Entering the season, the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays were viewed as two of the American League’s top contenders.
A little more than a week into the season, that forecast looks to be only halfway true. After a 3-2 victory against the Rays on Saturday in Chicago, the White Sox are 6-2 and in sole possession of first place in the AL Central. The Rays are struggling through a four-game losing streak.
Chicago won the first two games of the series and has a chance at a sweep at home Sunday afternoon. The good news for the White Sox is that they’re off to the fast start without their offense totally clicking.
Tim Anderson is hitting .440 and Andrew Vaughn is batting .348, but the rest of Chicago’s bats have been quiet.
Saturday’s game showed that trend may be coming to an end. Jose Abreu, who hit 30 home runs last season, had been silent early in the year. But Abreu hit a two-run home run, his first of the season, against two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.
Pitching has been the key to Chicago’s fast start, a bit surprising as Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Joe Kelly have been dealing with injuries. But the White Sox got a strong outing from Michael Kopech, who is in his first full season as a starter, on Saturday and Dylan Cease fell one out short of a quality start in Friday night’s win.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa said he was thrilled to get five strong innings from Kopech Saturday. Due to a limited spring training, La Russa didn’t let Kopech go over a 75-pitch count.
“The better he pitches, the longer he lasts, the better it is for us,” La Russa said. “But, at some point, when a guy starts to lose it, bad things happen. You push him and he turns a good out into one that he has bad vibes about or he gets hurt.”
The Rays started their season with three straight victories against Baltimore and a lot of fans in Tampa just assumed the team easily would cruise to its second straight 100-win season. But a 1-3 series against Oakland and the 0-2 start versus the White Sox has caused some concern.
“We’re 4-5 for a reason,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “We haven’t been as principled on defense and we’re running into outs.”
The Rays also are struggling at the plate. Tampa Bay batters struck out 12 times in Saturday’s game. Ji-Man Choi, who has a .526 average, and Wander Franco (.378) have been the lone offensive bright spots.
The outlook for Tampa Bay on Sunday doesn’t look particularly bright. The Rays will turn to right-hander J.P. Feyereisen (0-0, 0.00 ERA) as the starter due to injuries to the pitching staff. Feyereisen has been in the league since 2020 and has made 65 appearances. But this will be the first start of his career.
After finishing the series with the White Sox, the Rays will stay in Chicago and play a three-game series with the Cubs before getting their first day off this season.
The White Sox will counter with Vince Velasquez (0-0, 2.25 ERA), who has 128 career starts. Velasquez has made two starts against the Rays and is 0-0 with a 3.27 ERA.
— Field Level Media