Reduced to playing potential spoiler against the visiting Cleveland Indians this week, the Chicago White Sox remain hopeful about their plight at this time next season.
While the White Sox (68-88) are playing out the string, the Indians (93-64) remain in contention for an American League wild-card spot and have an outside chance at the AL Central title entering Wednesday’s game at Guaranteed Rate Field.
With five games remaining, Cleveland is one-half game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for possession of the second AL wild card, and four games behind the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins.
Can Chicago vie for a playoff spot in 2020? Count manager Rick Renteria among the optimistic.
“We’ve been driving and pushing and trying to do things a certain way to put us in a position to where I believe we are kind of establishing an identity of who we are, what we want to do,” Renteria said. “And certainly having some of the young men that joined us this season and some of the breakout seasons other guys have had is putting us in a better position, and it’s giving us a belief and trust that we want to be fighting next year, we want to be competing for something.”
After going 1-for-3 in Tuesday’s series opener, an 11-0 Cleveland rout, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson leads the AL with a .334 batting average as he vies to become the first White Sox player to earn a batting title since Frank Thomas in 1997.
Veteran first baseman Jose Abreu, meanwhile, leads the league with 121 RBIs.
As Renteria indicated, several young players have received extended exposure in 2019, including right-hander Dylan Cease. Catcher Zack Collins, one of the organization’s budding position prospects, has handled himself defensively while working to make the most of his plate appearances down the stretch. Collins had two hits Tuesday.
“(He’s) being a little more aggressive in the zone,” Renteria said of Collins. “He’s holding his own here right now. … There are things we’re still working on that have to improve, but all-in-all, he doesn’t seem to be necessarily overwhelmed.”
Righty Shane Bieber (15-7, 3.23 ERA) will look to extend the Indians’ winning streak to three as he gets the start against Chicago. Bieber dominated the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, limiting the club to two runs in 7 1/3 innings.
Bieber is 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA in three starts against the White Sox this season and 2-1 with a 2.78 ERA over five career starts.
He is set to oppose White Sox left-hander Ross Detwiler (2-5, 6.98 ERA), who has dealt with hip soreness but maintains his spot in a rotation beset by injury. Detwiler is 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA in one start against the Indians this season, his lone career appearance versus Cleveland.
The Indians activated third baseman Jose Ramirez from the injured list before Tuesday’s game. Ramirez, who fractured the hamate bone in his right hand on Aug. 24, delivered in a big way, hitting a grand slam in the first inning and a three-run shot in the third.
“I feel great. Thank God, I’m really happy to be back,” Ramirez said. “I’ve always kept working to try and get back and be ready to play.”
–Field Level Media