and the timely Eloy Jimenez, and especially while visiting the notoriously hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. Sox hitters will look to do so against a few RH SP, none of which instill much fear outside of the polarizing Trevor Bauer. Bauer is hated by many, and rightfully has earned much of that hate, but us haters have to acknowledge the stellar campaign he’s put together in this most odd of seasons – 9 GS, 4-3, 1.71 ERA, 12.88 K/9, 2 CG shutouts, 2.1 WAR. The douche is making himself some money for his mercenary FA plan on the horizon and you can bet some time in the MLB playoff limelight would only improve his position, as would a dominant performance against the potent Sox lineup.
The Sox will also look to the bats to ease what looks to be an all-hands-on-deck type of weekend for the pitching staff. Jonathan Stiever takes his second, and possibly final, turn in the rotation and will look to go a bit further than the 3.2 innings he gave his team on Sunday against Detroilet. Dallas Keuchel makes his return from an IL stint on Saturday and the series wraps with escape artist Dylan Cease, so the bullpen is going to need to be as good as ever to hold down a surging Reds offense. That task is made even harder by the announcement of Setup Man Evan Marshall hitting the IL, with recent draftee Garrett Crochet getting the call to take his spot on the roster. He’ll almost assuredly make his MLB debut in relief this weekend, possibly in a big spot against the likes of veteran Joey Votto or powerful Jesse Winker. Votto boasts three homers in his last seven games, a stretch that’s seen the Reds go 6-1 while claiming sole possession of second place in the pillow fight that is the NL Central. Cincinnati finds itself a half game ahead of St. Louis and one ahead of Milwaukee as all three are under .500 overall.
We as fans get a glimpse as one of the “what could’ve been” scenarios when Nick Castellanos steps in to face Sox pitchers and patrols RF. I guess one of the positives of this truncated schedule is we haven’t been subjected to too many of the ones that got away in the offseason RF search, but it’s going to be hard not to focus on the Mazara/Castellanos comparisons all weekend. The Sox won’t be paying that situation much mind, though, and will need to show they’re focused on more than just this playoff berth as they have a chance to solidify their lead in their own Division and set up to clinch the AL Central next week in Cleveland. It’s easy to look ahead to that four game series and see Lucas Giolito on Monday and get excited, but the Reds are in a fight of their own and cannot be overlooked. My feeling is we’re going to see some high scoring games, likely with a lot of bullpen usage from the White Sox regardless.
The magic number for the Central Division crown is officially 7; the Sox have 10 games to play. This is entirely in the team’s control and a strong showing in Cincinnati while the Twins deal with the Cubs at Wrigley will give this fanbase even more to celebrate. Maybe even a whole ass AL PENNANT.
Don’t Stop Now Boys!