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Series preview: Guardians at White Sox

07
Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Guardians
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Everything and nothing is on the line in Chicago

When all the numbers shake out, the Chicago White Sox are the definition of average. They sit somewhere in the middle of every major pitching and hitting stat, they’re barely over .500, and they have a run differential of zero. The team that was supposed to run away with the AL Central found themselves spinning their tires for much of the year, and now they’re chasing the Guardians down the stretch.

With 15 games left for both these teams, this three-game set between the Central’s last two hopefuls has a lot on the line. It won’t decide anything outright — both teams could be swept and still have a shot at making the postseason — but the Guardians could make their last week of the season a lot less tense if they come away with a series win.

Here are a couple scenarios for the series and its aftermath:

  • If the Guardians win only one game this series, they will still lead the season matchup, 10-9. Being that there are no more play-in games, all ties are decided by season records so this tiebreaker is important.
  • Even if the Guardians are swept, they’ll maintain a one-game lead over Chicago. They would be at 80-70, the White Sox 79-71. At that point, they just have to win more games than the White Sox. Not impossible, but stress-inducing if Chicago keeps rolling.
  • A Guardians sweep would all but eliminate the Sox. Cleveland would need to win just five of their last 12 games (which includes six against the Royals), and they might even get a shot at 90 wins.

So the good news is the sky won’t be falling either way. The bad news is they’ll have to combat some tough pitching matchups to get wins. Game 1, in particular, could be trouble as Cy Young candidate Dylan Cease will face Aaron Civale, who is making his first start in a month due to elbow inflammation.

Cease, if you are somehow unfamiliar, finally broke through in 2022 after flashing potential as an ace last season. He’s a breaking ball-first pitcher with a slider and curve that have almost identical horizontal movement but differ in how they drop. Tunneled with a straight fastball that is also on almost the same horizontal plane, it becomes nearly impossible to tell which of his three primary pitches he’s throwing on any given pitch. Good luck out there, fellas.

Cleveland has faced Cease three times already this season, tagging him for four runs in April but held scoreless over 12.2 innings in the other two matchups.

Lynn has faced a similar fate against the Guardians — one blow-up game and two solid outings. He just faced the Guards last week, holding them to two earned runs over 6.1 innings. Cleveland will be looking to recreate their July 11 matchup against the big righty, when they scored eight runs in 4.0 innings.

Even Game 3’s starter, the ageless Johnny Cueto playing in his 15th MLB season, could be trouble. Cueto is striking out fewer batters than ever before, but he finds himself with his lowest ERA since his 2016 campaign with the Giants. He’s had little trouble with Guardians hitters in his two starts against them: 15.2 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, 2 SO.

Seemingly every pitching decision the Guardians made over the last week has set them up to be ready for this series. The best of the bullpen is rested with Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie each lined up to hopefully bring home wins in Chicago.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 76-71 (8th in AL)
  • Runs Scored: 642 (6th in AL)
  • Run Differential: 0 (8th in AL)
  • Last 10: 7-3
  • Slash: .261/.316/.393
  • wOBA: .311 (6th in AL)
  • wRC+: 103 (8th in AL)
  • ERA: 3.88 (7th in AL)
  • SIERA: 3.81 (7th in AL)
  • K-BB%: 15.1% (7th in AL)

Projected starters

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 8:10 p.m. ET: TBD (RHP Dylan Cease*) vs. RHP Aaron Civale
Wednesday, Sept. 21, 8:10 p.m. ET: TBD (RHP Lance Lynn*) vs. RHP Triston McKenzie
Thursday, Sept. 22, 8:10 p.m. ET: TBD (RHP Johnny Cueto*) vs. RHP Shane Bieber

*pitching prediction via FanGraphs’ Roster Resource

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