So this is it. The penultimate series of the regular season, and the final AL Central matchup for the Indians. There was a time when this series was looked at as the potential division decider — it still could be, but not in the way the Indians had hoped. Even with a sweep, the Indians will be short of winning the Central, but beating up the White Sox could potentially open the door for the Twins to win it for the second straight year.
The White Sox come with a pair of MVP candidates in Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu and overall one of the best offenses in baseball. Rookie Luis Robert has cooled off to a 105 wRC+, but the White Sox a total of eight batters with at least 50 plate appearances a wRC+ over 100 this season. In fact, only four batters on their entire roster with more than 50 plate appearances have a wRC+ below 100, and one of them (Danny Mendick with an 80 wRC+) lost his start duties a week ago.
This series will be a true test for the Indians rotation as they prepare to face a high seed in the three-game Wild Card round. It could potentially be the White Sox again.
Team in a box
2020 Pittsburgh Pirates
Monday, Sept. 21, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Dane Dunning vs. Aaron Civale
Rookie pitcher Dane Dunning, rated as the White Sox’s seventh prospect entering the season, has started five games for the White Sox this year, allowing seven earned runs and striking out 28 in 27.0 innings. This will be the first time the Indians face the 25-year-old and they can expect a heavy dose of his sinker-slider-four-seamer combo. Mercifully he does not throw many changeups, but they are a weapon he has.
Tuesday, Sept. 22, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Reynaldo Lopez vs. Shane Bieber
Since breaking into the league with the Nationals in 2016 Reynaldo Lopez has been pretty unremarkable as a starter, relying mostly on inducing weak contact and hoping for the best with his fastball-slider-change combination. This year is no different and he sports a 5.40 ERA in six starts.
Wednesday, Sept. 23, 6:10 p.m. ET: LHP Lucas Giolito vs. TBD
Until the Indians make some major lineup changes, get ready for Lucas Giolito to dominate them for the next four-plus seasons. His changeup is just too good and he knows to pump it until he can’t throw it anymore to shut down the Indians offense. Somehow he threw a no-hitter this season and it wasn’t against Cleveland, but he did hold the Tribe to just two runs over 13.0 innings in his two starts.
Thursday, Sept. 24, 6:10 p.m. ET: LHP Dallas Keuchel vs. TBD
Raise your hand if you didn’t realize Dallas Keuchel had a 2.04 ERA in 10 starts. I sure didn’t, but the human groundball machine has started walking fewer batters than ever and is still inducing grounders 53.7% of the time. His fastball velocity is among the worst in baseball, but when you only throw a four-seamer 2.1% of the time that’ll happen.
José Abreu, 1B - For a couple of years there it looked like Abreu’s years of being a superstar were over. He was only hitting around 15-20% better than the average batter, nowhere near the 40% output he had in 2017. This year he is on another level with a .355/.381/.651 slash and 18 home runs. His BABIP of course points to some regression, but with only a week left in the season, it probably won’t hit hard enough to dampen his MVP hopes.
Edwin Encarnación, DH - Must be nice to have Edwin Encarnación be one of the worst hitters on your team and still have the best offense in baseball. The Indians’ old friend hasn’t enjoyed much success at the plate in hisfirst year in Chicago, but he might be able to ride this train to his first World Series, so I guess it depends on how you measure success.
White Sox roster
How many games will the Indians win against the White Sox?
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