The White Sox and Athletics enter the do-or-die Game 3 with neither team revealing its starting pitcher, perhaps because neither team is going to deploy a starting pitcher in the conventional sense, so what’s the point?
Rick Renteria said it’s an all-hands-on-deck scenario, although some hands can be ruled out. Dallas Keuchel is definitely not relieving a day after an unimpressive Game 2 start, and I’m pretty sure even Renteria can resist using Jimmy Cordero after his heroic scoreless 2⅔ innings, which got the White Sox through the worst/lowest-leverage of it. Dylan Cease threw a scoreless inning when the game was still a contained mess, but I don’t think he’d be asked to pitch on consecutive days, especially at a more critical juncture. Lucas Giolito could theoretically throw an inning on his side day, but there’s no special need for it given the bullpen’s right-handed depth.
Even removing those pitchers from the equation, Renteria escaped the 5-3 loss to Oakland in Game 2 with his critical bullpen arms intact. Bob Melvin can’t say the same, not after closer Liam Hendriks faced 10 batters and threw 49 mostly unimpressive pitches. Melvin said he’s not ruling out Hendriks …
“Six outs is a lot, but he’s our best pitcher,” Melvin said of Hendriks. “Three-batter minimum (rule) sometimes comes into play in terms of what you’re thinking. It’s the middle of their order. … Even though he threw, what, 50 pitches today, I guarantee he’s available for at least one inning tomorrow.”
… but I can’t say I believe him.
Renteria doesn’t have to cross off any key relievers from his list. While the White Sox played pitifully over the final week of the season, he did spare his best arms from any excessive wear and tear, and he’s been able to avoid burning them in either of the first two games of this series.
By my count, he has nine hands available on deck — one for every inning in regulation if he so chooses. If he goes that route, the Reds and Braves urge him to have a plan for the 10th and beyond.
Here’s an inventory of the available arms, and some food for thought as you consider how you’d arrange them in the first-ever White Sox postseason series that’s gone the distance.
Dane Dunning: He’s the only one of the listed starting pitchers who has yet to pitch. Five starts into his MLB career, he looked like the easy call for a Game 3, but subsequent stumbles against Cleveland the Cubs have rattled confidence. In his favor, he’s only had one bad first inning out of his seven starts.
Carlos Rodón: He’s the most accomplished of the remaining arms in terms of multiple-inning work, but his reintroduction to relief was a disaster, albeit one only partially his fault. He dusted himself off and threw 1⅔ scoreless innings in relief of Reynaldo López in the season finale against the Cubs. He only got one whiff, but he only threw 20 pitches.
Jace Fry: Back spasms interrupted his hot streak, and he hasn’t quite rediscovered his form since. He’s been scored upon in three straight outings thanks to both a casual relationship with the strike zone, and also a couple of gopher balls. Carlos Santana hit one of them, which is understandable. Billy Hamilton hit the other, which isn’t.
Garrett Crochet: After getting his feet wet in a couple of low-leverage outings, the White Sox have increased the intensity in each of his last three outings:
- Sept. 22: First time appearing in a high-leverage situation.
- Sept. 23: First time pitching on consecutive days, also in high leverage.
- Sept. 26: First time pitching multiple innings.
“Pitching in a postseason game” would be the next step up, but the White Sox might try skipping a few rungs and landing a combo, whether it’s the additional tasks of setting a tone or high leverage. I think he’s up for the task, but I’d be cognizant of the idea that you don’t want to make a goat of a guy who is in his first weeks of pro ball.
Matt Foster: He led all White Sox relievers in two-inning outings with five, besting even designated long men like Gio González and Ross Detwiler (designated has multiple meanings in Detwiler’s case). Of the traditional relievers, Codi Heuer and Jimmy Cordero were next up with two apiece. Rick Renteria tasked him with the middle innings after shorter starts, which is how he racked up that gaudy 6-1 record, but it’s also reflective of the quality of those appearances. He never pitched two innings to wear it — he always pitched the second inning because the first was the breeze, and the White Sox also benefited from the additional work. He didn’t allow a run in any of those five games, yielding just two hits and three walks while striking out 12.
Codi Heuer: He pitched a truly scoreless September, allowing zero runs and stranding all seven runners he inherited. It wasn’t for a lack of work. He made 11 appearances and pitched 12⅔ innings, allowing 10 baserunners (five hits, five walks) to 15 strikeouts. When Evan Marshall went on the injured list, Heuer earned Renteria’s trust as the main setup guy, with the highest leverage index of any non-Alex Colomé reliever in September. He pitched on Wednesday, but it was only his second appearance over the last six days, and he needed just eight pitches for his 1-2-3 inning. He has pitched on consecutive days three times in his major league career, with no particular issues.
