The Chicago White Sox lost three of the four games over the weekend against the New York Yankees. However, the weekend losses were often decisive, lopsided games, starting with the 15-7 pummeling and capped off with a 5-1 pitching duel defeat.
The weekend not only was tough for the White Sox, setting them back in the division in an otherwise strong month. The loss spoke to the greater picture. How do the White Sox stack up against the elite teams in the American League? The Yankees are the best team in the American League and over the weekend, they prove why. Unfortunately, the team showed how far they are from a team like the Yankees as well.
White Sox rotation tested
The series started with Dylan Cease going up against Luis Gil and ended with Michael Kopech pitching against Nestor Cortez. The two starts contrasted how the top of a rotation and backend of a rotation can look and what a championship-caliber rotation is. Cease has emerged as the ace this season and pitched a respectable 11 strikeout performance on Thursday while Kopech threw six innings and allowed only one run on Sunday. However, both pitchers were outdueled at the end of the day, speaking volumes to the Yankees rotation.
Granted, Cortez has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the American League this season. With a .179 expected opponent Batting Average (xBA) and a .290 expected opponent Slugging Percentage (xSLG) led by well-located fastballs and cutters, Cortez is not a backend of the rotation starter. However, the game displayed the rotation gap. Even though Kopech stepped up, he was outmatched by a pitcher who threw eight innings with seven strikeouts and allowed only one run in his final inning.
Moreover, the best starters White Sox were outdueled in the weekend in Cease in Kopech but Friday and Saturday’s games didn’t fare much better. Dallas Kuechel put together another respectable start, pitching five scoreless innings in the White Sox 3-2 walk-off win, the only win of the series. However, Friday’s game was another drubbing, as the Yankees lineup attack Vince Velaquez for seven runs in five innings, resulting in a 10-4 game. In those games, the Yankees starters were Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery, two established pitchers in the middle of strong seasons. Essentially the weekend displayed the difference between a good rotation and a great one.
White Sox lineup vs Yankees lineup
Starting with the 15 runs on Thursday, it was clear the weekend was going to become a battle of batting orders. To the credit of the White Sox, they hung in at times. The lineup scored seven runs in the first game of the series, tying up the game in the seventh inning. Additionally, the lineup led a ninth-inning rally in the win on Saturday. However, the White Sox were outscored 32-14 in the series, failing to match the Yankees’ bats.
The lineup comparison displays two major differences between the Yankees lineup and the White Sox lineup. The first thing is the Yankees have two of the best sluggers in baseball this season, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. The White Sox have power at the top of the lineup but not the same type of power. Moreover, without Eloy Jimenez, the batting order has taken a hit, especially at the top. The second thing that stood out over the weekend was the depth of each lineup. The White Sox since the start of the season have struggled to find runs from the back half of the lineup. Over the weekend, it showed.
The White Sox lineup doesn’t fall apart after its top three or four hitters. Instead, the approach at the plate seems different. The Yankees have added plate discipline throughout their lineup and it has paid off tenfold, creating a juggernaut of a batting order. The White Sox, meanwhile, have power in the back half of the order in Gavin Sheets and Jake Burger, who is currently injured. Unfortunately, the plate discipline isn’t there. With only two batters possessing an On-Base Percentage (OBP) over .300 and the lineup as a whole possessing an OBP of .287, opposing pitchers can easily eliminate the lineup.
Where the two teams felt equal
Oddly enough, the weekend displayed parallels with their bullpens. The White Sox were outplayed in the series but the bullpen was still a strength of the team. Both the Yankees and the White Sox displayed two of the best bullpens over the weekend. At the same time, both pitching staffs proved susceptible to blowing games.
The White Sox relievers allowed nine runs in the final three frames against the Yankees in the first game of the series, fueling the 15-7 loss. The Yankees meanwhile tied the Saturday game up at two in the ninth inning only to lose the game with Aroldis Chapman failing to locate his pitches, thus allowing the 3-2 walk-off.
The bullpen carried the team early on in the season and has saved a lot of headaches. Moreover, the emergence of Matt Foster gives the team a luxury that will help them continue to make up ground in the standings throughout the season.
The series implications for the White Sox?
The White Sox are still going to compete for their division. The Minnesota Twins are having a strong season but the White Sox can and will push them for the American League Central Division. That’s not how the team will define this season. Rather, the measurement of success will be a deep playoff run in the American League.
The recent series against the Yankees didn’t just show the talent gap between the White Sox and their weekend opponent, it showed the gap in the American League. How do the White Sox stack up against the Toronto Blue Jays or Tampa Bay Rays? What about the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Angels in the west?
Based on the recent series, the White Sox are still a few pieces away from competing with those teams. The question is what does the team do to fix that? The answer at first is not much. Lynn eventually will return to the rotation and when he does, the team will have a better clue of how good the pitching staff is. Likewise, Jimenez will make his way back to the lineup. However, the team still lacks depth in the back half of the lineup and plate discipline. As a result, the trade deadline will be a critical part of their season.
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