Series Preview: White Sox at Indians 4/12-14

Chicago White Sox (4-5) at Cleveland Indians (3-5)
Series 4, Games 11, 12 and 13
Progressive Field (2012): 0.899, Pitchers park.

Series Overview
In my opinion, the White Sox are the best team in the central division this season. I have taken some heat for declaring this as the Tigers, on paper, seem to be the behemoth of the American League. From top to bottom, the White Sox have the ingredients to make the playoffs and go deep in October. Chris Sale, who will throw Saturday, knows how to truly pitch, even when tired.  Now, if he could actually be strong enough to maintain his best stuff for a full season, he’ll be in annual Cy Young conversations. Paul Konerko continues to be as smart a power hitter as you’ll find, with an undervalued great, short swing. With a short compact swing, it is unlikely he will have a regression year. Alex Rios played hard, attentive, composed and smart last season. He also possesses all the athletic skills to continue that upward track.  Jake Peavy stayed healthy enough to earn trust as a solid number two starter. Adam Dunn rebounded last season to reach the acceptable bottom performance levels of a three true outcome hitter, and I bet he’ll stay just about there again. Much like the Indians, their bullpen is pretty stacked.  It’s a very strong part of the White Sox.  If Jesse Crain or Matt Thornton fail in a defined 8th inning role, manager Robin Ventura is not afraid to try a Matt Lindstrom, or a Donnie Veal. Nate Jones can throw as well and Hector Santiago as a long reliever is a luxury.
The White Sox are a team that is poised and built to win the world series this season. A good showing from the Indians this series will boost my confidence level in the team moving forward.
The weather looks a little better this weekend although still very cool, damp, and mushy. We should get all three games in though.

Friday, April 12, 7:05 EDT (STO)
Justin Masterson (2-0, 0.69 ERA)  vs. Jose Quintana (L) (0-0, 11.25 ERA)

Masterson looks like the ace everybody thought he would be this season through his first two starts. The only concern has been his command problems, particularly with his fastball. Considering his WHIP in 2012 was a hefty 1.45, the seven walks so far this season are something to keep an eye on. Signed as a six-year minor league free agent last winter, Quintana was very good in a nine-start, 2.77-ERA, 1.17-WHIP performance in for Double-A Birmingham. This earned him a trip to The Show last May, where he continued his dominance to the tune of a  1.25 ERA in his first eight appearances (six of which were starts) into a more permanent rotation spot once John Danks was lost for the year. Quintana relies upon command to succeed as his stats show, thrived to a 2.04 ERA behind a 3.70 strikeout-to-walk ratio before the All-Star break, but slipped to 5.01 when his K-to-walk rate was 1.38 after it. He is a pitcher who must hit his spots but with the free-swinging Indians, he could certainly give them headaches.

Saturday, April 13, 4:05EDT (STO)
Ubaldo Jimenez (0-1, 6.97 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (L) (1-0, 1.84 ERA)

Sale's command did not include its typical pinpoint control in his last start against the Mariners, as he served up a two-run homer in the first inning off the hot bat of Mike Morse, marking his first extra-base hit allowed of the year.  A former member of the back-end of the bullpen, Sale's arsenal seemed suitable to starting: His fastball still averaged 91.7 mph and could touch 97, his slider remained as filthy as ever, and he leaned more on his change-up to handle the larger share of right-handed hitters he faced. It's that skill set which presents him an excellent chance at a repeating as a dominate starter, even an ace, as a starter this season.
 
Sunday, April 14, 1:05EDT (STO)
Brett Myers (0-1, 12.19 ERA) vs. Jake Peavy (1-1, 5.56 ERA)
 

Myers was supposed to start last Wednesday's game, but the Indians opted to just use him to eat innings Tuesday, sparing the bullpen which is a key element in Terry Francona's managerial philosophy. He has now surrendered 14 earned runs over 10.1 innings this season. Myers pitched the final 5.1 innings of Tuesday night's game, giving up seven earned runs on 11 hits, after starter Carlos Carrasco got pounded for seven earned runs before being ejected after throwing at Kevin Youkilis in the fourth inning. Peavy's previous start this season was awful, giving up six earned runs on nine hits and one walk while striking out seven over 5.1 innings Tuesday against the Nationals as he was facing perhaps the most dangerous lineup in baseball. This start has skewed his overall numbers slightly, as his first start of the season was excellent.  Look for him to bounce back Sunday against the Indians as no current Indians batter has had much success against him, with the exception being Jason Kipnis who has two home-runs off Peavy in only eight at-bats.

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