Know Your Enemy: Cleveland Baseball Team
The first series against Cleveland was definitely nothing to write home about from the Sox POV. That second series wasn't much better, with a win and two losses. This is the final AL Central matchup for both teams. Cleveland doesn't have the chance of winning the division the same way the White Sox do, so there's less to gain for them if they beat up on our guys; if they do win, that opens things up for the Twins to take the AL Central for a second year in a row (with plenty of opportunity to bottom out in the play-offs, as is tradition in Minnesota).
Cleveland had some drama this August with Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger playing COVID games that got Clevinger sent packing to San Diego. It definitely created a rift within the team, especially following Plesac's much-maligned Instagram video which was said to have not amused Terry Francona.
Cleveland is rolling in to this series with a 29-24 record and sitting five games back from first, so it's looking like they're pretty shored up in terms of third place. The White Sox have one of the best offenses in baseball, and we don't really need to tell you what you already know about potential MVPs Tim Anderson and José Abreu, potential ROY Luis Robert, and the possible offensive surge (?) of Nomar Mazara. Cleveland is coming off a series win against Detroit, and the Sox played the Reds in what can be described as "something."
Speaking of offense, Cleveland still doesn't seem to have one. José Ramírez is leading the team in batting average (.284), home runs (15), RBI (38), and OBP (.369) with Cesar Hernandez leading with 57 hits this season. Don't expect this series to be a slugfest but the White Sox can't snooze at the plate either, especially not when facing Shane "Not Justin" Bieber.
Monday is going to see glasses king Dane Dunning against Aaron Civale. Dunning has a 2.04 ERA in September over his last three appearances, all wins. There was only one earned run in seven innings in his last start vs. the Twins, striking out seven and walking two. Overall, Dunning has had seven earned runs and 28 strikeouts in 27 innings. Civale threw a complete game August 19 vs. the Pirates and is looking for his first win since then. He's holding a 3.80 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 2020 and a current record of 3-5.
Tuesday could be a cringe day for Sox fans, since we're going to see Reynaldo López against Cy Young favorite Shane Bieber. Bieber is currently the team's ace with a 1.74 ERA and 112 strikeouts this season. López is having a shaky 2020 with injuries and bad outings, relying on weak contact and prayer on his combination of pitches.
Wednesday is Lucas Giolito vs. TBD. Giolito's changeup is dominating batters this season and he's held Cleveland to two runs over 13 innings in 2020. Currently he's sitting at a 3.53 ERA with 86 Ks for 2020. Giolito's only allowed three runs in his last three starts, most recently vs. the Twins.
Thursday is Dallas Keuchel vs TBD. Keuchel's 2020 features a pretty 2.04 ERA and 39 Ks, pretty much the absolute best version of Keuchel fans could have hoped for. He looked great in his first start back from the IL (back spasms) and has said he aims to go six innings in this, his final start this season before the postseason.