The Chicago White Sox’ 6-4 victory against the Seattle Mariners was mostly highlighted by the rain. The muddy field, sloppy play, and awful conditions understandably were front and center in the second game of the series. The White Sox bats, once again fueled the victory, scoring six runs. However, the game also was the first start of the season for 34-year-old lefthander Dallas Keuchel.
Keuchel is coming off a miserable 2021 season. Last year, he allowed 105 runs in 162 innings pitched and the .302 expected opponent Batting Average (xBA) was one of the worst in the MLB. Despite the awful season, Keuchel enters this season with a pivotal role in the starting rotation, especially with Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito already on the injury list.
Keuchel’s allowed three runs on six hits in five innings pitched. However, the start was one the White Sox will eagerly take. Moreover, how Keuchel dealt with the Mariners lineup is something to look forward to in future starts. Playing a major role in the back half of the rotation, the White Sox need these starts.
Keuchel’s Pitch Breakdown vs. the Mariners (80 pitches): 25 cutters. 24 sinkers. 20 changeups. 11 sliders.
The First Inning Homer
The first inning alone already provided a sample size of the positives and negatives of Keuchel in the rotation. The second batter in the Mariners order, Ty France, powered the ball over the left field fence.
Keuchel was having a strong inning, but the one mistake was a consequential one. The cutter didn’t cut out of the strike zone. Below, you can see how the pitch ideally was supposed to hit the lower inside part of the zone, if not, break out of the strike zone altogether. Instead, the pitch was left handing over the inside part of the zone, ideal for a pull hitter like France.
Pitches like these are the ones that cost Keuchel and will inevitably hurt the White Sox this season.
Keuchel’s cutter ideally moves in on right-handed hitters, like France, resulting in minimal damage. Unfortunately, when the pitch lacks that inner movement, it’s left over the heart of the plate where power hitters can and will do damage.
Seeing the early cutter miss made it particularly alarming that Keuchel made it his primary pitch in the night. However, following the early inning home run, the veteran starter found his location and was dialed in. It can explain why the start, for the most part, was still a solid one for Keuchel.
Keuchel’s Start: Five Innings
Keuchel started to settle into a rhythm in the second inning onward, helping the White Sox retake the lead, which they held for the rest of the game. Keuchel only provided five innings and only struck out five batters, but his performance isn’t defined by the number of batters he strikes out, not at this point in his career at least.
The White Sox starter provided a mix of pitches throughout the five innings and kept the Mariners hitter guessing. Keuchel mostly delivered off-speed pitches in both sinkers and changeups and forced weak contact off the bat, resulting in multiple groundouts.
The grounders were a testament to the strong infield behind Keuchel. Shortstop Tim Anderson and second baseman Josh Harrison made multiple big outs in the rain, bailing out their pitcher. However, the great fielding helps put Keuchel at ease on the mound. This particularly applies as he continues to pitch to the lower part of the strike zone with multiple off-speed offerings.
Following the first inning, Keuchel tossed three scoreless innings with five groundouts. The contact will be taken by the White Sox in future starts, especially when it results in easy fielding plays for Anderson at short.
Keuchel’s Final Inning
The fifth inning is when the game started to unravel for Keuchel. Three consecutive hits from the Mariners plated their second run and put runners on the basepaths. The Mariners added another run in the inning, but it was enough to force Keuchel out of the game, leaving the bullpen to close out the fourth win of the season.
The Mariners made contact and Keuchel was starting to struggle with his location. However, despite the contact, the Mariners couldn’t pile on the runs and could maintain a rally. This was primarily because Keuchel kept delivering sinkers, changeups, and sliders, all of which were in the lower half of the zone. Ultimately, the weak contact kept the lead intact and allowed Keuchel to win his 100th game in his career.
Even when the veteran pitcher made mistakes, they didn’t cost the White Sox. Considering the team possesses one of the best lineups in the MLB, the mistakes from the veteran starter will be taken, rarely resulting in extra bases or home runs. Looking forward, it’s something the White Sox will anticipate in future starts.
What Keuchel’s start means for the Chicago White Sox
It was far from an ideal start for Keuchel. After all, he allowed three runs and failed to help out the bullpen, pitching only five innings. However, the first start of the season for the veteran right-hander was a pleasant surprise.
The starting rotation is already dealing with injuries and the White Sox need reliable starts from their rotation, especially the backend of the rotation. Keuchel didn’t provide longevity in his start but that’s not what the White Sox need, not from him at least.
In addition, the way Keuchel pitched signals that he can continue to be a reliable arm in the rotation and bounce back from last season. Keuchel will continue to pitch to the lower half of the strike zone and aside from the cutter, force opponents to hit off-speed pitches. The ability to force weak contact and groundball-inducing pitches will also favor the veteran with a strong infield behind him.
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