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Series #31: Athletics vs White Sox - Closing the Gap

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

At 50-41 and just 1.5 games out of a playoff spot (only one if the unfinished Tigers’ game is an assumed victory), the season’s first half went mostly well for the A’s. Their +67 run differential is the fifth best in the American League and better than all but one National League team. Their pitching staff, though beat up and hot and cold all year long, is due for some pretty impressive reinforcements as players recover from injury in the year’s second half. Most likely, more reinforcements will also be arriving via trade over the next couple of weeks, as the A’s deep farm system can help to bolster the big league squad as trade chips. Tonight, the A’s get to try and start their second half off on the right foot, as the team takes on the Chicago White Sox for the first time this year.

With a 42-44 record, the White Sox have been, perhaps surprisingly, hovering around the .500 mark all year long, and, until recently, were battling the Cleveland Indians for second place in the division. The team has managed to do this despite having a bottom third ranked pitching and offense on the season, largely getting by on timely hitting and clutch performances in close games. Starting tonight in Oakland, the White Sox are embarking on a ten game road trip followed by a seven game home stand without any days off. While the team should be well rested for this series, following the break, things are going to get tough for the team, and soon.

Just because the White Sox offense has been middling doesn’t mean that there aren’t some very strong performances in their lineup overall. Three players, young Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada, All Star James McCann, and speedy veteran Tim Anderson all have batting averages above .300 and slugging percentages near or above .500, meaning all three players have been able to hit for power while not needing to sacrifice contact. Jose Abreu has lofted 21 home runs and driven in 66 runs to lead the team in both categories.

Things drop off quickly from there on offense, however. The lack of MLB ready or capable depth behind their star players gives their lineup something of a stars-and-scrubs feeling. Many of their offseason signings didn’t work out for the team, most notably Yonder Alonso, who had his MLB breakout in Oakland before getting traded away, and was signed by Chicago perhaps as a ploy to draw Manny Machado’s interest during the offseason. In more than sixty games this year, Alonso only managed to hit .178/.275/.301 for the White Sox before getting released last weekend.

On the pitching side of things, after years of growing pains and struggles, Lucas Giolito has finally started to come into his own as a starting pitcher, as he leads the White Sox starting staff in innings pitched with 100, strikeouts with 120, batting average against at .194, and ERA at 3.15. Dylan Covey, whomst the White Sox legally stole from Oakland in the Rule V draft, is pitching well enough after a disastrous year of being forced to remain on the White Sox big league roster before being MLB ready. He currently has the second best ERA on the starting staff at 4.58 in about 40 innings pitched. In the bullpen, pitchers like Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, and closer Alex Colome have been incredible, and are plenty capable of holding a lead late in the game.

Beyond all those guys, however capable they are, the remainder of the pitching staff has been inconsistent to say the least. Many pitchers have been outright bad. Of all the starters to stay healthy and keep their jobs in the first half of the year, Reynaldo Lopez has the highest ERA of them all, at 6.34.

Especially because Oakland is playing at home, this is a series that the A’s should win if they want to have any hope of making the playoffs and/or closing the gap on the Astros in the division. Even though the White Sox have been near .500 all year, and even though there are several studs on the roster, the depth of the A’s roster should be the difference maker. It is imperative for the A’s to jump on the starting pitching, because it is very tough to beat the White Sox when Chicago has a late lead.

Potential Lineup

Leury Garcia - SS

Yoan Moncada - 3B

Jose Abreu - 1B

James McCann - C

Jon Jay - RF

Eloy Jimenez - LF

A.J. Reed - DH

Yolmer Sanchez - 2B

Ryan Cordell - CF

Pitching Matchups

Mike Fiers vs Ivan Nova

Chris Bassitt vs TBD (likely Dylan Covey)

Brett Anderson vs Reynaldo Lopez

Game Information

Game #93: Friday, July 12th at 7:07

Game #94: Saturday, July 13th at 1:07

Game #95: Sunday, July 14th at 1:07

Game #93 is on MLB Network for those who are out of market. Game #94 is on Fox Sports 1 and will not be broadcast on NBCSCA.