The Chicago-Boston series this weekend is a tone-setter for the final stretch of the season, and earlier, Sarah laid out the strategy for how the South Side Sox can take it to the Fenway Sox. It’s a very convincing analysis – that is, unless, the BoSox can get to the ChiSox starters.
Chicago is a team that hits home runs, and they’ll try and score as much as possible from the get-go; a strategy that has worked for the most part. They do lead the league in home runs and they are 3d in runs scored. But they’ve also suffered losses even when scoring big and they’re not a team that’ll come back. Chicago is 11-12 when behind in the second inning, 15-19 in the third, 16-28 in the fourth, and 15-34 in the fifth, anything beyond that and you can almost bet they’ll lose.
They do have 35 comeback wins, but they’ve also blown 26 leads, and their starters have the toughest time getting over the 6th inning: they hold a collective 5.55 era.
The ChiSox might score a lot, but they’ll lose some of those games. Just a quick glance at their calendar and we see a 8-7 loss to Kansas City, a 10-6 loss to Minnesota, 10-8 loss to Cleveland, just to name a few.
Although their bullpen has been solid all year, the only reliever with a record over .500 that has pitched in more than 20 games is their closer, Bobby Jenks (and he has three blown saves), which is to say, should the BoSox get to the starter, it’ll be tough for the relievers to limit or hold the damage to allow the Chicago offense to try to get back in the game.
Tonight’s starter will be a tough cookie for the BoSox to figure out. Javier Vazquez is 3-2 with a 3.00 era in August (2-1 1.96 era in the last 3 starts) and he’s pitched 7 or more innings in each one of those, but he does have a sub .500 record, all thanks to his 5.53 era in the 3d inning (and his five long balls in the 5th). If the BoSox get to Vazquez before the 6th, probably by scoring four or five runs, then they’re good.
Tomorrow’s starter, Mark Buehrle has had a very inconsistent season, but the same framework applies. Get to him quick, and he’ll be outta there by the 5th.
Now, Sunday is a different story, as Gavin Floyd has pitched very well all year (14-6, 3.70), but it can’t negate the fact that he’s allowed five or more runs in five starts, one of which came against these very same BoSox.
So what’s the game-plan team? Score early and often.