Last week, we led off the Scorecard with this line, “Three weeks to go in the regular season and this could be the White Sox’ make or break week.” Well, the Sox didn’t make it. It sure looks like they broke it. Later in last week’s column we said, “Losing the [Cleveland] series would push the White Sox to 5.5 games back, which would be everything but a death sentence. Getting swept by Cleveland would be a death sentence.” Can you hear the steady tone of the patient flatlining? The White Sox were swept by Cleveland last week and then followed that up by getting swept by Detroit the three days after that. While the White Sox went 0-6 last week, Cleveland went 7-0.
As of September 27th, the White Sox are 10 games behind the Cleveland Guardians for the AL Central. The Guardians have already clinched the Division so that ship has sailed. Though not mathematically eliminated from the Wild Card just yet, they are 7.5 games behind Seattle and 4 games behind Baltimore who is also trying to close that last Wild Card spot. It just doesn’t seem like there is much hope left in a season that is finishing in the next two weeks. In the Detroit series, the White Sox looked like they were shell shocked zombies who couldn’t believe what had just happened to them.
From September 5 to September 18, the Southsiders had gone 9-5. They had trouble gaining on Cleveland because they had played 12-3 over the same period. Now, extend those records for another week and the White Sox are 9-11 and Cleveland is an astounding 19-3. One team wanted it more and they went out and took it. The White Sox had a much needed day off yesterday and now they play Minnesota six times and San Diego three times to finish the season. Only nine games left to gain 7.5 games on Seattle doesn’t seem likely.
What Went Right, What Went Wrong
It seemed like the timing was perfect for the Cleveland series. The White Sox would pitch Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn (who was red hot), and Johnny Cueto. Dylan Cease did the job and went 6 innings, giving up 1 run. His control was off (3 walks) and his pitch count went high so he didn’t go as deep as maybe the fans wanted, but it was a quality start. Cleveland seemed to just be biding their time until Cease was out of the game. Jimmy Lambert lasted just one out before he gave up 2 walks. Aaron Bummer came in relief, and though he wasn’t charged with any runs, he gave up 3 hits in just two outs, letting everyone Lambert put on base cross home plate. Reynaldo Lopez and Hendriks pitched clean innings to bring the White Sox to extra innings where Kendall Graveman and Jake Diekman combined to give up 7 runs which the White Sox could not overcome.
In Lance Lynn’s last seven games he had a 1.64 ERA and a .91 WHIP. However, Cleveland was not intimidated. In six innings, Cleveland had nine hits and scored six runs, though only three were earned due to errors by Andrew Vaughn and Yoan Moncada. They only needed three runs to win the game.
Johnny Cueto came into September with 2.93 ERA and in his first two starts in the month he gave up 1 earned run in each game. But he gave up five earned runs against the lowly A’s which was foreshadowing his Cleveland start where he gave up three earned, four total. Though Diekman, Bummer, and Lopez combined to give up exactly zero runs, Cleveland only needed those four runs to win as the White Sox only scored two again.
The White Sox hit extremely well in Game 1 of the series scoring seven runs. Elvis Andrus, AJ Pollack, and Seby Zavala all had multiple hits and Andrus, Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez, and Pollack (with a three-run home run) had RBI’s. When the Guardians scored two in the tenth, the Sox rallied to tie the game again. But when Cleveland, who annoyingly refused to give up, scored five in the 11th, the White Sox only scored two, which should have won the game in any other situation.
In the other two games of the series, the White Sox only scored two runs. Nobody had a multi-hit game in either game. In game 2, the White Sox struck out 14 times. Against Detroit, the White Sox scored 3 runs, two, and one. After averaging four or more runs per game for three weeks, the White Sox averaged 2.8 runs per game last week. Clearly that wasn’t going to cut it.
After a great start in September, the White Sox relief pitching failed them in one game of the Cleveland series, starting pitching performed below expectations in the other two games with no run support from the offense. Though winning against Detroit might have kept the White Sox a little closer, it was the head-to-head matchup against Cleveland that really mattered.
What about the Wildcard
Though not actually eliminated from the Wild Card race just yet, it is hard to see a scenario where the White Sox can overtake Baltimore and Seattle. Toronto is a comfortable three games ahead of Tampa Bay and Tampa Bay is only a half game ahead of Seattle. If we are trying to keep hope alive, which we are, there is some good news:
- Baltimore has an incredibly difficult schedule to finish the year. They play Boston four times, the Yankees three times, and Toronto three times.
- Unfortunately, Seattle has an incredibly easy schedule to finish the year. They play Texas, Oakland, and Detroit to close things out.
- Tampa Bay has a more difficult schedule than Seattle, playing Cleveland, Houston, and Boston to finish things off.
To limp into the Wild Card race, the White Sox will need a total collapse from Baltimore and Tampa Bay. And they need to beat up Minnesota and San Diego. So, I am saying there is a chance.