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Series preview: Cleveland vs. White Sox

The southsiders come to town for a doubleheader and then some

Baltimore Orioles v Chicago White Sox Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

Be happy that Lucas Giolito pitched on Sunday. Cleveland will face the White Sox four times over the next three days and luckily will avoid Chicago’s changeup-throwing ace as he dominated the Orioles with 12 strikeouts over the weekend.

Even without Giolito, Cleveland will be tasked with cooling off a team that has won four straight games and six of their last 10 overall. The White Sox enter play Monday with a +80 win differential, the second-highest in baseball behind the Dodgers. Their offense gets all the headlines (as does their manager for all the wrong reasons) but they are also one of the best teams at preventing runs, with just 178 against — the lowest in the American League.

Their starters have the second-lowest ERA in the majors, trailing only the Mets. They are also better than several National League teams, who get to face a pitcher at the plate once every nine at-bats. The next closest rotation to the White Sox’s 2.85 ERA in the AL is the Rays, ranked eighth overall.

The first two games of this series fall on Monday as a Memorial Day doubleheader to make up for a rained-out game on April 21. Cleveland is expected to recall Triston McKenzie as their 27th man for the series and starter for Game 1.

With all the recent postponements and makeup games, the probable pitchers are a mess and there doesn’t seem to be anything definitive for who the White Sox will send out there over the next three days. Cleveland could opt for a bullpen day during Game 2 Monday.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 32-20
  • Runs Scored: 258
  • Run Differential: +80
  • Last 10: 6-4
  • Slash: .256/.344/.409
  • wOBA: .332
  • wRC+: 115
  • ERA: 3.17
  • SIERA: 3.51
  • K-BB%: 19.3%

Projected starters

Monday (Game 1), May 31, 3:05 p.m. ET: TBD (Carlos Rodón*) vs. Triston McKenzie**
This will be Cleveland’s third time facing Carlos Rodón, and the first two didn’t go so well. Rodón mowed down Cleveland’s lineup in his two starts back on April 14 and 20, the first of which was a no-hitter. He slipped up in his second start by allowing three hits and walking five, but he also struck out eight over just five innings of work.

Even when he’s not dominating Cleveland batters, Rodón has been sensational this season with a 1.29 ERA, 2.64 xFIP, and career-high 38.5% strikeout rate. In his eight starts, he has allowed more than one earned run just once, against the Kansas City Royals on May 15. Over his last two starts combined, he has struck out 23 batters over 12 innings with his only run being a solo homer against the Cardinals.

There may be an element of luck in his ludicrously low runs allowed totals (seeing as he strands almost every runner on base and has a .211 BABIP against), but the underlying measurements point to him being extremely effective in limiting hard contact. That’s a good sign if you want an unusually hot start to continue into the regular season.

Monday (Game 2), May 31, TBD: TBD (Jimmy Lambert*) vs. TBD
It turns out Jimmy Lambert isn’t just a generic OOTP player created in 2037, but one of the White Sox’s top prospects heading into the season. There are some differences in how high he ranks, however — he’s No. 29 on FanGraphs, but No. 16 on MLB Pipeline.

When Lambert starts Game 2 of the doubleheader Monday it will be the first of his career. He pitched in only relief roles during his cup of coffee last season, but he did his job and held opponents scoreless over his two innings pitched.

Lambert was a fifth-round pick of the White Sox in 2015, with a fastball and curveball that have “some of the highest spin rates” in the White Sox organization, according to MLB Pipeline. As someone who has never actually seen Lambert pitch, his scouting report makes him sound a lot like Zach Plesac — very athletic with good sequencing and tunneling on his pitches.

Tuesday, June 1, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Dylan Cease vs. TBD (Shane Bieber*)
Dylan Cease is so far the only confirmed pitcher for the White Sox this series via; he’s slated to start Tuesday. The 25-year-old seems to finally be putting it all together in his third MLB season, with a career-high 30.3% strikeout rate and career-low 3.25 ERA over his 10 starts.

This will be Cease’s first start against Cleveland this season. In his last outing, against the Orioles, he struck out 10 over six innings of work; it was his second double-digit strikeout effort of the season after he whiffed 11 Reds back on May 4.

Cease works with a fastball spinning in the 96th percentile and limits hard contact at an elite level. His pitch movement and usage profile looks a lot like someone trying to mimic Shane Bieber who isn’t quite there yet — with the added bonus of a 96 mph fastball.

Wednesday, June 2, 1:10 p.m. ET: TBD (Lance Lynn) vs. TBD (Eli Morgan*)
Thank you to Andrew in the comments and friend of the show Josh Nelson on Twitter for pointing out that it will indeed be Lance Lynn pitching on short rest Wednesday.

* All projected TBD’s are via FanGraphs’ Roster Resource unless stated otherwise
** Roster Resource has Triston McKenzie listed as the Game 2 starter, but he has already been announced for Game 1.

Lineup highlights

3B Yoán Moncada - Moncada showed what he was capable of in an incredible 2019 campaign, and after a dip last season, he’s back in full force this year. So far he’s slashing .289/.421/.422 with four home runs and a career-high 16.8% walk rate. His BABIP, which always runs high, sits at .414, and he has one of the highest expected wOBAs in baseball. The dude can rake.

Everyone else - The White Sox have 10 players with over 100 plate appearances this season, and only Adam Eaton and Leury García have a wRC+ under 100. Eaton is just barely below average at 92 and Garcia would be batting cleanup on Cleveland with his 63 wRC+. As a team, they are slashing .256/.344/.409 with a 115 wRC+ — good for second in the AL. José Abreu leads the team with 11 home runs.


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