Lance Lynn pitches five scoreless innings, White Sox starters extend scoreless streak to 25 1/3
Who needs a lineup at full strength with pitching like this?
With Eloy Jimenez missing since spring training and Luis Robert since this week with injuries that will sideline the slugging outfielders through most if not all of the season, much more will be asked of the White Sox pitching staff.
They appear to be up to the task of pitching their team into the postseason, as planned.
In a 9-1 victory over the Royals Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium, the Sox’ 10th win in their last 14 games, Lynn (3-1) pitched five scoreless innings to extend the Sox starting rotation’s scoreless innings streak to 25 1⁄3 innings. Lynn, still working his way back to full speed in his second start since coming off the IL with a strained trapezius, called it a day after 90 pitches. He walked four, but allowed only one hit and struck out six.
The streak, which started with the last 1 1⁄3 innings of Lucas Giolito’s start against the Indians Sunday and carried on by Dylan Cease (six), Dallas Keuchel (six), Carlos Rodón (six) and Lynn, has seen Sox starters combine for 28 strikeouts and 10 hits allowed. It demonstrates how good it can be.
Sox starters have the lowest ERA in the majors at 2.68.
“Every team I’ve been on that had great postseason runs had quality starting pitching,” Lynn said. “You have to have five, six, seven guys who give you quality innings. We’re not afraid to get after each other to push each other from start to start to be the best we can be.”
Pitching coach Ethan Katz knows he is working with a potentially special group one through five, but 31 games into his first season on the job Katz steered clear from touting it as more than a rotation that gives the Sox a very good chance to win every night.
Which is something the Sox (18-13) haven’t had in a long time.
“When the season’s over and things go right, then I’ll be excited,” Katz said before the game. “I just go day by day. I’m happy with where they’re at. I know there are going to be bumps in the road and it’s how fast we can get back on track is the biggest thing. I’m happy with where they’re at right now. That’s for sure.”
If a rotation is as good as its weakest link, consider this: Carlos Rodon (0.58 ERA) has been one of the best in baseball and Dylan Cease (2.38 ERA) has put two straight scoreless outings together, and they were the No. 5 and No. 4 starters going into the season. The top three of Lucas Giolito, Lynn and Dallas Keuchel all received Cy Young votes last season.
Giolito’s ERA is 4.99 but 3.03 throwing out his one-inning, seven-run fiasco in Boston, Keuchel (3.79 ERA) has a 2.25 ERA over his last four starts and Lynn’s ERA is 1.57.
And Michael Kopech, who pitched two innings of relief, allowing a run, is waiting in the wings if needed, perhaps for a third start in a doubleheader Friday against the Royals at home. After throwing 28 pitches, Kopech went to the bullpen for more work, possibly building up his workload in advance of another start.
After the Sox erupted for eight runs in the first inning, the offensive highlight was four walks for Yasmani Grandal, a .121 hitter whose 13 walks in four games tied the most of any four-game span in the modern era (Babe Ruth and Bryce Harper are the others), a good news/bad news showing of the hit and miss offense that pelted the Reds with nine runs Tuesday night and got no runs on two hits the next afternoon.
Pitching might have to carry the day. And the season.
”We know guys are hurt,” Lynn said. “But you have to take it one inning at a time. We can’t think, ‘We have to be great.’ And if we do that we’re going to be fine.”