The Chicago White Sox opened up the 2013 campaign by winning two out of three games versus the Kansas City Royals. The series win over their division rivals was led by outstanding pitching by Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, as well as a barrage on home runs despite near winter-like conditions. Although it was only the first series, the two victories are encouraging for a couple reasons. First, the White Sox had a ton of trouble versus the Royals in 2012 by losing 12 of 18 games. Hopefully this series win will help lead to a much better record against their division foes. Second, the Royals are expected to be a vastly improved team, capable of contending for an AL Wildcard spot. If the White Sox want to make a run at the postseason this year, they will have to play better against their divisional opponents. This series win was a good first step.
Monday, April 1st – White Sox 1 Royals 0
The White Sox couldn’t have scripted a better Opening Day to start their season. The offense did not do much, but it didn’t have to with Chris Sale on the mound. Catcher Tyler Flowers started his season off in fine fashion by giving the White Sox the lead and ultimately the win with a solo home run in the fifth inning. With many Sox fans likely to be impatient with Flowers after A.J. Pierzynski’s departure, his home run on Monday will silence his critics for a little bit. Alexei Ramirez and Alex Rios also added two hits each, with Rios swiping his first bag of the season.
As previously stated, Chris Sale was brilliant. The lefty pitched 7.2 innings of shutout baseball while recording seven strikeouts. Sale gave up seven hits, walked one, and threw 104 pitches on the afternoon. The most telling stat to demonstrate how effective Sale pitched was his groundout-to-flyout ratio which was 11:1. While watching the game, two things stood out in Sale’s outing. First, Sale appeared to be pitching his fastball effortlessly while having it sit in the low-to-mid 90s. While Sale can light-up the radar gun and approach triple digits, he doesn’t have to in order to be successful. If Sale can continue can doing this, then it will go a long way towards maintaining his arm strength and stamina throughout the long season. Second, Sale has regained full command of his changeup. After being drafted as a starter in college, many scouts believed that the changeup was Sale’s best pitch. While pitching in the bullpen for his first two seasons, Sale relied heavily on his fastball and slider to get hitters out. Last season, I felt as though Sale would throw his slider too often when he had a very deceptive changeup in his arsenal. Maybe he wasn’t as comfortable with it early on last season, but on Monday it was evident that his changeup could be valuable pitch this season. With a plus fastball, slider, and changeup, Sale should be in for a huge year.
Matt Thornton came out of the bullpen in the 8th inning and struck-out the only batter he faced to get the Sox out of a bases loaded jam.
Closer Addison Reed pitched a scoreless ninth inning to record his first save of the season. In all, it was a dominant performance by the White Sox pitching staff.
Wednesday April 3rd – White Sox 5 Royals 2
Wednesday was a few degrees warmer than on Opening Day, and the White Sox bats responded. The Sox hit four home runs on the day, and gave the Jake Peavy all the runs that he would need. Adam Dunn, Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo (2-run HR), and Alexei Ramirez all went yard and accounted for all five runs scored. With two home runs in two games, Flowers is off to a great start to the season by showing off his power. It is always nice to see the Sox hit the long-ball with such ease, but hopefully it won’t become something the Sox rely on like they have in the past. Considering it was only the second game, the White Sox and their fans will gladly take the offense any way they can get it.
Jake Peavy was on the mound and tried his best to follow up Chris Sale’s Opening Day performance. While Peavy was not as dominant as Sale was, he was still very effective. Peavy went six innings, while allowing 2 runs (one earned) on four hits. He struck-out six and did not issue a walk. The only negative for Peavy was his pitch count which sat at 107 on the day. The White Sox would like to see that number reached after seven or eight innings in games when Peavy is pitching well. The Royals were fouling off a bunch of pitches that helped lead to the high pitch count, but Peavy was able to eventually retire the hitters. Hopefully Peavy can keep his pitch count down as the season progresses and stay in games longer. If he can do that more consistently, then Peavy’s win total of only 11 games last season should increase by at least a few games.
White Sox relievers Jesse Crain, Donnie Veal, Matt Lindstom, Matt Thornton, and Addison Reed combined to pitch three scoreless innings. Reed’s perfect frame resulted in his second save of the season.
Thursday April 4th – Royals 3 White Sox 1
When Jeremy Guthrie is on the mound, the White Sox offense goes dormant. Fortunately, the Sox were able to win the first two games of the season with “CY Guthrie” pitching the final game of the series. Heading into Thursday’s start, Guthrie owned a lifetime 3.24 ERA against the Sox (highlighted by a 0.30 ERA in four starts last season). The Sox managed just five hits off of Guthrie, as he struck-out nine batters in six innings of work.
Despite the lackluster performance by the offense, Gordon Beckham was able to start his 2013 season on a high note with a 4-for-4 afternoon. Beckham hit four singles, but more importantly hit three of them to right field. If Beckham can continue to drive the ball to the opposite field, then he should be in for a much bigger year in terms of batting average.
Gavin Floyd started the game and pitched pretty well. Floyd went six innings and gave up three runs (two earned) while allowing four hits. The right-hander struck-out five and walked one. It was a solid outing, but unfortunately it was not enough with Guthrie carving up the Sox lineup.
Hector Santiago came on in relief to finish the game. Santiago pitched three scoreless innings, while allowing only two base runners and recording a pair of strikeouts. This is exactly what the White Sox expect out of Santiago and why they like him in the bullpen. By pitching the final three innings, Santiago gave the rest of the White Sox bullpen some extra rest. That may not be overly important in early April, but it will be if he can repeat that more often throughout the summer.
Up Next: A three game series versus the Seattle Mariners (2-2) begins tonight.
Friday at 7:10pm CT: Jose Quintana vs. Blake Beavan
Saturday at 12:10pm CT: Dylan Axelrod vs. Felix Hernandez (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Sunday at 1:10pm CT: Chris Sale (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (1-0, 1.50 ERA)
Prediction: Saturday’s matchup heavily favors Seattle, and I expect Sale to pitch well again on Sunday. The White Sox will likely need to win on Friday to take the series. I’ll give Quintana and the Sox the edge on Friday simply because they are the better team. White Sox win two of three.
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