After an incredibly odd three-game win streak that coincided with one of the worst three-day stretches in recent memory for the organization as a whole, the White Sox came back down to earth (were they ever even in the air?) with yesterday’s 7-1 loss to the Bronx Bombers — but they’ll still have a chance to take the series tonight with an old friend toeing the rubber for their opponents.
No, it’s not Luis Severino, who’s still expected to handle the bulk of New York’s innings tonight. That would be Ian Hamilton, the righthander drafted by the White Sox in the 11th round of the 2016 draft. Hamilton was at one time the top relief prospect in the system, bearing the label closer-of-the-future before injuries derailed his time in the org after just 12 appearances between 2018 and 2020. After brief stops in the Twins and Guardians organizations, Hamilton latched on with the Yankees this past winter, where a few tweaks to his pitch usage has led to a breakout season, good for a sparkling 1.67 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 37 2⁄3 innings. His calling card is the “slambio,” one of the most unique pitches in baseball: Hamilton grips the ball like a changeup, but releases it like a breaking ball, leading to a “slider” with some of the lowest spin and movement in the league. Hitters have rarely seen anything like it, so they can’t hit it, movement be damned.
The one-time closer of the future is operating in virtually the opposite capacity tonight: He’ll be the opener in front of Severino, who’s essentially been demoted after a brutal six-start stretch in which he’s given up a whopping 32 runs in just over 25 innings. Severino racked up 11.0 fWAR between 2017-18, fifth in MLB, but saw his career derailed by a series of injuries that led to just seven appearances on a big league mound between 2019 and 2021. He commendably overcame those struggles 3.18 ERA with a 28% strikeout rate in 102 innings last season, but he’s looked like a completely different pitcher this year. His fastball still lives in the high-90s, but it’s been pummeled for a .481 wOBA, and he’s seemingly lost feel for his slider, typically his most deadly secondary pitch. Both it and the four-seamer have added some cut — meaning they move a little bit less — and he can’t locate any of them to save his life, as both his walk and strikeout rates are career-worsts.
The philosophy behind the “opener,” in a nutshell, is that letting a reliever handle the first inning or two does two things: It means that the starting pitcher only has to face the top of the order twice instead of three times to get through at least five innings, while also being able to pick your matchups for the first time through the order with more clarity and forethought than one usually gets during the game. Assuming that Aaron Boone would prefer that Luis Robert Jr. and Eloy Jiménez don’t get a third-time-through-the-order look at Severino, we can probably expect Hamilton to work through two innings before handing the ball to the 29-year-old free-agent-to-be.
Changes to tonight’s Sox lineup include Oscar Colás returning to right field in place of Gavin Sheets, as well as Tim Anderson’s return to the leadoff spot after missing yesterday’s game with a bruised forearm after being plunked by Gerrit Cole on Monday.
Boone, meanwhile, counters with a lineup that’s virtually identical to yesterday’s, save for the struggling Oswaldo Cabrera getting a start at shortstop in place of rookie Anthony Volpe. He’s in the lineup as a result of a late scratch, as D.J. LeMahieu was initially slated to play third base with Isiah Kiner-Falefa at short.
First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. CT, and we’ll see you in the comments!