The bad news (potentially) for Michael Kopech is that it’s no longer Friday night, because on Friday night, he was about as dominant as we’ve ever seen him with the White Sox (20-30), twirling eight one-hit innings against Kansas City while striking out 10 and facing the minimum. The good news? The lineup he’s seeing today isn’t any more fearsome than the Royals, even with José Ramírez back in tow for a Cleveland Guardians (21-27) offense that’s currently on pace to hit fewer homers than any team in recent memory (and certainly since Statcast came into the public consciousness).
Kopech will be facing something approximating his opposite, soft-tossing righthander Cal Quantrill, who sports a respectable 4.09 ERA in nine starts this season, but with a 13% strikeout rate that’s easily the lowest among all qualified starters, and leading to a 5.04 FIP that isn’t a fan of his body of work at all. That being said, Cleveland has its way with pitchers, and Quantrill has shown in recent years that he may be one of the select few righties who can consistently allow such high volumes of contact and get away with it: He’s got a sterling 3.23 ERA over 401 innings since joining Cleveland midway through 2020, a sample large enough to make one reconsider the substantial gap between that ERA and its respective 4.21 FIP. The Guardians probably don’t care, considering they have a 22-4 record over his last 26 starts.
Unfortunately, the lineup Pedro Grifol has constructed to face Quantrill doesn’t make one terribly confident in handing Cleveland that fifth loss in 27 tries. Clint Frazier — whose defensive up-and-downs were no small thing during his time in New York — makes just his second MLB appearance in center field this afternoon, as Luis Robert Jr. takes a day off to recover from, well, whatever this is:
The exact area of injury for Luis Robert Jr. is soreness in his rectus femoris— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) May 24, 2023
While the chorus of concern around Tim Anderson’s struggles is getting louder (crazy what happens when you make players play when they’re not healthy, huh), it strikes me that dropping him from the leadoff spot would be a performative measure with little upside, particularly since the changes that a drop in the lineup can potentially spur — seeing more fastballs, more pitches overall, and allowing a hitter to be more selective in attempting to get their best swing off — don’t seem to have a ton of bearing on Anderson’s struggles, which are simply about hitting for power and getting the hard line-drive contact he’s used to. If Anderson doesn’t start to hit, any hope we still have for a halfway-competitive season is almost certainly dashed, in any case, so letting him figure things out where he is — and where the Sox lineup will get an instant, gigantic boost if he does — simply feels like the best solution for everyone.
Cleveland goes against Kopech with their “A” lineup in an attempt to avoid a sweep and keep their heads above the Sox in the standings, where there’s now just two games separating the two.
First pitch is at 12:10 p.m. CT, with the usual broadcasts on NBC Sports Chicago and ESPN AM 1000. See you there!