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Series Preview: White Hot White Sox

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The two teams with the best record in the majors face off.

Detroit Tigers v Chicago White Sox
Manager Tony La Russa
Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays took care of business with a sweep against the Baltimore Orioles. During the five game homestand against teams that are currently at the bottom of their division the Rays went 4-1.

The Rays have extended their American League East lead to 3.0 games over the Boston Red Sox. The Toronto Blue Jays sit 7.5 games behind and the Yankees have fallen to 8.5 games back. Baltimore fell to 19.0 games behind the Rays.

The Rays hold onto the best record in the majors and face the team they have a 0.5 game lead over, the Chicago White Sox.

Matchups:

Monday 8:10 PM: Tyler Glasnow vs Lance Lynn
Tuesday 8:10 PM: Shane McClanahan vs Dallas Keuchel
Wednesday 2:10 PM: Ryan Yarbrough vs Lucas Giolito

Monday starts out with a banger. Lance Lynn’s performance since the beginning of 2019 — 3.14 ERA/3.35 FIP/3.97 xFIP — put him in the conversation for best pitcher in the majors behind Jacob deGrom, and more recently, 2021 might be Lynn’s best season yet with a 1.23 ERA/2.97 FIP/3.89 xFIP. His strikeout rate is up to 27.7% and his 6.5% walk rate is very good. He hasn’t allowed more than one run since May 18. Lynn is mostly a fastball pitcher. He throws a 94.2 mph four-seam fastball, 88.6 mph cutter, and 92.6 mph sinker that account for almost 95% of his pitches. He will occasionally throw a 88.7 mph change up, but almost exclusively to left handed batters. Kevin Cash pushed back the rotation one day to align Tyler Glasnow’s next start with Lynn.

Dallas Keuchel has had a rough 2021. His 4.14 ERA/4.61 FIP/4.15 xFIP results are at or near career highs. While he’s never been a strikeout pitcher his strikeout rate has plummeted to 13.6%, while his walk rate has held steady at 7.0%. He’s given the White Sox a chance to win but he rarely is able to hold down the opposition. He throws a 87.6 mph sinker, 79.3 mph changeup, and 85.3 mph cutter as his primary pitches. He will occasionally mix in a 76.8 mph slider and 88.6 mph four-seam fastball.

Lucas Giolito has taken a step back from his past two seasons, but he’s still put up a good season with a 3.81 ERA/4.23 FIP/3.46 xFIP. His 31.1% strikeout rate and 8.1% walk rate are very similar to his numbers he’s posted after his 2019 breakout. Homers have been his biggest problem. He’s allowed 15 homers (19.2% HR/FB) that has come from an elevated flyball rate. His four-seam fastball has lost some velocity to 93.7 mph. His 81.6 mph changeup is being thrown faster. His 86.1 mph slider is also being thrown faster. Batters have done most of their damage off the four-seam fastball and slider.

Detroit Tigers v Chicago White Sox Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

The White Sox offense has been strong.

The White Sox have posted a .255/.342/.409 line and put up a 112 wRC+. Their 5.05 runs per game is good for fifth best in the game just ahead of the Rays 4.97 runs per game.

The White Sox are missing Eloy Jiminez, Luis Robert, and Nick Madrigal to injuries that will keep them out for most if not all of the season.

The most impressive part of their offensive production is their balance. Much like the Rays they aren’t reliant on one or two hitters to do the heavy lifting, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any threats.

Yasmani Grandal has had one of the most fascinating batting lines in the history of baseball. He’s hitting .157/.398/.409 and putting up a 135 wRC+. Despite the low batting average the 28.0% walk rate has made him an on base machine. His .252 ISO makes him one of their biggest power threats.

Yoan Moncada has hit .280/.402/.408 and put up a 134 wRC+. Despite the 28.2% strikeout rate he’s been able to post a .400 BABIP to keep his battitng average high. He’s hit for a disappointing .128 ISO in the power department, but he still has been a very productive hitter.

Jose Abreu’s .262/.339/.475 line and 125 wRC+ is strong but it’s a step back from his 2020 AL MVP performance.

Yermin Mercedes (120 wRC+) and Tim Anderson (115 wRC+) have also been helpful contributors. Even their weaker hitters have been productive with Andrew Vaughn (94 wRC+), Zack Collins (93 wRC+), and Adam Eaton (88 wRC+) being useful.

Toronto Blue Jays v Chicago White Sox
Yasmani Grandal #24
Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

The two teams with the best record in the majors face off.

The Rays currently hold a 0.5 game advantage over the White Sox. Whoever wins this series will most likely hold the league’s best record come Wednesday afternoon.

After facing some weaker opponents the degree of difficulty takes a big step up. This could be a potential playoff matchup.