Baseball

VS

Records: Sox 33-17/Reds 25-26

Start Times: Fri 6:10/Sun 12:10

TV: NBCSN/FOX/NBCSN

Redreporter.com

PROBABLE STARTERS:

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)

PLAYOFFS, BABY!

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…

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!

Baseball

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RECORDS: Cubs 62-52   Reds 54-58

GAMETIMES: Thursday-Saturday 6:10, Sunday 12:10

TV: NBCSN Thursday, Friday, Sunday, WGN Saturday

SCHOTZIE’S LEAVINGS: Blog Red Machine

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Reds Spotlight

Once again, the Cubs will try to take momentum gained from a standout homestand onto a 10-game road trip that could see them, if not put the division to bed, give themselves a healthy cushion. The last time they tried this they stained the floors of each destination to the tune of a 3-6 cough-up. This one sets up even easier as the Reds are still below .500, the Phillies can be anything on a given day, and the Pirates have straight up given up. But with the way things have gone for the Cubs on the road, there simply can’t be any sure things.

One change for the Cubs is that Jonathan Lucroy will meet them in Cincinnati, though as of now Taylor Davis is still listed as the backup. That will change in the next day or two, as the Cubs have seen quite enough of that. Lucroy can’t hit anymore, and his brain might be broken, but he is only a season removed from being a pretty good handler back there, and that itself would be an improvement on Davis. He doesn’t rate highly this year, but maybe the significantly better pitching of the Cubs than the Angels can square that around. Again, he’s not going to hit much, and he hasn’t in three seasons, but he might actually get a hit and the Cubs got Taylor Davis’s annual one in that game against the Cardinals in May.

Everything else stays the same. Cole Hamels should have the training wheels taken off in his second start off the DL. Jon Lester will try to come back down from the stratosphere where the A’s put him on Tuesday.

To the Reds, who remade their team a bit at the trade deadline. Gone is Yasiel Puig from the major league roster, and in his King Galaxy Brain Trevor Bauer, whom the Cubs will see Friday. Bauer is certainly a massive upgrade from Tanner Roark, including the headache department. He’s walking more guys than he has in four seasons, and has had home run problems (who hasn’t?) which won’t be helped by the move south in Ohio. The Cubs will also see Alex Wood for the first time, making his four start spurt before he goes back onto the IL with some sort of arm trouble, given that his left one is made of paper mache at this point. The Cubs have had their issues with him in the past, as he carries a lifetime 2.86 ERA against them.

While the Cubs have had no problem making this offense look like something out of a comic book all season, it’s only lately they’ve done that to other teams. They put up 15 runs in two wins over the Angels earlier in the week. Over the past month everyone in the lineup aside from Votto and Peraza (and Votto has been awful in that span) have put up a 100 wRC+ or better, with Suarez and Ervin particularly molten. The latter of which you already knew about because he murdered the Cubs last trip in there and threw the body into the river rolled up in a rug.

The strength of the Reds, if it’s not the rotation, remains the pen, with Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen and his Farnsworth-pants, and Robert Stephenson currently on great runs. The Cubs haven’t been totally ruined when they’ve had to do work against this pen, but it’s not the optimal path when dealing with this crew.

The Cardinals will have the Pirates at home and the Brewers will be entertaining the Rangers in Milwaukee, so if the Cubs want to hold onto this lead it’s likely not going to be handed to them. The Reds have been cumbersome and a nuisance all goddamn season. If the Cubs have turned any corner, finally getting one over on this side would be prime evidence of that.

Baseball

At least the Reds weren’t boring at the trade deadline.

For a while we and others wondered what they would do about their Scooter Gennett and Derek Dietrich axis of confusion at second base. The answer was apparently to let one play like he was still hurt (Gennett) and the other to get hurt (Dietrich). So out went Gennett to the Giants, who always seem to be in the market for an underwhelming bat.

That wasn’t the headline though, and you’re not going to believe it wasn’t sending Tanner Roark to the A’s either. I know, right? This is Tanner Roark, people! The Reds gave up Yasiel Puig, Scott Moss, and much-touted prospect Tyler Trammell in a trade-a-trois to land themselves Trevor Bauer.

On the surface you get it. Puig was a free agent-to-be and unlikely to re-sign in Cincy, so cash in what you can during a season that isn’t going to go anywhere. Getting Bauer back gives the Reds a bonafide #2 starter to slot in between Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray, even if everyone else in the clubhouse is going to want to throw Bauer through several walls before the end of the season. A front three in the rotation of Castillo-Bauer-Gray is pretty formidable, and can certainly be the basis for wildcard contention. It would appear that the Reds are gearing up for next year.

