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Gamethread: White Sox at Tigers (Game 1)

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Makeup game makes for crowded schedule

New York Mets v Chicago White Sox
Building momentum: Cease hopes to double his career win total with a second straight strong effort.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The White Sox and Tigers have one jammed-up schedule this week. This afternoon’s makeup from April 20 means a schedule of night-day-night-day, four games in less than 48 hours.

Last night’s 7-4 win got the series started well for the Sox. And a lot of things point the right way this afternoon, beginning, of course, with the fact that they’re facing a Detroit Tigers team that’s the worst in the big leagues. And the Tigers have gotten even worse at the trade deadline, now absent Sox-killer Nicholas Castellanos.

Dylan Cease will be throwing for the Sox, coming off the best game of his young career and looking for his second win. Lefty Daniel Norris will be on the mound for the Tigers, and while Norris has been pitching better than his seasonal 4.67 ERA lately, the Sox have faced him three times this year and put across nine runs in 15 innings. Plus, Norris has been pretty much a five-inning guy — not good for a weary bullpen that had to cover six innings after Spencer Turnbull’s fast fade last night.

There’s just one little nagging worry, one I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t stumbled across a major statistic I have not heard or seen anyone mention before. I was looking up W-L splits to see how the Sox have fared against Detroit this year (currently 6-3), and my eye wandered over some other splits, at which point one leapt off the screen and embedded itself deeply into my ancient brain.

It turns out that for the Sox, the difference between night games and day games is like, well, night and day. Amazingly so.

At night, the Sox are better than .500. Yep, they’re 33-30 — not quite wild card material, but really solid for this year of the eternal rebuild. If that were the total record, we’d all be shouting acclaim for Kenny and Rick and Ricky.

Problem is, in day games, the Sox are 16-31. That’s incredible: A .340 pace that would lead to a nifty 105-loss season.

How can that be? How can the difference be so great? Are the Sox much more night owls than any opponents, so they come to day games weary and worn? Because many day games are getaway days, do they have a collective fear of flying that has them shaken up in anticipation? Do they think shadows across the field mean monsters lurk?

The one practical thought I’ve had is that starting catchers often aren’t behind the plate for day games after night games, so someone beside James McCann would be catching many of them. There’s good reason to believe McCann catching is a benefit to a young pitching staff, but that much? From winning more than one out of two to barely winning one out of three?

McCann’s dWAR is a solid 1.1, best on the team in a very non-competitive category, but only tied for 11th among MLB starting catchers. Baseball-Reference credits him with five runs saved, while the other Sox catchers drag the position down to -2, but that’s not nearly enough runs to make that much of a won-loss difference.

If it is McCann, though, even with his current slump he’s worth waaaaaay more than his current $2.5 million salary, and his arbitration value for next year may be waaaaaay out of Jerry’s comfort zone.

But, I digress. There are two games to play today. In the day game, as expected, McCann has a brief holiday, with Welington Castillo, just back from family leave, donning the tools of ignorance:

The Sox brought up lefty Hector Santiago and the Tigers will use lefty Matt Hall as the 26th man allowed on make-up days. As expected, the already weak Tigers will be without their future Hall-of-Famer, as Miguel Cabrera rests his battered body:

The forecast calls for a baseball-perfect 80 degrees at the 12:10 CDT start, with an increasing chance of scattered thunderstorms through the afternoon. It’s NBC Sports on the boob tube, WGN on the boombox, and, amazingly, given the teams involved, the game is also on ESPN+ (if you want to subscribe to ESPN+ and give a little love to South Side Sox in the process, use our special site link to do so). It’s a split doubleheader, so game two will be at 6:10 CDT.