The White Sox seek their second straight win tonight, and that ever-elusive third series win of the year, against the Cleveland Guardians, who they’re seeing for just the second time all season.
Luis Robert Jr. seeks to become the first Sox player to homer in five consecutive games since A.J. Pierzynski did it from July 30 to Aug. 5, 2012. He’s the 21st Sox player to make it to four consecutive games, and will look to become the fifth tonight and join Pierzynski, Paul Konerko, Carlos Lee, Frank Thomas (twice), Ron Kittle, and Greg Luzinski as luminaries to accomplish the feat. No player in team history has ever reached six straight games, Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly, and Dale Long share the major league record with homers in eight consecutive contests.
Cleveland goes to battle with rookie righthander Peyton Battenfield, who will make his sixth career start after being recalled in early April to replace the injured Aaron Civale. He’s run a 4.45 ERA over 30 1⁄3 innings, supported by 25 strikeouts against 11 walks. A ninth round draft pick of the Astros in 2019, he was acquired by Cleveland at the 2021 deadline from Tampa Bay in exchange for Jordan Luplow, who we certainly were not sad to see the last of.
Battenfield won’t come at you with the nasty stuff that many Cleveland pitchers develop in their system, working in the high-80s with his fastball, but with plenty of rise, he’s able to get by with it in the strike zone if he hits his spots on the corners. He throws that and a mid-80s cutter nearly nine out of 10 times, mixing in a curveball and a changeup every now and then. The key for Sox hitters will be their constant struggle to rein in aggressiveness on cutters and breaking balls on the outer half to righties, where they’re baited into taking bad swings with bad outcomes early in at-bats. If you’re Jake Burger or Andrew Vaughn and have the combination of power and plate coverage to take one of those outside cutters up the middle or the other way at 100 mph, then great, go ahead. Otherwise, sit tight and wait for the inevitable misses over the middle and inner third of the plate, and do damage there.
Speaking of the Sox offense, this is what Pedro Grifol will counter Battenfield with this evening:
Tonight's #WhiteSox starters vs. Cleveland: pic.twitter.com/Bgas7spiA3— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) May 17, 2023
More of the same; In spite of Grifol’s strange resistance to moving Burger up in the lineup, may we finally be starting to find some consistency with this group? Don’t mistake it for optimism, but if there’s a world where Eloy Jiménez can still play some left field upon his return, this lineup might not have a terrible look to it.
Today's lineup.#ForTheLand pic.twitter.com/WojOW0kEXU— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) May 17, 2023
Cleveland has something approximating their B lineup with José Ramírez still on the shelf, with one top team prospect giving way to another as Gabrial Arías sits in favor of Tyler Freeman, while Brayan Rocchio (third overall in Cleveland’s system, per FanGraphs) mans shortstop in place of typical starter Amed Rosario.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 pm CT; As usual, the game will be broadcast visually on NBC Sports Chicago and aurally on ESPN AM 1000.