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Gamethread: White Sox at Athletics

South Siders aim for two straight against an Oakland squad desperately hanging on to wild card hopes.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Boston Red Sox
It’s a make-or-break start for Dallas Keuchel tonight.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

With the dreaded Royals finally in the rearview mirror for the 2021 season, the White Sox (80-58) opened their 2020 playoff revenge series with a satisfying 6-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics (74-64) on the back of Jimmy Lambert’s first MLB victory and Liam Hendriks’ first save in the Coliseum since striking out Nomar Mazara last October.

The White Sox are sending proven winner Dallas Keuchel (8-8) to the mound for tonight’s late start (8:40 PM CST) as the lefthander seeks to right the ship after allowing an even six runs in his last three starts, failing to make it to the fourth inning in either of his two most recent. With three-and-a-half weeks left to play, it’s still within the realm of possibility (however small) that Keuchel pitches his way back into the back end of the playoff rotation. Three-fifths of the rotation is more or less resting out September. Nasty as he is, Dylan Cease isn’t liable to get more than five innings in any given night, to say nothing of the meltdown he experienced to finish last season. Keuchel will still pitch every fifth day, just because of his ability to do so.

If Keuchel can’t put together a quality outing tonight, however, the chances of salvaging his season will be even more slim than they already are. If there’s any place to break out of it, it’s the cavernous dimensions of the Oakland Coliseum, which could be a cure for the ailment that’s called allowing homers on almost one of every four (23%) fly balls allowed.

Oakland, meanwhile, will try to snap their four-game slide with old friend Frankie Montas (11-9), who will be trying to continue what has quietly been one of the best second halves in baseball this season. Over his last 10 starts dating to July 8, Montas has run up a 2.27 ERA and allowed 45 hits in 63 23 innings, including just 13 for extra bases. He’s struck out 79 in that span, the best pace of his career.

Critically, Montas has walked just 18, making for a very solid 7.2% walk rate, a welcome change after control problems sank his abbreviated 2020 season. While he usually works primarily with a sinker/four-seam combo—both of which he’s throwing harder than ever—and a nasty splitter as his out pitch, Montas apparently has developed a cutter recently, which is part of what’s taken him to the next level.

On the offensive side of things, the Sox run with what I would call a semi-comfortable B lineup against the A’s best pitcher, as Luis Robert mans the leadoff spot for the sixth time in nine games since Tim Anderson’s IL placement. Andrew Vaughn gets time in left field with Gavin Sheets DHing; Eloy Jiménez gets the day off after being drilled with a foul ball in quite frightening fashion yesterday.

The low-key picks-to-click of the night might be Brian Goodwin and Gavin Sheets, both of whom crush fastballs and have left-handed power strokes geared perfectly for fastballs and hanging off-speed pitches low in the zone, where Montas frequently likes to work. The Athletics are pressing play with their best lineup against lefthanders, as opposite-hand mashers Chad Pinder and Khris Davis take the spots of Tony Kemp and Jed Lowrie in the field and at DH.

First pitch is scheduled for 8:40 p.m. CST on NBC Sports Chicago.