Fenway Park is a hitter-friendly ballpark. The Green Monster and quirky structure allow for hitters to easily get on base and find extra bases, and lineups can pile on the runs. The Chicago White Sox didn’t get the memo. In the three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox, the team scored 10 runs.
The White Sox in the series and their current winning streak haven’t been carried by their lineup. Instead, the pitching staff has continued to steal the show. The White Sox only allowed five runs in the series and have only allowed nine runs in the current six-game winning streak. The pitching dominance has not only lifted the team out of an awful April, but it has proven it can lead the team in the upcoming weeks to an anticipated successful season.
White Sox bullpen continuing to seal victories
Against the Red Sox, the White Sox bullpen pitched 12 innings and only surrendered one run. But even the stat line fails to tell the full story. The White Sox bullpen has been dominant but is starting to see some of its relievers also emerge into major roles.
Liam Hendriks is the unquestioned closer and the nine saves on the season reflect that. However, the pitchers that would get the ball to Hendriks were a question mark entering the season, especially after Craig Kimbrel was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for AJ Pollock.
Matt Foster has established himself as a surefire reliever, providing the White Sox with a scoreless inning at any point. Foster pitched two scoreless innings in the series and has found his high heater as well as a low slider that paints the corner of the strike zone. Aaron Bummer and Reynaldo Lopez have proven they can get the White Sox out of jams mid-inning and still give the team a strong inning. Finally, Kendall Graveman, who isn’t relied upon daily, can give the bullpen two strong inning or six outs, which frankly is what manager Tony La Russa is counting at the end of a game anyway.
The White Sox bullpen wasn’t an anticipated strength this season. However, early on in this season, the bullpen has been heavily relied on. More importantly, the relievers allowed the team to shorten games, which the Red Sox experienced firsthand.
Cease steps up again
Dylan Cease didn’t earn the win in his start on Saturday. However, considering all things, the start wasn’t defined by whether he got the pitching win. Rather the outing against the White Sox was defined by everything else.
Cease pitched five innings and threw over 100 pitches. What stood out was the fastball, or lack of the fastball to be exact. The 26-year-old starter strike out only threw the pitch 48 times and notably is transitioning into an off-speed, unpredictable pitcher. The slider and curveball, which are both starting to hit the upper part of the strike zone as well as the lower half, allowed Cease to strike out eight Red Sox.
Cease has established himself as the White Sox ace this season. The fastball-slider combination has become tough for opponents to hit and with a curveball being mixed in, Cease is becoming unhittable this season. The right-handed starter has pitched 34 innings this year with 47 strikeouts and a .161 expected opponent Batting Average (xBA) and a 1.75 expected ERA that both rank among the best in the MLB.
The White Sox entered the season with the hope that Cease or Michael Kopech could have a breakout year, giving the rotation three viable starters. Six starts into the season and the White Sox have not only found that pitcher but Cease might carry the rotation this season as well.
Even Keuchel gave White Sox a strong outing
Recently, there has been a legitimate argument to leave Dallas Keuchel out of the rotation. Keuchel is having an awful start to the season, allowing 21 runs in 21 innings pitched with the inability to effectively locate the cutter, particularly costing him.
The Red Sox batting order was poised for a big game after being eliminated in the first two games of the series. However, Keuchel arguably had his best start of the season, pitching six innings and allowing only two runs, both of which came in his final inning. Keuchel had five strikeouts and notably relied on his sinker, using the pitch for 58 of his 92 pitches.
Keuchel has been unpredictable this season and it’s unclear how he will be relied on in the rotation. However, the recent start was a reminder of how the 34-year-old veteran can control a game if he executes his pitches, especially his groundball-inducing pitches.
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