No products in the cart.
Maybe the White Sox feared that they were sending Carlos Rodón to a gunfight with a knife, but his 91-mph fastball got the night’s job done. He needed only 69 pitches to subdue the Cincinnati Reds for five shutout innings in the White Sox’s 6-1 victory on Wednesday, so he did what he could to assuage fears with his performance.
There’s still the matter of his recovery, but with the returns no longer diminishing, Rodón was a little happier to talk about his current state than the last time, when he shut down his Zoom session early.
“Didn’t have my best stuff but went out there and pitched and just tried to get outs and give the team a chance to win,” Rodón said. “Sometimes you have to go out there and pitch. Didn’t have that overpowering fastball but had some secondary stuff and got weak contact.” […]
“I’m not too concerned,” Rodón said of his diminished velocity. “I went out there and got 15 outs. Gave up one hit. So, are you concerned? Some days I’m not going to have it all. To put it in perspective, I threw 11 innings last year. This year I’ve thrown 132. That’s (over) 10 times the innings count. That’s a lot on a body. But I’m not going to use that as an excuse. As you see, I still go out and go do my job. So, I have to go win for a team, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
There’s still an element of denial, but like Rodón’s performance, it’s a healthier version, because every pitcher has to talk himself through adversity at the end of the season. Unanswered in all this is whether his “best stuff” actually exists in an accessible place, but this lesser version of Rodón looked a lot more comfortable in his own skin. His velocity held its retrenched ground, and while the Reds didn’t force him to pitch backward, his slider had more bite when he decided to throw it.
Assuming he has one more start in him, he looked good enough to pitch in October. There are no safe assumptions with Rodón’s condition, but if the White Sox get through the final weekend with all arms intact, the good news is that Rodón’s (avail)ability won’t have to best tested until a Game 4, and those games aren’t always necessary, for better or for worse.
In the meantime, with the extra/experimental outings out of the way, the White Sox are now starting their postseason arms the rest of the way. The current slate of probable pitchers against Detroit shows Lance Lynn on Friday, Lucas Giolito on Saturday and Dylan Cease on Sunday, but Tony La Russa wasn’t willing to say that it’d be the order of his postseason rotation, perhaps because he’s free to swap the order over the next 30 hours without penalty.
With tweaks still possible, we have time to put forth our best arguments for the optimal White Sox postseason rotation against the Houston Astros in the ALDS.
Here’s the schedule:
- Thursday, Oct. 7: Game 1
- Friday, Oct. 8: Game 2
- Saturday, Oct. 9: Off
- Sunday, Oct. 10: Game 3
- Monday, Oct. 11: Game 4
- Tuesday, Oct. 12: Off
- Wednesday, Oct. 13: Game 5
The White Sox’s Saturday starter would still be fully rested for Game 1, so that’s why La Russa insists that his hand is not yet tipped. The arrangement of the off days means that the Game 1 starter would potentially be pitching Game 4 on short rest, but the Game 2 starter would be on regular rest for Game 5. That informs my personal preferences for a plan, which is as follows:
Game 1: Lucas Giolito
Game 2: Lance Lynn
Giolito and Lynn have been just about identical pitchers over the course of the second half, at least when it comes to components. Lynn ends one one start shorter, and Giolito’s been better at run prevention, but the peripherals used for projections give him less of an edge.
A lot’s been made of Lynn’s history against the Astros, who pummeled him during the limited AL West-centric schedule during the 60 games of 2020, and thumped him again in June.
Looking back over the last three years — the three seasons where both pitchers have resembled Cy Young candidates — Giolito indeed has the superior record. In fact, his could barely be better. He’s faced the Astros twice over this time and twice threw a complete game. The first was a shutout on May 23, 2019, and he followed that up with a masterpiece to open his second half on July 17 this year.
One run over 18 innings is difficult to top, and Lynn doesn’t come close. He’s 1-6 with a 6.60 ERA over seven starts, including a ragged four innings back in June. He did keep the ball in the park in that start, which sounds like faint praise until you realize that he gave up 13 homers over 39⅔ innings in the other six starts. In this context, it seems like starting Lynn over Giolito would be giving the nod to Goofus over Gallant.
But starting Giolito over Lynn is less about small-sample successes and more about having the White Sox’s two best starters available for the most potential innings in a five-game series. If you start Giolito in Game 1, he’s theoretically available for Game 4 if he appears to be the best choice before or during the game. I’m less convinced about Lynn’s potential effectiveness on short rest. The Sox have prioritized resting his troublesome knee, so his last start on regular rest came way back in August. Starting Lynn on consecutive Fridays might be La Russa’s last way of giving him extra time before the postseason schedule imposes itself, and whether the Sox force a Game 5 or have a Game 5 forced upon them, Lynn on full rest would be a good use of a last gasp.
Game 3: Dylan Cease
As long as he bounces back from the smash off his right triceps with his final start on Sunday, there’s little to discuss here. If Rodón were in better shape, maybe we could talk about Cease’s 6.04 ERA in nine starts against teams with a record of .500 or better, but he’s clearly the third-best option as things stand.
“You can just see him growing,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He handles being sharp early and getting a little out of whack and he gets back on it or he starts out of whack and gets on it or he starts sharp and stays sharp. I think we’ve seen him experience everything and nothing has gotten to where he stops competing, which is probably the most important professional trait you need in this game.”
Game 4: Carlos Rodón and Friends
This is contingent on Rodón being able to take the ball with conviction on 11 days’ rest. He can get by for a few innings throwing in the low-90s if he has the kind of slider he showed on Wednesday. We have a six-start sample size where Rodón’s labored under a compromised condition, and he’s somehow 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA since the start of August. He hasn’t pitched past five innings in any of them, but there’s only one outing where the opponent actually forced his exit.
La Russa previewed a potential strategy by backing up Rodón’s start with three innings of Michael Kopech, who looked like he could do that again. Whether Rodón goes five, four or three innings, Kopech handling the remainder of the middle third is a good plan on paper.
If Rodón isn’t available, I’m inclined to give Kopech the start for Game 4 with Dallas Keuchel and Reynaldo López on hand. That kind of construction suggests an emergency is on hand, but La Russa might merely think that going righty-lefty-righty for six innings could confuse the construction of Houston’s lineup.
The only problem is that Keuchel doesn’t have experience pitching out of the bullpen (his one “relief” appearance this year was five innings resuming a suspended game), so handing him the ball in the fourth inning could feel as futile as giving Rodón the ball in Game 3 of the Wild Card Series last year.
If you’re more comfortable with Keuchel on the mound to open a game, then you could go Keuchel-Kopech-Garrett Crochet to accomplish the same kind of complexity for six innings, just with the handedness inverted. I’m inclined to go with the player who is less likely to dig the Sox a hole, and I’d put Keuchel behind the other candidates in that regard, including a Giolito on short rest, which is in play as long as Lynn’s knee looks good for a Game 5.
(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)