Navigating a still-spreading COVID-19 outbreak and narrowly maintaining hold of a playoff berth, the Boston Red Sox expect to turn to a rookie pitcher in his major league debut when they face the host Chicago White Sox on Saturday.
Right-hander Connor Seabold is the leading candidate to get the start in the second contest of the three-game series, manager Alex Cora said following a 4-3 setback Friday. Seabold is 2-3 with a 3.61 ERA in 10 starts with Triple-A Worcester this year, striking out 56 in 47 1/3 innings.
The 25-year-old, a third-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2017, was traded to the Red Sox last year as part of the deal that netted them Nick Pivetta, who could return from the COVID-19 injured list Sunday to start in place of Chris Sale. The veteran lefty tested positive for the virus Friday, joining more than a dozen of his teammates in missing time.
“It’s not easy,” Cora said of the situation. “It’s actually very hard. But this is our reality. We have to keep going.”
The Red Sox (80-63) maintain a one-game lead in the American League wild-card standings over the New York Yankees, who lost their seventh straight Friday. The Toronto Blue Jays are 1 1/2 games off pace after also losing, while the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners each won to get within two games of Boston.
The White Sox on Saturday will start right-hander Dylan Cease (11-7, 3.87 ERA), who is three strikeouts shy of his first season with 200. Chicago (81-60) holds an 11-game advantage in the AL Central.
Jose Abreu crushed a three-run home run to lead the White Sox to a narrow victory Friday. After the Red Sox scored twice in the seventh to get within one, Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks shut the door in the eighth and ninth, respectively, as Chicago snapped a two-game skid.
“Everybody had each other’s backs,” said Kimbrel.
Outfielder Eloy Jimenez (knee) returned to the lineup as designated hitter for the White Sox and finished 1-for-4.
The defeat for Boston was its fourth in its last five games. The club got Xander Bogaerts (two hits) back from the COVID-19 injured list, but designated hitter J.D. Martinez was a late scratch before the game with back spasms.
Cora said there’s a “good chance” Martinez will remain sidelined Saturday.
“We have to play it smart,” Cora said.
Cease had a 4-0 stretch over six starts snapped when he allowed four runs (three earned) in five innings in a loss to the Kansas City Royals last time out. He fanned nine in the contest, falling one short of reaching double digits for the fourth time in seven outings.
Cease surrendered two runs over 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Red Sox earlier this year — his first career start versus Boston.
–Field Level Media