But are they? Bauer is only signed for one more season, so it certainly looks like the Reds want to run with the big dogs in 2020. And the pen should still have Raisel Iglesias and others to repeat being the weapon it’s been this year. But you can never really tell with bullpens, can you?

The biggest question is what the Reds are going to do, or are positioned to do, with the lineup to pair with that rotation. Because it’s hard to see what’s on the up-slope offensively for the Reds. It certainly isn’t Joey Votto. Eugenio Suarez is a fine player but not someone you’re building around, and with him having an off-year this season at 29 you wonder if this is the start of something smelly or just a blip. Certainly the hope is that Nick Senzel is that player. They would like to hope that Phillip Ervin might be, but he’s 27 already. Will be 28 next year. And he’s not even starting regularly. There’s probably still hope for Jesse Winker, who is only 25. But that’s two guys definitely yet to reach their prime, one who is definitely past it, and a bunch of questions marks.

On top of that, Trammell was their only prime prospect ready to step in next year and be something. And even next year would be a stretch, as he’s been ok in AA this year. The Padres don’t really care, they have two years to play with. The Reds? Maybe not.

They certainly have plenty of money to spend, should they choose. They have only $60M tied up next year, plus whatever Bauer gets in arbitration. But when do you remember the Reds being the settling place for a big free agent? They will clearly have needs in right, second, maybe short (though you can get away with Jose Iglesias‘s glove if you have offense everywhere else), maybe catcher. Sadly for the Reds, the free agent crop is pretty weak in the winter.

Are they destined to repeat this year, with a pretty good staff and an offense that just isn’t enough? It seems that way, unless they flip Bauer for something else in the offseason. But his value would be lower than it was at the deadline with only one year of control left. They could probably stand to get younger. Could they turn Suarez into something? Would that just be running in place?

It seems the Reds have paced their pitching faster or above their lineup, and it might keep them in the mud. Bauer could be gone in 2021, Gray to follow the year after so he could be trade bait by then, and Votto will only be older. No prospect they have looks to be making an impact before 2022. Those things can always change though, and maybe that’s what the Reds are hoping.

It’s an odd mix…which is generally considered a delicacy in Cincinnati.

Baseball

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RECORDS: Indians 28-29    White Sox 26-29

GAMETIMES: Thursday and Friday 7:10, Saturday and Sunday 1:10

TV: Thursday, Saturday, Sunday NBCSN, Friday WGN

PREPARING THE VIKING FUNERAL: Let’s Go Tribe

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Carlos Carrasco vs. Manny Banuelos

Trevor Bauer vs. Dylan Covey

Jefry Rodriguez vs. Ivan Nova

Zach Plesac vs. Lucas Giolito

PROBABLE INDIANS LINEUP

Francisco Lindor – SS

Oscar Mercado – CF

Carlos Santana – 1B

Jordan Luplow – RF

Jose Ramirez – 3B

Roberto Perez – C

Jake Bauers – 1B

Greg Allen – LF

Mike Freeman – 2B

PROBABLE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – CF

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – 1B

Yonder Alonso – DH

James McCann – C

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Tim Anderson – SS

Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

Charlie Tilson – RF

 

An actual torch-passing would be overselling it by a factor of three. And there are no torches for teams that aren’t leading the division, or even close, or even .500. So it’s not that. But there is something about the Sox being able to pass Cleveland in the standings at the end of this four-game set on 35th this weekend. They’re only a game behind, so any kind of series win would do it. That doesn’t mean that the Sox are in any way primed to charge at the Twins, and last weekend pretty much proved that. What it does signify is that Cleveland’s era of lording over the Central is almost certainly over, and their window of contention might be as well. What they do with that is going to become the main question on the Cuyahoga the next couple months.

The Sox have played The Tribe enough this year that you’re intimately familiar with the issues. Two-fifths of their rotation is on the shelf for an extended period of time in Mike Clevinger and Corey Kluber. Three if you wanted to count Danny Salazar among the starters, though that’s a stretch.

What is healthy hasn’t been any damn good, at least not with lumber in their hands. Lindor appears to be emerging from his early season malaise, but other than Santana everyone else has looked like the guy playing the Gashouse Gorillas before Bugs took over. Jordan Luplow has ground the Sox bones into his bread but hasn’t done jack or shit against anyone else. Another kid in Bauers has been given the first base job to win, and he’s hitting .215. Put plainly, they rank third-from-last in runs in the AL and team wOBA, which is at a gruesome .298. Even a reclamation of Ramirez probably isn’t enough to save this team. Luplow and Bauers converting their promise to tangible might be enough, but there probably isn’t time to wait for that.

