Here we are on September 9th sitting two games above the Detroit Tigers in the A.L. Central race. Three and a half weeks remain to see if we can celebrate a division winner and watch October baseball, or lament the fact that we fell short when we were so close until pitchers and catchers report in February.
Last week, I reminded you guys that it is a roller coaster down the stretch. After getting swept in Detroit and relinquishing sole possession of first place, we have gone 3-2. While that isn't all that great, it beats the 1-4 that the Tigers have put up.
In order for us to build upon our lead though, we are going to need our pitching to be better. The Sox starters aren't going as deep into games, which is causing the bullpen to become overworked, which is hindering their performance.
Francisco Liriano has gone 5 innings or less in his last three starts. He has walked 18 batters over those starts and finds himself fighting a high pitch count early on. The bullpen has had to cover 13 innings in those starts.
Jose Quintana is another guy that has seemingly hit the wall. He has gone 5 innings over his last two starts, leaving 13 innings to be picked up. Quintana has given up 12 runs over those five innings. It is pretty imperative that he gets a second wind. He is getting the first start against the Tigers on Monday night. Prior to his August 25th start, Quintana went at least 6 innings in 10 of his previous 11 outings. Even if Hector Santiago throws a real good game today, I don't see him going more than 6 innings. That means the bullpen will get some work. If Quintana gets shelled early on Monday, it could set us up for a terrible series due to the taxed bullpen.
Chris Sale had two different outings yesterday. The first three innings, he was struggling to throw strikes and put people away. The last three innings, he had no problems with anyone as he retired everyone he faced. Unfortunately, he worked enough in those first three innings that he only made it through six. Robin Ventura had to use the four main guys out of the pen- Jesse Crain, Brett Myers, Matt Thornton and Addison Reed.
Gavin Floyd's injury situation hasn't helped much either. He had to leave the game after just two innings on August 26th due to soreness in the elbow. While his replacements, Dylan Axelrod and Hector Santiago have done well in his absence, Floyd was always able to eat up innings and save the bullpen which is something the Sox are missing right now.
Over the last 30 days, Addison Reed has struggled badly. His ERA sits at 8.71 and his WHIP is 2.03. His opponents are hitting .403 off of him Somehow, he's been able to nail down 6 of his 7 opportunities in that time. Brett Myers has been struggling too. His WHIP is also over 1.60 in the last 30 days. Jesse Crain has had some real good outings like yesterday afternoon and he's also had some shaky ones. Philip Humber hasn't taken to the relief role.
Strangely enough, the top guys in the bullpen recently have been the much maligned Matt Thornton and Donnie Veal. Both of their WHIP's are well under 1.00 in the last 30 days. Veal has faced 18 lefties. He's retired 17 of them and walked one to go along with 10 strikeouts. Thornton has done a wonderful job the past few outings. Yesterday he struck out Alex Gordon and Billy Butler to help the Sox get out of Myers' mess. Friday night, he pitched a perfect inning to send the game to the bottom of the 8th.
The White Sox starting pitching is going to have to go deeper into games. During September, the White Sox are tied with the Cubs and the Brewers for the most walks allowed at 31, but the Sox have played one less game than either of those teams. The only way to go deeper into games is limit the walks and full counts. If they are able to do it, Ventura might only have to call on two relievers instead of four, which will lessen their workload and make them more effective.
The magic number sits at 23 games. The best way to drop that number is to get some good performances on the mound. Lets start that today.