Game 93, White Sox at Mariners
Wade Le Blanc vs. Chris Sale, 7:10pm
If you looked at nothing but each starting pitcher’s preseason projections, this would look like a complete mismatch, as Chris Sale’s projections reflected the fact that Sale’s a legitimate ace, while Wade Le Blanc’s were probably something like “Korean league, maybe?” Thankfully, that’s NOT all we have to go on. The M’s are playing at home, the Sox’s line-up has been poor recently, and even Sale’s coming off a streak of surprising vulnerability. In his last outing, Sale gave up 3 HRs to the notoriously powerless Braves, capping off a streak of 3 starts and 20 IP which has seen the gaunt lefty yield 6 dingers and 15 runs. After opening the year with quality starts in 8 of his first 9 games, he’s just 3 for his last 6.
He’s still *Chris Sale* so this is a tall order for the M’s line-up, but it must be said that the early returns for Chris Sale, pitch to contact guy, are not great. His FIP’s exactly one full run higher than it was last year, and while he IS working slightly deeper into games than he did last year, we can’t definitively say it’s due to his new approach. All we can say is that he’s gotten worse in every measure of bat-missing. Fewer Ks, higher contact rate, etc. Last season, he combined an amazing K rate with low HRs, but suffered a bit from BABIP bad luck, the product of an abysmal Chicago defense. The White Sox defense is a lot better now, and Sale’s BABIP has swung all the way around to “lucky” but the combination of lower strikeouts and HR problems is a bit concerning for fans of the club.
Chicago raced out to an early lead in the AL Central, holding it through April and most of May. Even into June, before the Indians woke up and starting playing up to their potential, the White Sox were clearly in the thick of the wild card race. A poor finish to May continued into June, and by the time the calendars hit July, both the M’s and Sox’s playoff odds were on fumes. At this point, the Sox have less than a 5% chance, according to Fangraphs odds, with the M’s a bit better at 12%. Beating up on the Sox won’t do too much for the M’s, but if they *are* to get back in the race, they need to start picking off some of the competition. The White Sox are the most elderly wildebeest, the gimpiest gazelle in the herd, with the possible exception of the Yankees, who may soon sell off their vaunted bullpen. Getting some separation from the not-really-up-to-it fringe of the wild card race may not do anything, but it’d certainly feel nice. Even with two wild cards, enjoying a season like this means defining joy down to attainable, low-calorie, bite-size pieces.
That said, the M’s will need to do more than beat up on the non-Sale members of the White Sox rotation if they’re going to erase the stench of yesterday’s game. Equal parts frustrating, dull, and sloppy, it had the feeling of a total mismatch, even though the M’s kept threatening to score on a faltering Collin McHugh early. They didn’t, and then they played like it wouldn’t have mattered if they HAD scored early. Let’s just move on from that, shall we? Today, Wade LeBlanc gets to face a line-up stacked with right-handed hitters. After leadoff man Adam Eaton, it’s righties all the way to CF JB Shuck. As a change-up heavy lefty, LeBlanc’s got strong reverse splits, so this helps the M’s.
1: Robertson, LF
2: Gutierrez, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Lee, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Iannetta, C
8: Martin, CF
9: O’Malley, SS
Lots of righties for the M’s against Sale, who’s good against RHBs, but downright unfair against lefties.
The M’s minor league affiliates feature Zach Lee starting for Tacoma against his old club, the OKC Dodgers. The Dodgers start sinkerballer Todd Oaks; gametime’s 7:05 in Tacoma. The big prospect of the day isn’t an M’s farmhand, but Mississippi Braves SP Sean Newcomb, the primary return in the Andrelton Simmons trade this off-season. He’ll go up against Sam Gaviglio and the Jackson Generals tonight. Dominican righty Pedro Vasquez just moved up from the complex league to Clinton, and he pitched well in today’s early game. Jake Brentz and Eddie Campbell round out the day’s probables for Everett and Bakersfield, respectively.
Last night’s performance of the day belonged to Everett starter Reggie McClain, who faced 13 Hillsboro Hops in 4 IP and struck out *10* of them. That pushed his season K:BB up to 25:0. Speaking of gaudy K:BB ratios, ex-WSU couger Joe Pistorese’s pitching with Clinton after a long suspension, and he’s maintaining the excellent control that he displayed for Everett last year. He got the win in yesterday’s game, and he’s now got 15 strikeouts to 1 walk in 12 1/3 IP for the Lumberkings. Tacoma completed a four-game sweep of Colorado Springs, as DJ Peterson homered once and Patrick Kivlehan homered twice. Joe Wieland had a quality start and Blake Parker earned his 15th save. He’s now got 46 Ks to 7 walks in 33 1/3 excellent innings, and has been, if anything, even better than erstwhile closer Casey Coleman, who caught on with the Durham Bulls.