Which puts Cleveland on the precipice of having to cash in on what they can and start over. They have both Ramirez and Lindor through 2022, which is a start (assuming Ramirez isn’t a smoldering corpse permanently). What could they turn in at the deadline and try and collect chips on? Kluber has two team option years left, neither of which are even $20M, which would make him awfully attractive. Though he may not want to go unless teams guarantee they won’t pick those up. Trevor Bauer has one more arbitration year left, and even though he’s Captain Space Brain some team will find that attractive. With Clevinger and Bieber around for a while, those are blows the Tribe could soak up and survive, you would think. Carrasco has an extremely team-friendly deal and could net them a Quintana-like package. Except he’s already 32, though he did just have a 2.94 FIP last year. There are pieces.

The Sox will see another kid who could make up for the blow of whatever pitchers the Indians move along, and that’s in Zach Plesac. Plesac rocketed through the system this year, starting in Double-A but needed only six starts there with a 0.98 ERA to move up a level. Then in three AAA starts he struck out 22 while walking one, so here he is. The only let-up for the Sox is that Bauer hasn’t been all that good, they’ve already lit him up once, and then Gasoline Alley Jefry on Saturday afternoon.

It’s not a torch passing. But it is one team watching it all close while the other is trying to jimmy theirs open (phrasing?). What we’re saying is there’s symbolism here if you want to find it. Or don’t. We don’t are.

 

 

Baseball

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RECORDS: White Sox 14-18   Cleveland 18-14

GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday 5:10

TV: NBCSN Monday-Wednesday 

THEY’RE STILL SHITTY: Let’s Go Tribe

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Ivan Nova vs. Trevor Bauer

Lucas Giolito vs. Jefry Rodriguez

Reynaldo Lopez vs. Shane Bieber

WHITE SOX PROBABLE LINEUP

Leury Garcia – CF

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – 1B

Yonder Alonso – DH

James McCann – C

Nicky Delmonico – LF

Tim Anderson – SS

Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

Charlie Tilson – RF

CLEVELAND PROBABLE LINEUP

Francisco Lindor – SS

Jason Kipnis – 2B

Jose Ramirez – 3B

Carlos Santana – 1B

Carlos Gonzalez – LF

Jake Bauers – DH

Jordan Luplow – CF

Tyler Naquin – RF

Roberto Perez – C

 

After two consecutive self-immolations against the Carmines, along with three straight losses after a pretty satisfying walk-off win against the title-holders, the White Sox escape town and head to the familiar environs of The Jake. There they’ll find a Cleveland team that is no longer on the AL Central throne as had been custom, and one that has a few too many guys in the infirmary.

The big issues for the Tribe is that two-fifths of their rotation (three if you count Danny Salazar, but that’s iffy) is on the DL and not for a short time either. Mike Clevinger is out until at least June with a back-iotomy, and Cory Kluber has forearm-knack after taking a liner off of it. He’s out at least a month, and could be longer. That has slotted Jefry Rodriguez and Cody Anderson into the rotation, which is clearly a downgrade.

Sadly, the rotation is still being held together somewhat by professional butthead Trevor Bauer, though he is riding the good side of the BABIP Dragon and any market correction on that .221 mark could be violent. He’s giving up line-drives far more than he did last year, and you know about the Cleveland outfield defense. Carlos Carrasco is on the other side of the coin, seeing a 5.00+ ERA even though he’s striking out over 12 hitters per nine innings while walking less than two. You could easily argue that both of their market corrections will even out.

They’ve needed everything they can get out of the starters, because the offense has not clicked into gear at all. In fact, it’s shambolic. Jose Ramirez is hitting .200. Lindor is hitting .229. Jason Kipnis has a 24 wRC+, and he’s been forced into the lineup. Only Carlos Santana is going up to the plate with something other than a side of beef. And with the power show the Twins are putting up, Cleveland is not going anywhere if Lindor and Ramirez at least don’t get back to their MVP-form of yesteryear and probably get some help.

It’s not the funk out of the pen these days either as it used to be. Closer Brad Hand (and his rad band) has been excellent, but beyond that it’s been iffy, though of late old war horses Tyler Clippard and Oliver Perez, along with Adam Cimber, have straightened that out.

The Sox will try and relocate their offense, which produced four runs over the last three games against the BoSox. Hey, sometimes Chris Sale will do that to you but you shouldn’t be getting it up your giggy by Rick Porcello. Ivan Nova against this lineup is probably the definition of a taffy pull, but if he’s going to get right against anyone this would seem to be the time. And hey, two weeks against the Erie Warriors and Blue Jays is better than the Astros and Twins, which await after this.