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Series Preview #29: Chicago White Sox @ Houston Astros

The Astros (57-31, 1st in AL West) open the final homestand of the first half with a three game set against the White Sox (30-56, 4th in AL Central)

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

White Sox

The White Sox have been one of three laughingstock teams this season, challenging the Royals and Orioles for that honor. They would recently stumble in their race to the bottom, however, becoming the 28th team to win 30 games just this past Tuesday. They have managed to play closer to .500 ball in the past few series, but this year is a lost one for the rebuilding White Sox. In the past week they’ve really only had two hitters distinguishing themselves. Avisaíl García has been potent recently, slashing .424/.457/.970 with 4 homers in his past seven games. Matt Davidson has also had a great week with an impressive .368/.478/.684 slash line and debuting at pitcher with a clean 1.0 IP and a strikeout. Though García and Davidson have been the bigger bats recently, José Abreu has also had a decent 2018, batting .268/.324/.792 and generating mild trade interest. Beyond that the most noteworthy part of Chicago’s lineup is Yoán Moncada, who has not quite lived up to the hype surrounding him when he he came over in the Sale trade. There have been signs of evolution as he refines himself at the highest level, but he has been somewhat lackluster this season.

As far as bullpens go the White Sox have some decent arms in theirs and tend to sit in the lower middle of the pack for most categories. Their closer is Joakim Soria, who is currently riding an 18.1 scoreless inning streak dating back to late May and is 12 for 14 in save opportunities. Jace Fry is another of Chicago’s more trusted relievers and is having a fantastic season, but has allowed some runs in his most recent outings. Fry shares the late inning set up role with Xavier Cedeño, and both started the year in Chicago’s minor league system. Both have since emerged along with Soria as some of the better arms in the back end of the bullpen. Unfortunately for Chicago, things have not been as smooth in 2018 with their other relievers, none of which currently have an ERA under 4. Chris Volstad tends to see the most use in mop up time and can work an inning or three if the starter can’t give the White Sox length. Héctor Santiago will also eat up innings if needed and has been decent lately. Minaya, Rondón, and Avilán round out the regulars for the White Sox.

The White Sox will continue stumbling through their season and hope for some good, value inducing performances as they continue tearing things down.


The Astros arrive back in Houston after a mini sweep of the Rangers following a disappointing 1-3 series loss to the Rays. Houston’s bats would wake up in Arlington after snoozing in Tampa, getting the big hits when needed and plating 5 in each game. The second game would also feature some late inning heroics as Houston would come all the way back from being down 4-0 to win it 5-4 in the 10th. The offense as a whole was a little depressed in Tampa except for Bregman, who has continued to be a steady force at the plate, slashing .304/.386/.667 in the last week. Reddick has been a solid contributor this week, finding his power stroke and blasting a couple of home runs in the back to back Arlington games to go with 2 doubles. Jake has continued to look better at the plate, getting on base at a much higher clip in recent weeks. Newly recalled Federowicz got in to the last two games with a couple of knocks against the Rangers. Unfortunately, he played in both because Stassi took a fastball to the forearm and came out of the first game early. He is listed as day to day and is expected to be back in the lineup soon.

Meanwhile, except for a couple of soft spots, the bullpen has been continuing its recent success. McHugh has been especially stellar as he continues to grow in his role as an elite long man reliever. He pitched 5 scoreless innings in 2 games this past week where he only allowed 1 hit, 1 walk, and has fanned 4. Rondón and Giles have been splitting the late inning work this week, with Héctor picking up 2 of the save chances and Ken grabbing the other. Rondón has seen some traffic on the base paths lately, but has also managed to keep those runs off the board. Harris and Sipp both had a couple of scoreless outings, though Sipp would allow an inherited run from Devenski to score in a single batter appearance. He did manage to score an out while allowing the run. Speaking of Devo, he’s had one of his roughest weeks so far in 2018. Though he only has the 1 ER allowed by Sipp on his ledger, he has allowed 6 base runners in his last 1.2 innings of work and did surrender the two runs charged to Morton in his Tampa Bay start. Peacock has been getting some rest this week, only appearing in a single inning against the Rays where he did allow a solo home run, but had been pitching well in recent appearances before that.

The Astros have gained a game on Seattle with the mini sweep and will try to continue that trend against a team that, on paper, should prove easy meat for the champs.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Carlos Rodón, LHP (1-3, 4.55 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander, RHP (9-4, 2.12 ERA)

After spending the first two months of the season on the DL, Rodón made his 2018 debut on June 9th and has had a somewhat pedestrian campaign so far. His most recent start was a clunker, where he would surrender 5 ER to the Rangers in 5.1 innings of work. The game before that was probably his best start though, where he tossed 8 innings of 2 run ball, scattering 7 hits. Rodón has proven susceptible to the long ball, giving up at least 1 in 4 of his 5 starts this year. His FIP is almost a full run above his ERA and his BABIP is low at .230, so there is some indication that he could be prone to another blowout.

