Of all the days for the White Sox to play a doubleheader, this isn't the best one.
Of all the days to catch Cleveland for a doubleheader, this isn't the worst one.
Of all the days to bet on a position player pitching, this might be a good one.
The Sox and Indians will tangle for a straight doubleheader at 4:10 p.m., and this date has grown more dreadful with each series loss, especially knowing that Mat Latos and some Triple-A starter (Erik Johnson) were going to be the ones taking the ball.
The good news? The Indians are in the same boat. These are the pitching matchups:
- Game 1: Mat Latos vs. Mike Clevinger.
- Game 2: Erik Johnson vs. Cody Anderson.
Clevinger, Cleveland's most advanced pitching prospect, pitched five successful innings against the Reds, only to get hammered the third time through the order in his MLB debut. He might be the best bet of any of these guys to finish six innings, and he's yet to do it in a big-league game. This is the kind of combination that brings other ugly doubleheaders to mind -- losing to the Tribe by a combined score of 29-18 in 2013, or 32-14 to the Twins in 2007.
Perhaps the Sox could be on the winning end of a bloodbath this time, but the level of the opposing pitcher's name recognition has had zero correlation with the Sox' offensive success this homestand. They've had their best games against Dallas Keuchel and Yordano Ventura while getting stifled by the likes of Dillion Gee and Danny Duffy.
It'd help if the Sox could get their own name-brand players back on the program. Namely, Jose Abreu, whose return to prominence was derailed by an ugly weekend. He'd hit .321/.383/.500 over a 20-game stretch, which made it seem like he had set his awful start behind him. Then, from Thursday to Saturday, Abreu went 1-for-11 with a a walk over 12 plate appearances. The lone hit was a duck-snort single to the right side, and he grounded into twice as many double plays.
The Royals pitched him the way he's been pitched -- in (and off the plate) with fastballs, then away with breaking balls, but this was the first time in a while that he seemed to get out of sorts dealing with it, at least for more than one or two at-bats at a time. Robin Ventura decided to give him the day off on Sunday to recharge and regroup, and Abreu tried to take him up on it.
"I’m feeling the pressure, probably, because my approach is not like I used to be," Abreu said through a translator. "But I don’t have a specific reason to give you to why I am struggling right now. I just have to work hard." [...]
"It’s a matter of my approach," Abreu said. "I’ve been swinging at a lot of pitches out of the zone and that’s not my approach."
It seems like something he should be able to overcome given his history, as they've been attacking him with fastballs inside for most of his career. Perhaps he'll open his closed stance a little, at least until they start going away again.
Sunday was the first game Abreu hadn't started, and it was cool that they could steal a win with Jerry Sands at first and Jimmy Rollins DHing. It was even better that they could steal that win in front of the most vibrant home crowd yet (attendance: 34,526). A sweep wouldn't have been the end of the world, but it would've been a bummer for a team that struggles to generate its own electricity.
A normal Abreu can go a long way in powering the Sox, and he'll get a chance to restart in favorable conditions -- an 80-degree day in Chicago and a couple of unproven pitchers.