Aaron Bummer: He has been used lightly but regularly since returning from his biceps issue, appearing for full innings on Sept. 24 and Sept. 26, and then throwing two pitches to close out the eighth inning in Game 1. He didn’t regain his dominance immediately after his month-and-a-half layoff, but he also hasn’t looked easy to hit.
Evan Marshall: He also appeared in Game 1, which was his second back back from a minimal stay on the injured list due to a sore shoulder. He made easy work of his Sept. 26 appearance against the Cubs, but he gave up line drives of 98.8 mph and 103.8 mph, one of which turned into a single, before Bummer entered to get his 102.4-mph groundout. All three of Oakland’s swings on him put balls into play.
Alex Colomé: He hears your complaints about his slow pace and tendency to accumulate runners, but he doesn’t care. He had himself another effective season, closing out 12 of 13 saves with a 0.81 ERA despite peripherals nobody brags about. His last eight outings have been scoreless, and his last three outings have been clean. He’d been well-rested for each of them, but he enters Game 3 having pitched in Game 1, and having warmed up in Game 2. I imagine Renteria won’t be afraid to deploy him in the eighth, although Melvin offers a cautionary tale for going to the closer too soon.
I’m inclined to start Dunning for two, switch to Crochet and see how far he can be (responsibly) ridden, and then see how much Foster is required before the late-inning crew joins the fray, even if a little earlier than usual. I’m open to other ideas.
(Photo by Ron Vesely / Chicago White Sox)
7 Marshall/Fry depending on matchups
Dont let anyone else throw besides an emergency situation
Also maybe dont hit the worst damn hitter in the league EE behind Abreu. That would be swell.
I would almost certainly rather see Foster than Fry, and probably Foster before Marshall too, based on the recent loud contact he’s given up. Honestly think I’d probably rather see Rodon than Fry too.
Also not sure if Heuer can go 2 innings on the second day of pitching in a row, but if he can and looks good, that would be fantastic. He’s been so incredibly impressive lately.
He hasnt pitched much the last week I think he can handle two unless he gets in trouble.
The key is if a guy is cruising maybe you buy an out or two extra, vs if a guy is giving up hits or loud contact do you pull him a hair early. Gonna be a tightrope all game for ricky to walk.
To me though for my money these are the 6 guys I want with the ball, figure out how the 27 outs get divided up but these are the 6 that should decide your season.
My thought was try for 2 innings a piece from Dunning, Rodon and Crochett (though have a short hook ready at any sign of them not having it).
Jim’s idea would be my vote. Start Dunning and see what you have and pull him at the first sign of trouble. Last week I gave the “bold prediction” Rodon would be the hero of game three in relief of a short Dunning start, but I think I’d rather see a third inning from Crochet than a first inning from Fry or Rodon at this point.
Ideally, none of this will matter when the offense does what they’re supposed to do and smacks the hell out of Fiers, Manaea, or a weary Montas.
I guess we can take comfort in the fact that Melvin has a tough call, too. I’m starting to think he’ll do the unthinkable and start Manaea for lack of options. I can’t imagine it’s Montas, who threw 100 pitches Sunday and has been bad this year. I also can’t see a true bullpen game with how taxed their pen is.
That leaves Fiers or Manaea. Manaea (4.50 ERA; 3.71 FIP; 3.77 xFIP; 7.5 K/9; 1.33 BB/9; 1.17 HR/9) is probably their best pitcher and is considerably better than Fiers (4.58 ERA; 4.94 FIP; 5.73 xFIP; 5.64 K/9; 2.44 BB/9; 1.37 HR/9). The case for Fiers is basically: Manaea is left-handed. The problem is Fiers has reversed splits and Manaea is *much better* against righties. RHB slashed .308/.344/.462 (!) against Fiers this year to .277/.308/.403 against Manaea. That’s about 100 points difference in OPS vs. RHB.
If Melvin starts Manaea and the Sox hit him hard it’ll look real bad. But I’m not sure avoiding the clearly superior pitcher for the sake of Fiers will look great, either.
