Fresh off a seven-game road trip which saw them take five wins off of the American League Central's two best teams, the Red Sox are headed home to try and keep things rolling against one of its worst clubs.
Predicted by most to be at least a winning team, the White Sox have been quite disappointing indeed through the first fifty games. At 24-31, Chicago trails the division-leading Indians by nearly 10 games, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why. They have strong starting pitching, a decent bullpen, and only a few batters who are worth the time and energy it takes to pencil them into the lineup on a daily basis.
The staples of the Chicago lineup are still doing reasonably well. Carlos Quentin is having his best power season since 2008, even if his on base figures are rather lower, and Paul Konerko has so far provided a solid if uninspiring bat at first base. After that, though, they have Alexei Ramirez (good for a shortstop, but only a shortstop), bench player Brent Lillibridge (who has performed well in limited opportunities), and not a single other player worth mention.
Well, that's not entirely true. It's worth mentioning that Adam Dunn has been so tremendously bad, with an OPS of .650. It's worth mentioning that Gordon Beckham has continued to see his production slide. And it's worth mentioning that neither Juan Pierre nor Omar Vizquel seem capable of providing much (if any) defensive value to make up for their lack of a bat any longer. Not only does the team not back up its starting pitchers with their bats, but they fail them with their gloves as well.
So no matter how strong a pitching matchup may seem for the White Sox, well, there's every reason to play the games.
Boston Red Sox (30-23) vs. Chicago White Sox (24-31)
Monday, May 30, 7:10 p.m.
Jon Lester (7-1, 3.36 ERA) vs. Jake Peavy (1-0, 3.00 ERA)
The Red Sox scored 14 runs in their final game against the Cleveland Indians, but perhaps the best part of Wednesday's game came on the mound in the form of Jon Lester. After allowing 14 runs in 17 innings against the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Cubs, Lester returned to form against Cleveland, tossing six shutout innings, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out seven batters.
For Jake Peavy, the season is still quite young. With just three starts under his belt, though, the former San Diego ace has looked quite impressive. While he was hit fairly hard by Texas in a rain-shortened appearance, Peavy set the gold standard against Cleveland back on May 18 with a complete game shutout of the Tribe. One night after Justin Verlander shut the Sox down for nearly eight innings, Jake Peavy has a decent chance at replicating the feat.
Tuesday, May 31, 7:10 p.m.
Alfredo Aceves (2-0, 2.22 ERA) vs. Gavin Floyd (5-5, 3.69 ERA)
When the Red Sox tasked Alfredo Aceves with filling a rotation spot while John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka lingered on the disabled list, they probably would have been happy to just receive a couple of quality starts. So far, quality just doesn't cut it, with Aceves throwing eleven innings of two-run ball in two starts. The Sox had hoped for a quality fill-in, but now more than a few people are thinking they may have found their new no. 5 starter. The question, however, is whether Aceves is the pitcher we saw in his last start, who has the ability to put batters away, or the one we saw in the first, whose occasional wildness doesn't seem conducive to long-term success.
Gavin Floyd may have started as the no. 4 starter for the White Sox, but at this point, it's hard to see him as anything but a front-end guy. While he has been prone to some disaster games, three times allowing five-or-more runs, he has more often help opponents to two runs or fewer. Floyd did have to throw 15 pitches in relief during the White Sox' 14-inning loss to the Blue Jays on May 28, though, so it will be interesting to see if that outing has any effect on his next start.
Wednesday, June 1, 1:35 p.m.
Tim Wakefield (2-1, 4.14 ERA) vs. Phil Humber (3-3, 2.85 ERA)
So far, so good for Tim Wakefield in his return to the starting rotation. Over his last 14 innings, Wakefield has never lost the feel for his knuckleball, resulting in two dominant starts and two easy wins for the Red Sox. Of course, that can change on any given day, but it's nice to see that the team's consummate veteran still has it in him.
Nobody is going to call 28-year-old Phil Humber a consumate veteran. A long-time fringe player, Humber seems to have finally caught on with Chicago. Don't let the low ERA fool you, however. Much of Humber's success comes from an unsustainable .210 BABIP--he has yet to strike out more than five batters in a game this year--and with a combination of Fenways' unfriendliness towards fly ball pitchers and his defense's unfriendliness towards balls in play, Humber is due for some regression any day now.