Meanwhile, Verlander will head to the mound after what was his worst start as an Astro. There were a lot of forgettable firsts in that game, as he would fail to get in to the 6th inning and gave up 5 ER, neither of which had happened in any of his previous Houston starts, including the playoffs. It was also the second consecutive game where he would break his personal Astros record of runs surrendered, giving up 4 in his previous start. JV was bound to have a game like this at some point and it comes at a good time as he will have an opportunity to bounce back against Chicago, who he held scoreless in 6 innings of work when he faced them in April.

Even with his recent suspect performance, I have to give Verlander the edge over Rodón.

Game 2: Reynaldo López, RHP (4-5, 3.68 ERA) vs. Lance McCullers Jr., RHP (9-3, 3.55 ERA)

López is in the middle of his first full year in the majors, though he has made a fair number of MLB starts in the last two seasons. As part of the face of the White Sox’s rebuild, López has made a good showing this year, though he has had a few forgettable games to go with a couple of clunkers. He did face Houston earlier this season where he was able to weave in and out of traffic while only surrendering a single run in 5 innings, but showed a lack of command with 4 walks and only 2 K’s. López tends to walk a tightrope in a lot of his games by giving up a good number of hits and walks, so the Astros should have opportunities.

Lance has had his start pushed back after the Astros decided to start Cole and Verlander on regular rest. If I had to speculate, they wanted Cole and JV to get right back on the horse after a couple of less-than-stellar starts and let Lance, who has yet to pitch a complete season in his career, have a little rest. Lance has faced the White Sox earlier this season, where he would dodge traffic on the base paths all afternoon, scattering 8 hits, but would only give up a single run. His FIP and ERA are exactly aligned at 3.55, and his BABIP is trending closer to league average, so negative regression shouldn’t be much of a concern.

I feel like Lance has been on a real groove in his starts lately and should be able to continue, but López is actually a decent starter for Chicago and may make this one challenging.

Game 3: James Shields, RHP (3-9, 4.12 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton, RHP (10-2, 2.55 ERA)

James Shields’ march to obscurity has continued unabated this season. Though his 2018 has been his best so far for the White Sox, that’s not really saying all that much. A lot of the damage to his stats this season comes from the early goings, but he has had a couple of stinkers in the last month. He was good in his most recent start where he would surrender a single run to the Reds in 6.2 IP, though he did give up 4 hits and 4 walks with only 3 K’s in that game. The Astros were able to rough him up in their first meeting, tagging him for 7 earned runs in 5.1 IP. Shields in general has not been a strikeout artist this season and tends to allow his fair share of walks, making him vulnerable to strong lineups.

Morton will get the ball for Houston after two dominant starts in a row, where he would get in to 7th inning against both Tampa and Toronto. This was at the end of 5 quality starts in a row that followed two dreadful games for Morton against Boston and the Rangers. Morton’s command has been much improved recently, as his strikeout numbers have been climbing again with 13 and 11 K’s in each his last two games. He shutout Toronto across 7 IP to end June, but was charged with 2 runs that Devo allowed to score in relief against the Rays in 6.2 innings.

Morton has been much more in command recently and should be able to out-pitch Shields if he can continue that.

Game 4: Lucas Giolito, RHP (5-7, 6.93 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel, LHP (5-8, 4.12 ERA)

Giolito makes this start after a real bummer of an outing where he surrendered 3 home runs and 7 ER in 5 innings of work. He’s had several outings like this, but his worse one this season came off the bats of Houston, who were able to slap him with 9 ER in 2 innings. The rest of his starts have not been much better, with Giolito having surrendered at least two runs in all but one of his 17 games. A big part of his struggles has been a putrid 5.42 BB/9, which exactly matches his K/9 rate and indicates a pitcher who has no feel for command.

Keuchel comes in to this game after a strong showing against the Rangers where he would throw 7 innings of 2 run ball while striking out 7, including 6 of the first 7 batters he faced. This followed an absolute stinker against Toronto during which he allowed 6 ER, with 5 coming in the 1st inning. Before that he had gone two consecutive starts of 6 IP without an earned run to continue his up and down season. Dallas faced Chicago as well back in April and had a good start where he went 6 IP and only gave up a single run off of a solo homer. His numbers show that DK might be in line for some positive regression, so there are chances for another strong start.

As bad as some of Keuchel’s starts have been, Giolito has been worse this season and shouldn’t pose much of a problem for the Astros’ hitters.

Fun Fact

The Astros have now hit a home run in 24 consecutive road games, tying the 1996 Orioles for second all time. The Oakland A’s hold the record at 27, which was set earlier this year.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Thursday, July 5th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: White Sox - WGN 720 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: White Sox - NBCSH / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB Network (out-of-market only) / MLB.TV

Game 2: Friday, July 6th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: White Sox - WGN 720 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: White Sox - NBCSH / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 3: Saturday, July 7th @ 3:10 pm CDT
Listen: White Sox - WGN 720 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: White Sox - WGN / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 4: Sunday, July 8th @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: White Sox - WGN 720 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: White Sox - NBCSH / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV


Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (85 votes)
  • 49%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (89 votes)
  • 2%
    Series Split 2-2
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    White Sox Win 3-1
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    White Sox Sweep 4-0
    (2 votes)
181 votes total Vote Now