It’s do-or-die for the White Sox today, as they stand four games behind the Guardians, five in the lost column, and six unless they sweep four games from Cleveland in the next week to earn the tiebreaker.
So much is riding on this game for the Sox that Miguel Cairo switched the pitching rotation, moving the struggling Lucas Giolito back a day so the red-hot Lance Lynn will face the Guardians. And conversely, it’s apparent that so little is riding on this game for the Guardians that Terry Francona switched out Triston McKenzie, who has absolutely owned the White Sox this year (including a 14-strikeout performance last month) for a minor league call-up who gave up eight runs in 3 1⁄3 innings to Houston in his only previous trip to the bigs.
That call-up with the 21.60 ERA (in fairness, a mere 11.51 FIP) is 6´6´´, 260-pound Hunter Gaddis, no doubt the only pitcher Lynn has faced this year packing more poundage than he does. (In case you’re wondering, the combined official 510 pounds of Lynn and Gaddis, which is no doubt actually much higher, is not a record. It doesn’t even come close to the June 11, 2013 game between the A’s and Yankees when Bartolo Colon bested C.C. Sabbathia, where the official tally was 585.)
So, did Francona get confused and think the sport wasn’t baseball, but sumo wrestling, and he didn’t want the rail-thin MacKenzie being squished?
Asked why he made the switch when he could have put several nails in the coffin of the only team with even a slim chance of catching his, Francona had an answer sufficiently convoluted to be worthy of the HOFBP. There was a degree of logic — the Guardians have a doubleheader Sunday as part of five games against the Twins, and with two starters on the IL he’ll have to use another call-up then and he didn’t want to exhaust his bullpen with two such games in a row.
It’s the sort of decision which, if made by the HOFBP, would have fans saying, “That is even stupider than most of his moves.” With the excellent reputation of Francona, the response may be more, “Wow, another game of five-dimensional chess.” Or not. We’ll see how it plays out. No doubt, it’s a confident move on Francona’s part.
Chess, sumo, or baseball, Gaddis will be facing a White Sox lineup that should feel highly insulted and seek amends. It’s also a lineup that only scored one run in its last 17 innings, against Colorado pitching at that — but Gaddis will hopefully be the cure for those ills.
It’s also a lineup with Andrew Vaughn in left, Gavin Sheets in right, and AJ Pollock in center, so any ball hit to the outfield may be an adventure.
Lynn, who hasn’t given up more than two runs since August 9, has been on a streak that lowered his ERA to 4.07 from a high of 7.50 in July, and he’s held the Guardians to one run over 11 2⁄3 in two starts this year. He has the same problem with Cleveland everyone does — José Ramírez has gone deep on hims four times.
First pitch in this makeup for the August 21 floodout is scheduled for 12:10 p.m. Central, with perfect weather: Sunshine, 71 degrees, and light wind coming in from right-center. Usual broadcast suspects, with a rumor that Stoney and Jason will both be in the TV booth.