A’s haven’t seen Dunning or Crochet so that should be an advantage initially. One way to look at it, the Sox won’t go any further without Dunning being important so he may as well get his feet wet. Not sure anyone knows what to expect from Rodon so maybe he should be the extra inning go-to guy held in reserve
That’s where I am too. If the Sox are going to be competitive for the rest of the playoffs, Dunning and/or Rodon need to be contributors. Plan on using them but have a short leash
Dunning yes, Rodon, please no… I’ve seen enough.
I agree no to Rodón in an elimination game, at least. One of those big-picture things where a failure can be framed as “Can’t believe they let a non-tender candidate decide their season.”
I disagree. He has more starting experience than any of the other options available. Some folks have written him off. I’m not one of them. I like what I’ve seen since he’s back. Since he’s on the roster, don’t pretend he’s not.
I envision Rodon’s usage in a Braves-Reds type of game that goes to a lengthy extra-inning, and Renteria needs multiple innings from someone.
Using or not using Rodon isn’t make or break this game so I have no problem holding him back for a potential game 1 start where we try to steal one from the Astros if we advance.
If they advance, Giolito is pitching game 1 and Kuechel game 2.
Teddy Roosevelt said he “rose like a rocket” in his precocious political career. Just reminded me of Crochet….
Is this not the first winner-take-all game in White Sox history?
No matter what happens today, the White Sox are the only AL Central team to play in October 2020.
yeah but, It’ll be sooo nice to see a postseason series win.
Pride of AL Central depends on it.
Step 1: Foster for 2, then Dunning. If things go well that should give Dunning the bottom of the order to work with.
Step 2: Let him face 9-12 hitters. Bring in Crochet whenever the top of the lineup shows up for the third time.
Step 3. Ride Heuer, Bummer, and Marshall to the 9th for Colome.
Step 4: Profit
I don’t envy Renteria. Hopefully the offense gives our young pitchers some breathing room.
I hope it’s not scripted with. “These 2 innings go to A, this 1 to B,…” If a guy is dealing today, let him run. Short leashes on everyone. Be ready to yank if someone loses command, but if Crochet is unhittable after 2, give him a chance to go 3. You don’t want to be one Colome meltdown from having to use Cordero to cover the 10th or 11th. Trust your eyes, not a script. And be ready to act.
Can’t speak for others but that’s more or less how I viewed my suggestions. The inning was more for planning but you’d obviously have to adjust based on performance (good or bad). If Dunning is rolling, leave him in. If he’s shaky, limit him to once through the order.
It’s like with any other game where the plan is usually the starter goes 6 innings then you hand if over to the 3 best bullpen arms. Obviously if the starter is at 80 pitches and no hits at the end of 6, you keep riding them.
I wasn’t speaking to anyone, but it corks me when I see a manager move from a guy who was getting it done with electric stuff just because “I planned to turn it over to ___ in the 8th,” and then ___ gets shelled.
Dunning gets the nod… vs Fiers
Well, righties slashed (mashed?) .308/.344/.462 against Fiers this year. Let’s just call him a lefty!
Fiers is a strange pitcher. He can be Max Scherzer and Rey Lopez at the same time.
And Jack Hamilton.
And Ed Snowden
Well, he’s yet to be Scherzer this year. By far his best start was Aug. 26 @TEX: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 B, 1 R (0 ER), 7 K. Texas was 29th in MLB (last in AL) in both Runs and OPS. So… maybe he’s due?
Either way, his ceiling *should* be something like 5 IP, 2 ER against this offense.
I’m ok with that. Dunning, I’ve been hyping you up these last couple months. Don’t let me down!
So I guess maybe plan to follow him with Crochet to screw with their platoon spots?
of the guys I would want to see pitch today in order of importance, I would rank dunning 7th… we are starting our 7th best option in my opinion thats the way I see it and I dont like that.
7th? Who are the 6 in front of him?
I see what you’re saying, and I wouldn’t hate going that bullpen route and having Dunning in reserve if they needed him to go to extras or something.
Four innings is the most they want from Dunning, I believe. He could retire 12 in a row, and I think he’s out of there. In any event, he will be on an extremely short leash.
I hope Dunning only goes through the lineup once, even if he’s rolling. It’s going to be a tough call either way, and will provide plenty of wonderful opportunities to second guess Ricky.
Part of why I like Dunning to start is that he’s done it recently. If we haven’t really used the other guys as an opener to see if they’re comfortable with it with, doing it in an elimination game seems unfair to them. And i want them at their best. Let dunning start, with what everyone agrees is a short leash. Hopefully, he gets us through the order once.